Workplace

Do You Have a Bad Attitude at Work? 8 Signs YOU’RE the Toxic Coworker (yes, #3 is real!)

Everybody gets stressed out by work. But regularly having a negative attitude at work can cause everyone to suffer: your coworkers, for having to put up with your negativity, and you, because you’ll miss opportunities and promotions in favor of people with good attitudes.

#1 – You gossip or complain to coworkers

This is the classic sign of someone with a bad attitude. Venting and gossiping at work is a telltale behavior of an employee who is feeling toxic and doesn’t care about bringing other people down with them. Venting feels good in the moment, but it’s been proven to be a poor strategy for relieving stress, because it fails to address the root problem.

#2 – You shoot down your colleagues’ ideas in early stages

If you find yourself rejecting someone else’s idea before you’ve followed the thought process through and really considered it, odds are good your colleagues are frustrated with you. It’s healthy for colleagues to question and test one another’s ideas. But if you shoot something down by saying “that’ll never work,” before the group has had time to really turn the idea over, you’ll be blocking conversation that can lead to good solutions.

#3 – You feel tired most of the day

Feeling that 3pm slump is normal. Feeling tired all day isn’t normal, and it’s a sign that you could be really disengaged at work. When I work with companies to help their teams build resilience, I remind them that burnout isn’t just about being busy – it’s about being busy plus having a lack of meaning and purpose in their work. If you feel like what you’re contributing doesn’t matter, then it may be hard for you to feel awake and excited to do your job.

#4 – You aren’t respectful to the people lower on the company hierarchy

I once worked with a guy who said “it’s not worth my time to care about Jan (at the front desk.) She doesn’t sign my checks!” What this guy didn’t know is that Jan often made decisions about which salesperson to transfer new callers to! Not to mention she ordered the company supplies, and could “rush” things if she wanted to. She was a good ally to have in your corner… but that guy didn’t know it. If you think it’s only worth kissing up to the higher-ups, your attitude could be harming your career more than you know. People notice, and people talk. Being respectful takes no more time than being rude, so make it a point to show respect to everyone.

#5 – You don’t pay attention during meetings or conversations

I get it: team meetings can interrupt your day and be a source of frustration. But tuning out isn’t the right solution. If a line of conversation doesn’t directly involve you, it’s a good idea to still listen, because it’s likely that somebody is going to get pulled into the conversation to answer a question or solve a problem. And if it’s you, you’re going to look silly if you were checking your phone or daydreaming about your fantasy football team.

#6 – You have large responses to small annoyances

My therapist calls this “turning a 2 into a 10.” Do you find yourself getting aggravated with everyday frustrations like somebody taking your sticky note pad? Or replying “thanks!” to an email chain that they could have just let drop? Sometimes we feel like life is frustrating, but it’s really our own reactions that are making us experience more frustration than we need to.

#7 – You don’t care or seem invested in critical workplace issues

When everyone else on your team is jumping to solve an important problem, are you hanging back? Being checked out at work can be particularly noticeable during a crunch time, when other people are spitballing ideas and getting creative. If you’ve lost your passion for your work, as we talked about in #3, then it’s hard to get invested in problem-solving.

#8 – You respond to simple corrections by correcting the other person back

Nobody likes being corrected. But watch your reaction next time somebody makes a small correction to your work. Do you find yourself wanting to correct a mistake of theirs? Or tell them why, in fact, your original version was right? It’s human nature to not enjoy being corrected, but successful companies are made up of employees with different backgrounds and strengths for a reason. The more eyes and hands on a project, the better the end result will be. Just take the direction, because we all need to get and give corrections sometimes.

 

These 8 behaviors don’t have to mean you’re a bad employee – they could mean that you’re a good employee who’s on the verge of burning out. But whether it’s your innate attitude or unaddressed burnout, it’s critical to take action and curb these behaviors before they impact your work any more.

Burned Out By Your Job? It’s Never Too Late to Change Careers

Are you burned out at work?

