What To Avoid With Bullies

You may not like to hear this, but people who are bullied have often done something to encourage, or at least, allow, the bully to treat them that way.

You know this. Let me ask you this question: When you were at school, did you know who was going to be bullied before it happened? I bet you did. How did you know?

You see, you spotted the body language, the way they behaved and key things about that person that made them an easy target – and you hadn’t had any training, you were just using your instincts.

How do I know this? Well, I’ve been working with people who have been bullied for many years and seen how, just by changing a few small things, they can take control and stop the bullying much more easily than they thought.

Here are a few of them:

Poor Body Posture

Make sure you have an upright body posture. If you think you may have a poor posture, get some help. There are several things you can do: learn one of the martial arts, do your best to stand up and sit up (get feedback from friends on this) or, possibly best of all, get some Alexander Technique training. In the UK you’ll find a list of teachers at this site:


In the US, you’ll find them here

Sense of Humour

If you are able to laugh at yourself and not take insults too seriously, this can make a big difference. It’s no fun picking on someone who isn’t upset by it. I know this can sound difficult, but give it a go. To quote Jane Austen: “We must not be so ready to fancy ourselves intentionally injured” (Pride and Prejudice).

Once you start imagining deliberate injury, you can become very negative and see problems where there are none. In this way, things get blown up and magnified into serious issues unnecessarily.


Never ask a bully “Why….?” This can come across as an attack and will just make the whole situation worse. In one meeting I was in, a colleague of mine asked the client “Why don’t you…?” The client exploded. It took me half an hour to calm her down again.

After the meeting, my colleague apologised. I had spent hours preparing for the meeting and had advised her not to use that word. She probably won’t do it again though.

The Cheapest Way To Motivate Your Team

The lowest cost way to motivate your team is to have clear objectives. Unless you know what it you need to achieve, it’s very hard to be motivated to achieve it.

Having clear objectives costs you nothing. What costs you a lot is having vague, unclear objectives that don’t explain what you need and that no one understands.


Many times I have been asked to work with teams that were not particularly motivated. The first thing I always do in these situations is ask them what they think they are there to achieve.

Guess what? Very often, they just don’t know. Or they all have different ideas about what it is.


One team I worked with had a goal of being the best in decision support. I asked what that meant. No one knew or was able to explain it to me – even the manager. I asked what individuals did – it was all very vague.
They gathered information and gave it to other people.

I asked how they knew they had done a good job. They didn’t. They hoped they had.

We spent a whole day working out what they did. It was quite tiring. But, by the end, the team was completely different. Here’s what they did:

Supply information to the Board so that they are able to make decisions that result in a profitable company.

It took a long time to get to that. The “so that” bit is really important. It focuses you not just on what it is you need to do, but why.

Less Work, Better Quality

It meant that, instead of wasting their time on information that wasn’t going to be useful (which they had many times) they could focus all their attention on what the board really needed.

Doing A Good Job

They were also able to find out if they had done a good job much more easily. That in itself is very motivating.

Get Your Objectives Right

This is just one example from thousands. The thing they all have in common is that people are much happier once they know exactly what they need to achieve, much more likely to achieve it and much more motivated.

Biggest Failures In Dealing With Bullies

I worked with a woman who was sent to me because she was very stressed. It was so bad that all she could do for the first hour was cry every time she tried to tell me what was wrong.

In the end I discovered that her manager was bullying her very badly.

I felt obliged to let the HR department know that they had a serious problem. I stressed that I had only heard one side, but I thought they should know. They already knew about this manager, but weren’t planning to take any action.

It turned out they could only take action if his manager wanted to, and he didn’t. He thought this guy was great.

I’ve seen this problem many times and find it very worrying.

Why Is Bullying Invisible?

One of the biggest problems with bullying in the workplace is that it can be invisible to those above the person doing it.

Bullying is playground behaviour. It’s very immature. People who bully tend to be very status conscious and hierarchical in their view of the world. As a result of this, they are quite happy to treat their staff, or anyone they see as inferior, badly. However, they want to impress senior people. So they do everything they can to look good to those above.

Sadly, senior people, all too often, fall for this. Of course, many of them use the same strategy, that’s how they got into their roles.

This is the biggest problem with workplace bullying; it’s not tackled because so many people don’t believe it exists. And once they do know, they don’t know what to do about it.

What Can You Do

If you are experiencing bullying, keep records of what has happened and report it in a factual way. Make sure you don’t come across as whining.

For example (from a real case)

On Tuesday a customer complained about a chipped glass that was on her table. Sally had laid the table. Sally shouted at me. She said “Why the fxxx can’t you ever get this right? If I find any more fxxxxxg chipped glasses you’ll be fired.”

Sally is the only person who deals with the wine glasses.

