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How to Recognize a Quiet Bully and What to Do About It

Another important definition of a bully: Any person who plays a passive-aggressive game, waiting for the right moment to pounce. Here is how you can avoid being taken hostage.

Lisa was a great teacher and a member of my sales team.

She taught me to stop being naive. She taught me to be careful. She taught me that being a bully goes beyond the obvious example of a loud-mouthed jerk who pokes his finger in your eye.

In my early career, I was one of those leaders who trusted everyone and believed that if you showed appreciation and gave acknowledgement, your team would respond in kind.


It just ain’t so

I was a great salesperson. I was, like many, promoted from inside the ranks and did not have the leadership-development training to back up my position. I made it up as I went along.

However, that is way different from leading a sales team and motivating them.

I did stupidly believe I could sell my team the benefits and finer points of being great at sales, and then they would just go out and, whammo, we would be at the top of the pack in the company.


It never was so

Leadership takes time and dedication, and it is not merely a skill that you can become good at. It is an art form. It is a mixture of psychology and grit, of pushing performance and pulling potential.

I had read the books, but my experience at leading was limited. And as they say, the menu is not the meal; the book is not the activity.

The books all said to be clear and concise. They said to create an action plan. They said to encourage. They said to focus on strengths.


Learning what is so

When we had meetings, Lisa took great notes and asked excellent questions. When we met one on one, I was clear and concise. I helped her create an action plan. I encouraged her. I focused on her strengths.

She had a list of places to call and people to meet. She had such a sweet manner. She said all the right things.

I saw someone on the cusp of success, not a bully.


Changing to meet what is real

Time was going by, and Lisa was not performing. Finally my boss and I knew it was time to let her go. Time is money, and she was taking too much of the former and not making enough of the latter.

When Lisa was told she was underperforming and was misplaced in her job and had been given a fair amount of time to make changes, she stood up with fire shooting from her eyes and said, “You are a bully, and this is not the last of it. You will hear from me.”

Sweet smile and soft voice and without missing a beat, she continued, “You have been out to get me for a long time, and don’t think I haven’t been keeping records. You will be hearing from my lawyer.”


Learning from the best

I felt like I had been smacked across the face. And I now knew that bullies come in all shapes and sizes and do not necessarily scream out loud and carry a big stick. Passive-aggressive bullies are masterful and can seduce you with proper manners and a pleasant demeanor.

My best advice to you is to find a balance point between trusting and paranoia, between appreciating and demanding accountability.

And my best advice, thanks to Lisa, is to make sure you keep a paper trail about what you request and what you get in return.

Pay attention to your gut, and remember, take good notes.


Originally published at Inc

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