Thinking it’s time for a career change?

But worried you’re too old to change careers?

In fact, if you’re feeling burned out, a lack of motivation, and disconnected in your current career path, it’s NEVER too late to change careers!

Here are 3 steps to follow to make a career change at any age…

The Real Reason You Aren’t Getting a Promotion at Work

When I work with teams to help employees be more resilient, one concern people tell me is that they get frustrated at work when they don’t get a promotion. Promote-able employees are – in general – positive, flexible, coachable, and resilient.

 

So if you’re hoping for a promotion soon, here are 4 key behaviors to keep an eye on:

 

Who Looks Up to You?

Promotions mean more responsibilities. Making the leap from contributor to managing other people is one type of responsibility that often causes problems after a promotion. If you’re being considered to move to a position that includes managing other people, or even interfacing with more important people, decision-makers will be paying attention to who looks up to you. Are you coaching new hires? Are you mentoring younger team members? Do other members of the team look up to you? Behave like a leader before you have leadership responsibilities, and you’ll be the first one your bosses think of when a promotion comes up.

 

Watch Your Language

The words you speak at the office influence your promote-ability. Do you talk about possibilities, or only problems? Great leaders aren’t blind to problems, but they keep the conversation going until they have possible solutions. Start using solution-oriented language in meetings. Another language-related behavior to consider: How do you receive feedback? Bosses are more likely to promote team members who are coachable. Practice receiving coaching and feedback in a confident manner. Bosses often share with me that they’re telling their employees exactly what it takes to get promoted, but too many people get defensive. Only the coachable employees take the feedback and make the change.

 

Examine the Company you Keep

Did your parents ever tell you “if you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas”? Workplace gossip is a common occurrence. While social chatter with your colleagues isn’t usually a problem, what is a problem is something called “venting.” Venting is a type of communication where a frustration is rehashed over and over, with no solution (check out this blog post I wrote for the Office Dynamics Conference, to learn more). Venting is toxic to team culture, and being involved in venting – even if you’re just the listener, not the venter – can get you branded a complainer. Resilient employees don’t complain, they solve. To get a promotion, be a person who is up-front about bringing problems to the boss in a solution-oriented manner, not the person who vents offline behind the boss’s back.

 

Consider your Contribution

It’s one thing to say you want a promotion. But it’s most likely to be given to the person who shows they’re ready with their actions, not just words. Do you volunteer to take on more responsibilities? Are you involved in workplace activities or affinity groups? To rise up through the company, you’ll want to see it from different angles besides just your corner of the business. Going beyond your job description isn’t a “brown nose” tactic. It’s a smart way to be exposed to more people and ideas in your organization, which will give you the knowledge you need to keep climbing the ladder.

 

 

The decision to promote you is in your boss’s hands, but it’s in your power to show your boss that you’re the perfect person to be promoted. Perfect these four behaviors, and your days of getting passed over are behind you!

 

How to Get Along With your Frustrating Coworker

Do you get along with EVERYBODY in your office? (and if you do, do you work from home?) 🤣

Office conflict stinks. So if you have a frustrating coworker, here are 3 steps to making peace, getting along, and working together successfully.

(Spoiler Alert: if you’re having problems, you’re probably starting with Step 3 instead of Step 1!) Follow the steps in order, and you’ll be able to survive a difficult colleague in no time.

4 Secrets To Make Workplace Change Go Smoothly

Delivering the opening keynote at a recent conference, a woman told me she had just found out the day before arriving that her company was being bought out by a larger company. She and her colleagues were facing a huge change, and she was (understandably) nervous about what to expect.

 

Every company is different, and every change is different, but there are a few things you can do to navigate workplace change and make the transition a little easier on yourself – and maybe some of your colleagues, too.

