Since the death of Osama Bin Laden, I’ve been thinking about the power of terrorism. Using weapons of violence to intimidate others, a terrorist interrupts our daily lives with an infusion of absolute fear.
I’ll never forget when snipers visited my corner of Virginia. A sniper attack occurred just 10 miles from my home, and we were told to avoid stores surrounded by wooded areas. When my kids and I went to Kroger, we ran in zigzags across the parking lot. The kids thought we were having fun, but I knew we were becoming a more difficult target.
While terrorism is extreme, I deal with a lot of people who use intimidation tactics in the workplace. They are emotional bullies who sit in meetings waiting to attack the presenter.
Their surprise sarcasm and personal attacks put people off their game. People who would normally provide powerful presentations spend all of their time making sure there’s not one mistake. They zigzag through their presentations, hoping to avoid the inevitable, verbal snipe.
Here’s the most important thing to remember about an emotional bully: They are the most frightened person in the room.
They are afraid that they will not get as much attention from their boss. They are afraid that someone will be better than they and try to replace them. They are afraid of vulnerability.
How do you handle an emotional intimidator? Don’t let them change the way you do business. Do the right things, for the right reasons. When they call you out in a meeting, take them back to the facts. Remind them that finding mistakes is less important than moving action forward.
Stay positive, and create a culture that doesn’t support their bullying. Emotional intimidators don’t thrive in transparent environments. They can only breathe underground, where their motives can garner speed and power through the element of surprise.
Surface a bully every chance you get, by saying things like, “Mark, I’m noticing some side conversations. Do you have concerns about what I’m presenting?” Don’t let them gather power by taking away yours.
Bullies are scared. Treat them with care, but keep moving forward by doing the right thing. Eventually, they’ll be left in the dust of your success.
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