How do you respond to intimidation?

It’s a beautiful intention to use your personal positive power and be a positive agent. But what about being bullied and intimidated? Some workplaces are toxic or dangerous. I know. It’s for you to decide when you are safe enough to do something about it.

Let’s take a quick look at intimidation, bullying, unreasonable negative feedback, harsh criticism or vague threats.

We start with acknowledging the others’ underlying need. This could be a need to control your behaviors so that what you’re doing serves them or adds to the team goals. Of course, we also try to be aware of our own state. Are you seeing the other as a person or as a demon? How bad do you feel? How can you stay calm and look objectively at what happens?

Assert yourself

For instance:

If your supervisor Jane says that you need to work harder, or else… That you don’t fit in well enough. That you are difficult to work with…

Assert yourself calmly and ask for clarification: what exactly does she mean, when, where and how did this happen? Gather the facts.

Discuss the “how” with meta-communication:

What is your personal experience with intimidation? Click To Tweet

“I start to feel a little tense as this sounds somewhat threatening to me.” (Silence to let Jane respond).

Or you might benefit from possibility-oriented questions:

“I worked as hard as I could. How could I do better? What are your tips?”

“How could we make this situation work well for everyone?”

Make it safer for yourself:

“I’d like to invite a third person to facilitate our conversation about this issue. Shall we reschedule and ask Marcia to join us?”

Of course, this takes practice and courage. But if you consistently respond in an authentic way, respecting your values and respecting the other, you role-model openness.

That can be uncomfortable, sometimes even disruptive or threatening for people who are firmly attached to Ego-needs and who want to control others. Do not judge them but show them how to create an honest dialogue.

I personally love this wise advice: Don’t focus on what others are doing wrong. Focus on what you can do right to help.

How could you apply this? What are your experiences? I’d love to hear your examples!

This is book post #61 – Part “YOU”

Here‘s the earlier post
Here‘s the next post

If you’re confused – please start with post #1 or check the Positive Power overview and read the Positive Agent Manifesto.

By the way, if you want to contribute to a positive workplace culture, my next open workshop on Positive Culture Change Leadership is scheduled for May 2018! More information and registration is available at a first come first serve basis.

Leaders, employees, consultants, citizens – everyone can make a positive difference from any position, without needing permission or resources from others. This blog will help you see positive possibilities and (re)claim your positive agency. Unstuck yourself and engage others via your interaction and actions. Transform into a positive organization where people and performance thrive.

I’m blogging my next book: “Positive Power at Work – How to make a positive difference from any position.” Your feedback is appreciated!

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Moly

    I worked with a manager who didn’t only bully but also denied that he bullied me. I invited a facilitator only to have him call me a liar. Even when I brought up an email in which he had clearly bullied me, he said it was fabricated and needed verification by IT! Some people are just bullies and they fail up job after job until they’re in positions of power! And sometimes there’s nothing you can do but to leave the job and the bully altogether!

    1. Marcella Bremer

      Hi Moly, thanks for sharing your story. I agree: sometimes the best action is to leave the toxic situation and save yourself. I hope you are currently contributing your best to another job where people appreciate you! It seems your response to the bully was as it should be. The sad thing is that this person rose in the ranks of power. This means that he/she could get away with it and the culture was okay with it. That might be tough to change all by yourself. It would only be possible if you enlisted colleagues to team up on this…. Again, I hope you’re fine now!