 

Volunteer to Help With the Change

Longitudinal research of companies going through change found that employees who reported feeling “connected” at work also reported feeling confident and positive about the situation. Employees who are engaged with the change are the ones who have a seat at the table, and may even have the opportunity to direct certain aspects of the change. Raise your hand and get involved! Usually when a company change is happening, committees spring up. Maybe there’s a committee researching this new technology versus that new technology. Maybe there’s a committee planning an all-hands staff meeting to celebrate the launch of the new direction. Find a way to volunteer, because getting involved won’t just help you feel more positive, it will give you a way to participate and maybe even give input into the change.

 

Ask Questions

If you’ve been blindsided by an announcement of change, you and your colleagues might not have had the wherewithal, in the moment, to get answers to every detail about what happens next. But don’t let that stop you from getting your questions answered! It’s not only okay, but actually a good thing to ask your manager or boss about what’s going on. (If you’re a manager, check out this post on 5 Things a Good Leader Does During Change for more info) The best questions you can ask are “why” questions, like “why is this the direction we’re choosing?” “why is this going to be good for the employees/customers/etc.?” The more everyone involved understands the purpose of the change, the more smoothly the process goes. So don’t be afraid to ask why.

 

Be Patient

Change takes more time than you think. In my research, I’ve noticed that a lot of company changes actually fail not during the change itself, but during the period afterward, known as “transition.” Transitioning to the new normal can be uncomfortable for a lot of people. During transition, you don’t have the robust support and intense focus you had during the time of change. Everyone assumes that since the change is over, we should get back to top performance. But there may be new systems, new processes, new technology, new employees… you get the idea. If you expect everything to fall back into place right away, you’ll be disappointed.

 

Make Comparisons

You can get on-board mentally with change by making positive comparisons. Are there things that frustrated you or were challenging before? Change is a great opportunity to start fresh and fix those problems! But sometimes we don’t even notice when something changes for the better, so we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to be happy about it. (Sorry, our brains are just wired that way.) Instead, make a note of the way things were before, so that you can actually look back and make a positive comparison after the change. That will give you something to appreciate, even if there are some hiccups during the transition period.

 

Workplace change is never easy, but it can be positive, if you handle it correctly. Whether you’re facing a merger, a restructuring, a new boss, or anything that shakes up your team, it’s time to stop dreading change and get on board.

The Three Worst Habits of Weak Teams (and How To Break Them!)

Nobody wants to work in a dysfunctional workplace. A healthy office culture plays a critical role in not only productivity, but also employee retention and happiness.

 

You can identify a weak team by looking for common dysfunctional behaviors. Most teams with problems exhibit more than one of these behaviors, and they’ve become a habitual part of the team culture. But there’s hope! There are ways to break these bad habits, if the whole team can start practicing healthier behaviors instead.

 

The Company Grapevine Is Sour

Gossip is one of the worst habits a work team can get into, but it’s one of the most common. It often starts with good intentions, when someone needs to process, share, or let off steam, so they turn to a friendly colleague and start to unload. But the basis of gossiping is “venting,” which is an unhealthy coping strategy (check out this blog post I wrote for IAAP to learn more), and bad for office culture. And when you gossip and vent with other team members, you’re probably doing that instead of actually talking to your manager.

 

Break the Habit By…

Communicating instead of gossiping. Real communication involves not withholding important information. If you’re frustrated, your manager needs to know. If something is going wrong, your manager needs to know. If you don’t have what you need to be effective, your manager needs to know. To break this habit, remember what you learned as a child: “if you wouldn’t say it to their face, think about whether you should be saying it at all.” It’s fine to lean on your colleague friends for support, but in most cases,  it should be done after you’ve started the conversation with your boss.