Sally agreed I could come in a 9.30 in the morning as I had a dentist appointment. When I arrived she shouted at me. “You’re late again, I’m giving you a warning for that. Don’t think you can get away with this.”

Instead of:

Sally is always swearing at me and accusing me of things I haven’t done, it’s really unfair.

You need to present this information to the manager and to an HR representative, and ask them what they can do to improve the behaviour of the individual.

The more reasonable you look, the worse the individual will look. So keep it factual. If the behaviour is in any way causing the company to lose money, customers, sales etc, then point that out. That usually grabs people’s attention.

What Is Your CV For?

What do you think the purpose of your CV is? Many people think it’s to get you the job.

The Interview

It isn’t. It’s just to get you to the interview. Then, when you’re at the interview, that’s when you focus on getting the job – and finding out if it’s the kind of job you really want and the kind of place you want to work.

How Does This Help When You’re Writing Your  CV?

If you are clear that the CV is just to get you to the interview, it means that you don’t need to put anything like as much detail into it.

Imagine you are the interviewer, looking at a whole pile of CVs. What’s going to get you to invite someone in for an interview?

The Requirements

Firstly, the CV will need to show that you meet most of the requirements. That means the qualifications and experience.

Ideally any company interviewing should have a clear job description and person specification so they know exactly the kind of person they need for the post. However, we know that doesn’t always happen. And even when it does, if you can show that you have achieved the kinds of things they need people to achieve, the interviewer will probably want to see you.

This is entirely different from just letting people know you have spend time doing things, or have seven years of experience in the building trade.

The Key

Do your research. Identify what it is they really need. At the moment, most organisations need people who can cut costs or increase sales. So that’s a good place to start.

Read The Ad

But if you read the advertisement carefully and any other information you have, you’ll be able to work out what else they are looking for. You should also be able to add to your picture by searching on the web.


Find out anything you can about the company and the problems and challenges it is facing at the moment.

Your Achievements

Then identify which of your achievements match their needs. Do your best to phrase it in an interesting way, where you state what you achieved, but not how it was done. This should raise their curiosity, so they will want to get you in to find out how you did it:

  • “Doubled the sales of the XYX widget in three months”
  • “Reduced the budget of the Marketing Department by 25% with no loss in sales”
  • “Identified three new markets for our products that continue to give £XXXXXX sales/annum”

If you possibly can, use figures. They tend to stand out and look impressive.

Keep It Short

Don’t go on for pages. Remember, people will have many other CVs to read and, by number 10 or 20, won’t want to wade through pages of stuff to get to the interesting bits. Make sure your achievements are on the front page.

And good luck!

The Biggest Problem With Motivation

Probably the single biggest problem with motivation is recognising that we are all motivated by different things. Many people assume everyone is motivated by money. Some people are, but not everyone. Some are repelled by the huge sums of money that some bankers get.

How It Backfired

If you try to motivate others using what motivates you, it can often backfire. One client of mine was offered the job of HR Director in the company she worked for. She turned it down. This was a great shame as she was ideal for the post.

I asked her what happened. The CEO had offered it to her and told her that it would nearly double her salary and she’d get a big company car. She was horrified. The organisation was a not-for-profit and she did not approve of high salaries in the organisation.

Different Motivation

I asked her what was important to her in her work. She told me that helping people to be happy in their jobs and being able to do a good job meant a lot to her, and getting the right people; people who cared about the issues. People who would add value and be happy in their work.

I asked her how many people she could make happy currently. It was about 100. I asked her how many she could have helped in the Director role. I remember the stricken look on her face as she said: “Oh no, I should have taken it, shouldn’t I?”

The trouble was the CEO had, in his attempt to persuade her with what motivated him, put her off completely.

It had not even occurred to him that she could be de-motivated by his efforts.

How Do You Find Out What Motivates Someone Else?

Just ask them, as I did: What’s important to you about xxxxx?
They will be delighted to tell you.

3 Easy Ways To Deal With Difficult People On Workshops

Is it people on your workshops just can’t seem to learn simple things?
Or are they wishing they were somewhere else?
Or are they disruptive?
Here are some easy ways to deal with those issues.

They Can’t Learn The Simple Things

This is probably to do with the way you are putting the information across. The trouble is, when you think something is simple, that’s when you are least able to teach it.

I once laughed at my friend, Steph, when she said she was going to train to be a maths teacher. “You can’t even add up the phone bills.” I said, laughing at her ridiculous idea. But she brought me up short with her reply.

“I’ll make a great teacher because I know what it’s like not to be able to do it – and you don’t!” She rebuked me.

Find Out

So the first thing you need to do when someone is having trouble is to understand what the problem is from their perspective. Here are two questions to help you do that:

  • “What do you understand?”
  • “What don’t you understand?”

