If you are dealing with a bully this episode will help you understand what is driving the behavior and how to deal with it at work. Join Becky Freemal, anchor of WFXR news, with Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence and Lynda McNutt Foster, CEO of Cortex Leadership Consulting.
Becky: Ok, well welcome back for our podcast with us, Lynda McNutt Foster with Cortex Leadership Consulting and Judith Glaser. Judith, I would just say with but you’re with so many things, author and consultant and I’ll let Lynda sing your accolades again. So we’ll say Judith Glaser in New York City. And we wanted to pick up where we left off, with one of our questions would be, what do you do with a bully at work? We talk about bullying in the news quite a bit, and it happens a lot in the middle school age, but this is actually something that happens here, now, and in the workplace.
Judith: So, Rebecca that’s really a great question, and I think there are a lot of people listening who would be fascinated by some of the answers that I’m going to present. And I’m going to make this a multidimensional answer, because I think people need to realize that it’s very hard for two people that are in a relationship and one is bullying the other. It’s very hard to get out of that relationship. If you don’t have support from the environment around you to first of all identify that that’s very disruptive for not just the two of you, but for everybody. For example, schools or workplaces that actually allows bullies to exist and foster an environment that’s very competitive so that a bully is somebody who wants to win. They want to weaken the strength of other people in order to become more of the leader in the organization, or to be one that people look up to. But they look at the wrong set of tools to use to become important. It’s very self-centric. It’s often narcissistic. Bullies really, when I’ve studied them, and I’ve worked with some, grew up in environments where they were bullied as children, or they had a sibling that bullied them and made them feel bad, and so they now are wanting to take this out to the rest of the world and make up for the hurt that’s inside. Does that make sense?
Lynda: It absolutely does. I was thinking about Ryan Holiday wrote, ego is the enemy recently; and the fact that we do everything because it worked at some point. And then we’re stuck with it, even though it might not work anymore for us, or work in the way that we need to. Like at some point, they needed to protect themselves, they needed to be strong, and so they used this tool and they’ve never had it upgraded. They’ve never learned another set of tools to be able to do it. So I always look like you just need more tools, like you’re a fighter. Those people, actually the bullies are really survivors. I always look at them and go, boy, they’re protecting a very soft heart underneath. The stronger they are on the outside, the more that armor is up, you know?
Judith: And it’s almost predictable, and I think your audience would be interested to know this. That if somebody was raised in an environment where they were bullied, then there is almost a 100% chance that they will bring some of that behavior forward with them, because it was a strategy, a survival strategy for them, that when they weakened other people, that they were now more powerful; And what a great tool to have in your pocket when you go into a company, so that you can always sustain that level of importance. However, you’re not a baby anymore, you’re not a child anymore, you now have conversational tools that every through education people are trying to teach you. The sad part about a bully is they’re so imprinted by a bad experience, Lynda, that that is something that they have difficulty putting aside to learn how to be better because they’re afraid they’re going to lose their power.
Lynda: Again, it’s like experiences create beliefs that drive actions that give results and so the other thing too, is that if they ever let their guard down. I grew up in Miami, Florida, right? And so I went to some tough junior high schools and high schools. And I remember letting my guard down, even in a space, and getting beat up, you know? And so, if a really strong person has ever let down their guard, and then real harm has come to down, then it almost, the ego then intensifies it, and says, oh no, I need to be even stronger. So it’s interesting when you learn people’s experiences, that to me it’s also logical. Their behaviors are so logical. Now they may not work anymore.
Judith: So there are different answers to this question, what does somebody do moving forward? The first thing I want to say is, if you are in a school situation, or a workplace, it would be so wonderful for you to go talk to your boss about helping create an environment where all of us can work better together, so that you don’t take on a bully by yourself. Now it may sound, I don’t know if that sounds appealing to people, like how do I tell my boss that someone is bullying me? You talk to your boss about creating environments for us to thrive, and what that looks like. Actually if you’re in a company, you can ask your boss for some help with one person who is not fitting in terms of making it a nice place to work. And see if your leader, or boss, or HR, don’t be afraid if it’s really serious to bring it to HR, because this is hardwired stuff for people, and they’re not going to give it up just because you go over and ask a bully to stop bullying you, right? I mean, that’s a dream come true, right? I wish I had a pill that I could send a person and put it in their drink so that they say yes, but that’s a tougher situation. However, if everybody is working on creating a non-bullying environment, which I’ve seen in schools, then the children that are bullies start to change. They see another way. Right now, there’s no other way that equals the power that they would have as a bully.
Lynda: It goes back to the heart of your work. Like, the culture needs to support safety, even for the bully. I mean, it’s like everybody’s cortisol levels are high, so everybody’s operating off of this, I don’t feel safe, I need to protect myself, where do I fit in? And so, it’s an entire culture work that needs to be done at that point, to say, something is creating fear, and for us not to be able to connect. So we need to go to the root cause, chopping off a limb, it will grow back. You will get another bully if you don’t solve the root cause.