 

You Can’t Whine Your Way to the Top

Good for you for deciding to have a conversation with your boss about something that’s been weighing on you! But before you walk in there, let’s take a look at what you’re going to say. In my second job out of college, the cultural norm was that people complained to their bosses A. Lot. I didn’t realize how much I had internalized the habit until I moved into my next job, with a management title. It was my job to solve problems as a manager, yet I was routinely approaching my boss with complaints, and no solutions

 

Break the Habit By…

Solving instead of complaining. Think up at least one potential solution before you walk into your boss’s office. That solution may not work. It may not even be feasible to try! But your boss will likely give you bonus points simply for having a solution-oriented mindset. And the more you practice this new habit, the better you’ll get at coming up with workable solutions.

 

Look Like an Ass…umption

In today’s work environment, time is at a premium. Faster is always better. And because we value speed, I’ve noticed that a lot of workplaces rely on assumptions. Workers assume that X will be handled the way it always has. They assume that Y colleague is taking care of Z issue. Making assumptions can save time, but only if the assumptions are correct. If they’re wrong? Well, you’ve wasted far more time than you’ve saved.

 

Break the Habit by…

Asking instead of assuming. When I work with organizations going through change, I often hear employees saying “I don’t want to ask because I don’t want to look stupid” or “I didn’t ask because if I asked about the project, I thought they might assign me more work and I’m already too busy.” This points to both a trust issue and a communication issue. But no matter your title, you can model healthy inquiry (that doesn’t earn you more work or a label of being stupid!) by phrasing things like “I’d love more context on X, so that I can answer any questions the clients may have” or “you seem to be really knowledgeable about Z, and I’d love to know more. Could I buy you a cup of coffee and tap into your wisdom?”

 

It’s hard for one person to change an office culture alone. And if you notice these bad habits at your workplace, it may take more than just you to fix it. But if you start with open communication with your superiors, then show them that you’re a problem-solver who isn’t afraid to ask tough questions, you may just have a shot at influencing a team-wide culture change.

5 Things a Good Leader Does During Change

Change is intimidating for just about every member of every organization, from the top right on down to the newest, fresh-out-of-college hire. One of the main reasons change freaks us out is that humans tend to adapt to our environment. So even if we don’t like the status quo, we’ve figured out ways to work around it and survive. Change brings with it the unknown, and the threat that we’ll have to rebuild all of our survival mechanisms in the new environment.

Knowing how threatening change can feel, what’s a good leader to do to make change go more smoothly for their team?

 

Leaders Give Advance Notice

In my work with organizations, I’ve heard a lot of companies make the assumption “we’ll tell the rest of the employees more about this change once we know more.” But there’s always *more* information to be gathered, and announcements about change can get pushed back and pushed back until the very last minute. I’ve even spoken to some companies where they delayed in making the official announcement for so long that employees accidentally found out about an upcoming change from someone outside the company!

There are obvious reasons not to announce a change when there’s no other information to share, but employees across industries report that they would prefer to be notified of impending changes – and even possible changes – sooner rather than later. Early inclusion of employees is a way to show appreciation, but it’s not just good practice from a retention standpoint. When a company seeks input from workers across all levels, they’re more likely to identify potential issues. Susan in Purchasing may not be high on the food chain, but she may know a small but significant detail that leadership doesn’t know, that might derail your big plans! With everyone involved, you can better predict potential problems.

 

Leaders Give Context

Human beings want to know “why?” From the time we’re tiny children pointing up at the clouds in the sky, it feels good to have our questions answered. As a leader, it should be your job to put upcoming changes in context for your team. As an organization, the company has probably talked about why this change is good for the company: higher sales, lower costs, faster turnaround, greater innovation…

Now your job is to tell your team not just that explanation, but take it a step further. Why is this change not just good for the company, but also good for them? What opportunities might come from this change? Will it eliminate a cumbersome reporting process? Will it mean new hires to help spread the workload around? Will it mean chances for promotions and raises? Show them how this change will benefit not just the company, but them individually, and it will make the stress of change a lot easier to swallow.

