Don't be bullied!

Do you allow yourself to be belittled or bullied? Professional bullies will expect favors and demand that work is done unreasonably quicker, better, cheaper: “I don’t care; just do it.”

Bullies will take precedence over all your time and may even demand exclusivity—but beware—they don’t want you to succeed on your own; they need you.

Bullies are usually good at “reading” people and “pushing their buttons.” They use techniques like leaving things to the last minute to block escape routes, and dangle carrots that won’t be delivered, and often use “weasel words” (words like “virtually,” “almost,” and “possibly”) as out clauses. They rely on a network of higher authorities—lawyers, accountants, politicians, and the like—but will avoid putting anything in writing.

Bullies look for clues when recruiting their “team.” For example: At the end of a job well done, have you ever belittled your efforts by saying, “Oh, it was nothing, really,” or “Anyone could have done it”? Don’t do that—as insignificant as those statements may seem—a bully will notice!

Here’s another example: You’ve just told your client (or boss) that the job they want done will take you two days. She responds by looking surprised and saying, “But it only took Sue one day.” You take two days, but only charge for one—bullies like it when you do that.

The most effective way to address bullying in schools is to empower the victim. While it’s not the victim’s fault (that’s got very little to do with it), in the long run the best strategy is to teach the victim how to disempower the bully. In just the same way, you need to learn techniques to enable you to restore the balance of power—or develop your bully “antennae” and leave these customers for someone else to deal with.


Jane Francis is the author of ‘Price Yourself Right: A guide to charging what you are worth’ [ISBN 0-595-38601-6] which is available at Barnes & Noble (US), WH Smith (UK) and at You can read more at her blog:

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