Jane had been unhappy in her marriage to Joe since she’d walked down the aisle as a teenager.  But first she’d stayed because she’d promised, then she stayed for the children and then she stayed because leaving was too scary. Even though she’d been thinking for years about divorcing him and she’d waited until the children were independent, and even though it took more time to arrange it, she was surprised at all she went through afterward.  She’d thought she’d move on immediately and easily.

Divorce meant the end of a dream. Jane was surprised at how disoriented and upset she became, even though she was the one who wanted the divorce and had initiated it.  But it was as if her whole universe had collapsed and she didn’t know what to do.

Actually that was a very accurate image.  Indeed, her world had revolved around the dream she had fantasized and tried to create – a wonderful marriage and happy family.  Even though it hadn’t turned out that way, all her thoughts and energy had revolved around that center.  Now the center of her universe was gone.  Like a solar system with no sun at its center, everything flew off in different directions.

She had to create a new center for her life and to organize every aspect to revolve around it.  That took time, but when she centered on herself and the wonderful, full, rich life she wanted, all the pieces began to come together.  Her discomfort and second-guessing disappeared, and her life – her mental, emotional and spiritual life – stabilized.

Divorce meant the end of daily, face-to-face bullying. Joe had been a demanding, manipulative, controlling husband.  Jane had always lived under his thumb.  She tiptoed around trying to avoid big confrontations, lectures and explosions.  Now she didn’t have to do what he wanted and he couldn’t do anything serious to her.  She felt a huge relief.  She could stand up straight, breathe deeply and do what she wanted without arguments and recriminations, or his approval or permission.  She was not surprised at how liberated she felt.  She was giddy with freedom.

But he didn’t stop trying to control her.  He became more demanding and manipulative.  She had to learn how to resist his controlling methods and her own self-bullying.

Divorce meant she was no longer responsible for Joe’s issues or well-being. All during their marriage, Jane had tended to Joe’s emotional needs; his ego’s need to be stroked, his abandonment and control issues, his dislikes, his hypochondria and depression, his threats of suicide.

Because of her preparation, right after she received the final divorce papers, Jane felt free of the burden of taking care of Joe’s issues.  She wished him well, but was no longer responsible for making his life work the way he wished.

But putting that inner freedom into practice required a stepwise process.  Joe didn’t like the loss of his servant and scapegoat so he used every manipulative, bullying trick that had succeeded previously in order to make her take care of him now.

He called her whenever he felt upset, needy or sick.  At first, no matter how sorry for him Jane felt, no matter how much her caretaker and enabler patterns had been stimulated, she had to force herself to tell him she wouldn’t be coming over to take care of him.  At first, she became angry at his pathetic attempts.  She forced herself to tell him that he’d have to call his friends or get a therapist or go to the hospital.  Later, that became easy; second-nature.

Joe started calling their children and complaining about how cold and unloving she’d become.  He suspected that she now had a young boyfriend she was taking care of.  Jane explained Joe’s patterns to their children and told them she hoped they’d put the responsibility for his happiness right back in his lap.  And she wasn’t having a fling with a pool-boy.

When Joe threatened suicide, she almost ran over to stop him.  But them she stepped back and said she’d call the police for him.  He said she shouldn’t call them, but then persisted in suicide talk.  She hung up and called 911.  He never threatened her with suicide again.  She told their children the tactic that had worked.

It seemed to take 9 months – an interesting period – for her to let go of her internal habits and to feel comfortable setting her boundaries in a matter-of-fact way.  By “setting,” she now meant keeping her boundaries, no matter how he tried to ignore or trample them.  She no longer rode the roller coaster of huge emotional swings – caring, concern, panic, anger, rage and guilt.  Then her life started opening up the way she’d hoped the divorce would allow.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Nobody likes a bully.  But imagine that your best salesman is a bully.  You’re faced with a dilemma that may make you hesitate.  Heroism and skill will be required to maintain standards. To read the rest of this article from the Cincinnati Business Courier, see: Don’t Tolerate “Stars” Who Bully at Work http://cincinnati.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/stories/2003/04/07/smallb3.html

Even if the bullying is flagrant and public, you might think twice before risking a major revenue stream confronting that person.

Even worse, if bullying is more subtle and private – like a bully “sales star “ cuts others out of their share of a sale; undermines other sales people; verbally intimidates and abuses support staff - you may be tempted to hesitate and ignore the initial rumors.

A prevalent assumption in our society is that the first time you hear about a problem, you should minimize it, give people the benefit of the doubt and hope it goes away by itself.  That assumption is wrong.

See the original article for details.

  • Don’t let an untreated splinter lead to gangrene or a bullying problem fester. For every incident you hear about, there are usually five that haven’t reached you.  This is just the first time the bully was exposed.
  • Respond to such incidents immediately. Look for patterns of behavior, try to find witnesses to the incident or people who have been bullied separately.
  • Bullying patterns of behavior test everyone’s courage and skill, especially the leadership team. Set the standards by biting the bullet rapidly with bullying sales stars.
  • Usually, the abuse builds to a crescendo, but then subsides temporarily - so you give it more time. Eventually, you’ll spend so much time focusing on repeated incidents, you’ll be exhausted. That is a tip-off:  The “cancer” has spread too far.
  • After you act, you’ll be amazed at what surfaces. You’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.  Over the next two to three months, you’ll hear many more stories of bullying and hear many sighs of relief.”
  • Even though the leadership team is insulated from the worst of the pain, you have to lead the way in demanding civil behavior as well as productivity. You’re just following common sense.
  • Test sales managers. It’s easy to talk theories, but decisions can get more difficult for a sales manager when facing a bullying star might mean unmet quotas, lost personal bonuses and more time and money training replacements. The longer managers cover things up or let situations go unresolved, the more credibility and influence they lose.  They look like enablers or collaborators. Eventually they will have to leave - along with the bully they’ve coddled and protected.
  • Test the support staff manager and the “abused” individual. Courage is required to blow the whistle, since leaders usually favor sales stars.  Don’t throw fits; gather facts and document evidence of patterns.

You can’t precisely measure the negative effects of bullying on everyone’s productivity, but every time you remove one of those thorns, the benefits will be dramatic.

Even if sales take a temporary hit, morale and productivity will increase across the board. Company revenues will shortly overcome the loss of that particular bully’s sales.

Often, individuals need coaching and organizations need consulting to help them design and implement a plan that fits the situation.  To get the help you need, call Ben at 1-877-828-5543.