 

Leaders Give Opportunities to Communicate

A longitudinal study on change showed that employees were happier about change when they felt more engaged in the workplace. An upcoming change is a perfect time to make sure the lines of communication are fully open among your team. For maximum engagement, employees should communicate now just upward, to you, but also among one another. This is the perfect time to make sure your team meetings are interactive and participatory (and not just one boring report after another). Another strategy to consider is activities that build teamwork, like an off-site volunteer service afternoon. The more your team communicates and feels cohesive, the more smoothly the change will go.

 

Leaders Give Benchmarks

Did you ever take a long car ride as a kid, and keep asking “are we there yet?” If so, then you know the importance of benchmarks. When we moved from Texas to Illinois, my little sister was a Barney-the-Dinosaur-obsessed toddler. We survived the drive with a VCR player strapped to two armrests, and a basket full of Barney VHS tapes. Every time she would ask “are we there yet, we would say “5 more Barneys until we stop.” “2 more Barneys.”

Help your team manage the uncertainty of change by sharing benchmarks with them, even if they benchmarks don’t directly impact them. Tell them “The initial review team has completed X, and now the plan is moving to the Z Department. If everything goes according to plan, we’ll be moving on to Phase C, and I expect our team to start doing Y within the next 2 weeks.” Feeling in the loop, especially about how long things are expected to take, will keep your team motivated.

 

Leaders Give (Meaningful) Accolades

As the change seems to come to a close, it’s great to acknowledge everyone’s contributions. But in order to make that acknowledgement meaningful, you need to really know how your team likes to be thanked. I’ll never forget the time I was sitting at a table after delivering a keynote speech: most of the table around me was leadership, with a few less-senior employees. The exercise was to talk about ways to thank employees, and the leaders were excitedly dreaming up lots of big thank-you’s on the company Intranet, parties, etc… the employees at the table were silent. Finally, one spoke up. “Um… most of us would feel embarrassed to be thanked so publicly. We don’t really want cake or anything. Maybe just a note from my boss?” It was a big wake-up call to leaders that what matters is how the employees want to be thanked, not how you think they want to be thanked. To make your employee appreciation meaningful, be sure it’s a thank-you they’ll appreciate.

 

Leading through change is tough. There will be confusion, frustration, and probably even a little fear. But if you can give your team these 5 things to help them navigate change, your team will be stronger and better on the other side.

Is Your Company Resilient? 4 Qualities Resilient Companies Have in Common

Resilience is an attribute that many companies appreciate, yet can’t describe. Like a lot of corporate culture issues, it can be a matter of “I don’t know how to ask for it, but I’ll know it when I see it.” So how does a company become a resilient company, and create a corporate culture that values resilience?

 

There are 4 main qualities you’ll find in resilient companies. And by the way, not all successful companies are resilient companies! Some companies are successful but haven’t yet weathered a big storm. But most resilient companies can turn out to be successful companies, because they have these 4 characteristics in place, to allow them to adapt and grow.

 

A Leader Who Has Struggled

John Paul DeJoria is the founder of Paul Mitchell haircare and Patron tequila. But before he shampooed some of the most famous people in Hollywood, he lived in his car and sold hair products door to door. He credits his early life difficulties to helping him develop the work ethic that built his global businesses. But he’s also notorious for retaining the same employees for decades! Some leaders act like they can only get the best out of their team members by pushing them to the breaking point. But leaders who have truly struggled in life tend to understand that true leadership has more in common with compassion than fear. With that perspective, they can help their teams learn the lessons of resilience.

 

Managers Who Aren’t Afraid of Conflict

Workplace conflict can be distracting. But it doesn’t have to be destructive. In fact, there are two types of conflict, and one of those types of conflict is GOOD for your organization! Task-related conflict is when two people disagree on *how* something should get done, but they agree on the desired end result. This kind of conflict, if handled correctly, can help companies be more solution-oriented and innovative. Of course, if handled incorrectly or ignored, even the good kind of conflict can turn into people-related conflict, which is the bad kind. To build a resilient company culture, managers need to not be afraid to step in and keep conflict task-related. (If you need more information about telling the difference between task-related conflict and people-related conflict, check out my video here.)