You will be amazed at how useful the answers to those simple questions are. Often you will discover that you have been focusing on entirely the wrong area and the individual just needed one simple piece of information to get going.

People Who Wish They Were Elsewhere

The problem here is usually that the individuals concerned don’t understand why this material is so important for them. The easiest way to deal with this is to ask them.

Just ask the whole group how this information or skill will benefit them and what the problems will be if they don’t have it.

Do this in groups and get them to share their answers after five or ten minutes. The answers will be so much more convincing if they don’t come from you.

Disruptive People

These people can often cause problems way out of proportion to the issue on any workshop. The key here is to be in control of the situation. So, grasp the nettle and ask, right at the beginning, what the concerns are.

You can do this by splitting people into groups and getting them to do this (you’ll be more likely to get the information that way).

Then, just go round the groups and find out what the concerns are.

This may sound frightening, but I guarantee you will have far fewer problems this way. You will be in control. You will have the option to deal with the concerns at the time or say you will deal with them later (when you’ve had time to think). If any sound really bad, ask more questions to clearly define the issue.

I know this sounds strange, but the more you ask, the more easily and effectively you’ll be able to deal with the problem because you’ll have more information.

Motivation Failures – A Case Study

I have a client who is very lively and bubbly. Her name is Mary. She is full of ideas and nothing gets her down. But she had terrible trouble with one particular group of workers in her company.


You know the type. They are engineers. They’ve been there for more than 20 years and they know it all. They have heard every idea and can give you at least ten reasons why it won’t work.


They complain about everything and anything. They hate change and do their best to prevent it in any possible form. Everything is everyone else’s fault and they are the true heroes in the company. Without them the company would be lost.

I expect you recognise them.

So Mary, in her capacity as training manager, had to have various meetings with groups of these engineers.

They were disastrous. The more she tried to explain how great the new training programme would be, the more they complained about it and were convinced it would not work.

Worse and Worse

They got more and more negative and she found dealing with them very difficult. In the end, she came along on our training programme herself, and on the module where we covered motivation.

In one exercise she was paired up with Paul, one of the very engineers who had been in her meeting. They did a little exercise and discovered that she was a very positive individual and although he was quite positive for an engineer in that company, compared to her he was seriously negative.

We identified how being very positive actually makes negative people worse. How, when you keep telling people who are already sceptical, that something will be great, they feel obliged to point out all the problems you’ve missed. This encourages you to explain, in even more detail, the huge benefits they have missed.

And so the cycle continues.

The Light Dawns

As we went through, there was a gasp from Mary: “This is exactly what’s been happening in my meetings!” She exclaimed. Paul laughed and agreed with her.

She realised that she had to be more “negative” and talk about the problems that needed to be solved, rather than keep harping on about how great everything was.

It was real light bulb moment for her (and for Paul, who found it very funny).

The next meeting was completely different. Only Paul knew what she was doing differently. The rest of them just thought she had finally come to her senses.

4 Interview Questions You Must Avoid

When you are interviewing it’s vital that you identify what it is you need to achieve. Generally this is to find a person who will be able to do the job successfully. Often, instead of that you end up recruiting a person who is just good at being interviewed.

How Do You Avoid Recruiting The “Professional Interviewee”?

You need to ask the right questions. Questions that really get to the meat of the situation, and avoid questions that are a license to the practised candidate to sell themselves.
How Do You Avoid Recruiting The Professional Interviewee?

Here Are Some Of Those Question To Avoid:

  • Why should we give you this job?
  • What would you do if….?
  • What are your greatest weaknesses?
  • What would your friends say about you?

These questions are difficult to answer, but worse than that, they rarely give you any useful information about the candidate and their ability to do the job (unless you are recruiting someone into a very political role).

The first question is one that the candidate is not really in a position to answer as he or she knows nothing about the other candidates (usually). You are better off spending the time getting useful information from the candidate on their skill and experience.

The second question – “What would you do…?” is a hypothetical question. The reliability of the answers to these questions is very poor. In other words, it’s highly unlikely that the candidate will actually do what he or she says they would do.

“What are your greatest weaknesses?”
If the candidate has prepared for this question it is likely to be a pat and bogus answer – giving you no useful information on which to base your recruitment decision. If the candidate can’t answer, then you may have alienated the candidate, or at the very least made them very nervous and reduced your chances of getting useful information.

“What would your friends say about you?”
Again, your chances of getting a truthful response to this question are remote. A well-rehearsed answer tells you something about the candidate, but it may not be what you want to know. Instead, use the time with questions that will yield useful information.

The Best Questions

These get you information about the skills, experience and values of the candidate. In other words information that enables you to make a decision based on facts about who will be best in the role.