Judith: Exactly. And so in school environment, and even in workplaces, there are things that leaders can do that start to change the dynamic. First of all, you should use HR as a help; if somebody needs to be coached, and in companies, and even in schools they’re now using coaching for individuals. So, if they need to be coached, they should get the coaching to help them. But there’re also ways to set up rules of engagement in terms of how do we create a safe environment in our workplace, in our department, so that everybody can have a voice? You actually create different roles that people can play in facilitating things like, at times when there’re projects, let somebody be the leader, let somebody be the note taker, let somebody be the special note taker of ideas that haven’t been able to be included in the room. So people get different roles, and the bully gets rotated like everybody else does. He’ll learn to experience being in different roles. Often, they don’t even envision that they can be back there taking notes, and listening for certain things, because they’re listening for where can I fit in to impact others and be strong? So you’re shifting the communication dynamics for them to play different roles, and that’s one way that it gives a bully other ideas for how to be appreciated, which is what they want; for being important. How they can be appreciated in different roles. So in a way, it’s doing it not behind their knowledge, but it’s actually elevating things that we are unconscious about, which is how do we be important with each other? And bullies have fallen into a trap of being important by putting others down, and being the most powerful. Does that make sense? Giving them new roles to take?
Lynda: Yeah, I was thinking about the word appreciation. So, I was training a lot of really strong guys recently. Strong men; and you know, when I said the word appreciation that did not land in the way I expected at all. And I kind of went out of class and I was like, Alan, what was that? I saw it, I felt it. And he’s, that’s kind of the weak word. What they’re really looking for is respect. They want to be strong. So they don’t want to say I need to be appreciated. So, this whole idea of the words, and how you find the word to go, I really value you; Like, searching for that word that’s going to connect with them in a way to have the impact that you’re looking for. Not just keep pushing, well you need to appreciate, dadada, and pushing that, as much as going, dude, I want to recognize how you’re showing up right now and trying different ways.
Judith: Yes. You’ve landed on again, one of the things that’s the heart of conversational intelligence Lynda. So thank you for bringing that out, which is that words create worlds. And the word appreciation for example, is a word that has been embedded in us. However, it’s been embedded in a model of softness. Meaning, right? Yes. It’s not a context that a bully or a leader often wants to hear. And 35 years ago, when I started to do this work to help transform cultures, there were certain words that were almost taboo. It sounds, again, amazing, but you don’t need bring appreciation or nice, be nice, be sweet. That’s just not what I want to hear. I want to rise to the top of this organization and someday be the CEO, and you’re telling me to appreciate other people. That means I’m literally giving a platform and space to other people instead of me. Why would I want to do that? That’s what we’re thinking inside, right? So, I’ve studied the words that are connected to each of the decades that I’ve worked, to find out which words are going to graft into a culture, and which words are not going to graft into a culture. And I wrote a dictionary for Random House in 1984, so I had to find 3,500 new business terms that were being incorporated into the world. And that’s when that really came to life for me, that there’s certain words that didn’t exist in the dictionary because they weren’t allowed in our lexicon. And I needed to find new words to graft, that would enable people to get over the hurdle which you just talked about, which is if you pick the wrong word, people will retract from going into an engagement with you. But if you pick the right words, people get curious.
Lynda: It’s funny you would say that, because I was watching your speech, and I think it was New York City Museum that you were working with at the time.
Judith: It wasn’t that word, but I’m not allowed to say their name.
Lynda: Right. And so, I was watching it online, and I was thinking about what you said about the Berkshire Hathaway values. Because, I think one of the biggest challenges with leadership training is that I realized, like, in the first class almost, someone could almost pick up 50 new words, right? And so, I think about, at almost 50 years old, if I needed to learn Spanish, or I needed to learn French, or Chinese, wow. Like how hard that is for our brains. And so, this whole idea of, when you create a value statement not using just generic words, but the fact that you were talking about the research that they had 5,000 words to explain their value statement, so that everybody in their corporation could understand what each of those words and their vision statement actually meant, and then more importantly, how they’re executed in their culture, and so it gave them a 65% increase in the results they were getting; Whereas when generic words were used, and they weren’t explained, they were actually underperforming in the stock market by 15 or 20, and sometimes 30%.
Judith: Yeah. This is something that I want the world to remember because conversational intelligence are about conversations and conversations are about words, and we have to understand that each word does make a difference. Each word, we use the term double-clicking, which is again part of the conversational intelligence, that signals; it’s a signal in the brain that there’s more in the suitcase. When you double-click on your folder, there’s more in the folder. When you double-click on your suitcase, and you open it up, you find tons of things that you couldn’t see if it’s closed. Human beings’ brains are designed to pack words inside of words, meaning inside of meaning, experience inside of experience, so that as you double-click, you are opening up the moments in time, cause our brain remembers everything that we’ve created, put together, put in our suitcase under a keyword that we use every day as just the word like teamwork. Right? So you would think, you say to yourself, don’t people get that teamwork is this, you know; And so you use the word as a code, and say, our values are teamwork and innovation and, you know, strategic thinking and all those. But inside of it, Berkshire-Hathaway said, we want to go into the reality, like a motion picture, so our 5,000 words are the visual images as well as they can make them for the teams to come together and paint what they want teamwork to be. And by the way, they don’t always use things that are as simple as teamwork, right. They’ll come up with something that’s a little bit more complex, so it’s like a color that’s new, it takes you off center. And you have to know that you need to learn more to be successful with that word. I can’t underscore this enough. Words create worlds, and when we live at that superficial level we’re not going to get at what the heart of, what we really mean, and people walk away saying, oh they got it, right? We’re all so excited, we’re going to do this. And the interests know they didn’t get it. Not until you have those follow up meetings, and write the little descriptions and share those with each department, and have them talk about it. That’s when we start to bring it in and change the DNA of a culture.