 

Vertical Communication

Many companies know that vertical communication and letting employees’ voices be heard is an important part of employee engagement and building an inclusive corporate culture. But it’s also part of building a resilient company, as well. Vertical communication builds resilience within your culture by helping your organization identify and respond to all possible problems and issues quickly. If only the highest levels of leadership are talking back and forth, and then communicating *down* to the staff but not listening back, they may be missing major problems on the horizon. This kind of communication is important all the time, but it’s *especially* critical during change. When a company is going through transition, employees need to feel like communication is happening in all directions, so they can get on board with the change.

 

Great HR and Hiring Practices

A company can’t be resilient if it doesn’t have resilient employees. And it can’t have resilient employees if it doesn’t hire for resilience, train for resilience, and let go of people who can’t be part of a resilient culture. In fact, failure to let go of underperformers and employees with poor attitudes is a major resilience-drainer for organizations. A company with a resilience built in to the corporate culture will make it a priority to hire and retain employees who show individual resilience, and those priorities should be reflected in writing in their HR practices.

 

Nothing ruins a great job like bad company culture. If you’re looking for a company that has a strong culture, it’s hard to know what to look for when you’re just interviewing. These 4 qualities are key indicators that the company may have what it takes to both be successful and be a great place to work, at the same time.

 

How to Tell Your Boss You’re Feeling Burnout

With all the hours you spend at your job, it’s normal if you feel stressed at work (and yeah, I say “if” knowing full well that you ARE stressed at work a lot of the time, if the numbers are right.) And if you’re TOO stressed, you’re at risk of burnout.

Burnout is a leading cause of unnecessary job turnover, and yet it keeps happening because no one seems to know exactly how to handle it. Companies have few official resources for employees at risk of burning out, bosses don’t know how to address it, and employees worry that if they bring up their stress levels, they’ll be labeled “incapable” or “whiny.” Until we can address the ways our society has glorified stress as being a symbol of importance (I’m working on it, I promise!), it will be up to individuals to speak up for ourselves in a way that doesn’t risk our career success.

So how do you say “I’m about to burnout!” to your boss without committing career suicide?

Be Clear About What You Mean

It might be best to not even say the word burnout to your boss. If you think your boss might judge you for being stressed, or be the kind of manager who doesn’t care about your mindset as long as work gets done, then you can have this conversation without ever saying “burnout.” Instead, bring up specific challenges you’re facing that are getting in the way of your success, like being interrupted too much, not having the information you need, etc.

And did you know there are different kinds of burnout? Psychologists say there are 3 burnout subtypes: “frenetic,” “underchallenged,” and “worn out.” So even if you say “burnout” or “stress,” your boss’s idea of what that means might be different from yours. So clearly articulate whether you need more help from colleagues, more time on deadlines, or whatever it is that will actually help you manage the situation.

Be Solution-Oriented

In this video about telling your boss you’re stressed without seeming whiny, I go over the two types of coping: problem-focused and emotion-focused. In the workplace, most bosses prefer problem-focused coping. So before you talk to your boss, prepare at least three possible ideas for making the situation better. 

By coming to the meeting with ideas already ready, your boss will see that you aren’t just looking for an excuse or a reason to complain, but that you’re actually looking for help at doing the best possible job. Your boss may have more suggestions for you, or be able to help you help you find the resources you need to implement your ideas. But by showing up with a plan, you’re showing positivity and a willingness to fix the situation.

Be Laser-Focused

The odds are good that there are many issues causing you stress that are leading to your feelings of burned out. And it can be tempting to want to address ALL of them in this meeting. But when you’re on the verge of burnout, be aware that your brain isn’t operating at its best. If you try to address every single outstanding issue at your organization all at once, you might get distracted and fall down the rabbit hole, amping up your own irritation in the meantime. Stick to one or two main issues that are leading to your feelings of burnout. Issues that – if resolved – will clear up the majority of your frustration. Refer back to the list you made above, and your boss will hopefully get on board.


