Give Me Back My Personal Space! Be Quiet to Silence the Bully

“One’s ability to perform a given task competently decreases in proportion to the number of people watching.” Mark R. Frank

We’ve all got that bully at work who likes to intimidate by invading our personal space or try to put us on the spot. This bad behavior can rear its ugly head particularly during organizational change, because the ‘turf’ the bully knew is shifting beneath his/her feet. And guess how uncomfortable this shift makes him / her? Enough to take out his/her insecurities on you.

I’ve also seen this happen unintentionally during the training and learning stages of an organizational change brought about by a new technology system implementation. A number of people may be monitoring progress, assessing if the training is effective, determining if the user interface is intuitive, considering system speed, etc.

Master both situations by trying the following:


  1. Breathe.
  2. Sit or stand tall with you shoulders back.
  3. Maintain eye contact when speaking.
  4. Keep a neutral or minimal smile (i.e., don’t look fake).
  5. If you can, shake your hands somewhat aggressively. This really does help settle your nerves by quickly releasing some of your unproductive nervous energy.

Here are some suggested phrases to keep handy as well when you are introduced to a bully or new change:

“I don’t know. Let me get back to you.”

“Good question. I need some time to think about that. Let me get back to you this week with the answer.”

“Let me have one minute to make sure I’m taking all angles into consideration before I answer you.”

” I need some time to complete this task, and I don’t want to waste your time while I am doing so. I’ll let you know when I am ready to discuss further.”

Try humor: “Talk amongst yourselves while I figure this out.”

If these ideas don’t work, you can always kick him/her in the knees 🙂

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Sandra Schwan

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