Don’t let the risk of burnout drive you away from a job you enjoy. It’s possible to work hard without being burned out, so if you think you’re on the verge, talk to your boss sooner rather than later and make a plan that will keep you productive and successful.

Courtney Clark first name signature keynote speaker
First name signature for resilience speaker Courtney Clark

How to Protect Yourself from an Emotional Bully

Bullies don’t always stop at the playground.

Most adult conflict happens when two people hold different (but at least somewhat valid) opinions, and they butt heads. But SOME people weren’t taught healthy conflict skills, and some of THOSE people end up just plain mean.

If you have an emotionally bully in your life who won’t leave you alone, there’s a 3-step process for handling yourself and dealing with them in a healthy, productive way.

Physical Distance

Most people dealing with an emotional bully will have the instinct to put space between themselves and the bully. Follow that instinct! The more physical distance you can have, the better it is for your mental health. When I was in my mid-20s, I had a good friend who used to get upset every time something good happened for me. If I got a new job, she complained I didn’t have enough time for her. If I got some recognition for work or my volunteering, she would make some undercutting remark. I don’t even think she realized she was doing it! But every good thing that happened in my life made her uncomfortable, and she’d start to beat me up for it.

There are two problems with this first step, though. The first problem? Most people stop there. They think physical distance will solve the problem, but usually an emotional bully isn’t deterred by a little space. Which brings up the second problem: that you can’t always put enough physical space between you and someone trying to get under your skin. Especially if the bully is a colleague, for example, you can’t just quit your job and run far away. So that’s when you deploy the second step…

Emotional Detachment

Getting emotionally detached is a tough one for me. I have what my family calls a “justice bone,” this innate piece of me that wants people to REALIZE when they’re being unkind, admit it, and knock it off. But with true emotional bullies, that’s a pipe dream. They may NEVER clue in, and you’ll be waiting a long time. (Spoiler alert: I’ll probably be waiting right there next to you on the bench!)

What I learned when I worked with a very scary bully (see this blog post here for a little more background) is that the best thing I could do when I HAD to interact with him was to be as unfazed as possible. No matter what ridiculous thing he suggested to make my job harder, I would nod and say “Mmmm… interesting thought.” If he’d say something vaguely threatening, I’d reply “Fascinating.” If he said something insulting: “What a strange thing to say.” The less I replied, the more he turned his focus to someone who would give him a more emotionally charged response. It’s just like my mom taught me when I was fighting with my brother as kids: “if you give him a reaction, he’s just going to keep going.”

Practicing emotional detachment works in two ways – it hopefully makes the bully back off because he’s not getting the payoff he wants, plus it keeps you from being quite as frustrated, because you allow yourself to be less invested in “fixing” the bully. 

Healthy Outlet

No matter how good you are at emotional detachment in the moment, you’re still going to have some feelings come up. And you’re for SURE going to need to deal with those feelings. It’s important to find someone who is NOT a part of the environment where the bully is, to be your sounding board. Depending on how severe the situation is, I highly recommend going for at least a few sessions with a professional. The strategies I’ve learned for how to manage MYSELF (and the other person) in these situations have been incredibly valuable.

Whether a friend, family member, or a professional, find someone whose advice-giving style aligns with what you’re looking for. If you just want some sympathy, don’t turn to a well-known problem-solver. You’ll both be frustrated. Before you start the conversation, lay out clearly what you’re looking for (just to vent, advice, someone to be in your corner, etc.). Dealing with an emotional bully can feel lonely, so getting someone on your team is a critical part of the coping process.

Even as adults, we may still run into bullies sometimes. I like this Inc. article’s list of the 5 types of adult bullies. Dealing with an emotional bully is draining, so take these three steps to protect yourself mentally, so you’ll have the energy you need to keep focusing on what YOU need to get done.