Can Bullies Change?

September 24th, 2013   •   Comments Off on Can Bullies Change?   

by Jen Sellers

bully4Is there a leader in your organization whom people are afraid of? Or who demoralizes and demotivates? Perhaps you’ve heard comments like these:

My boss is nice one minute and yelling obscenities the next.

He’s a control freak – everything has to be his way or you’re snubbed.

She gets mad when everyone isn’t willing to be superhuman and work like she does.

He constantly reams people out publicly in emails.

Often, abrasive behavior is allowed to continue indefinitely. Why? Because these leaders are generally highly valued for their business acumen or technical abilities and feared for their tendency to run rough-shod over people.

Bullying leaders know what they’re doing and don’t care, and even if they did they can’t change. Right? No! Based on the research and my own experience with leaders who exhibit abrasive behaviors, it is worthwhile for organizations to intervene.

Join us for What to Do When You Think the Boss Is a Bully, a no-cost 60 minute webinar on Wednesday, October 9 at 12:00 Pacific / 3:00 Eastern to learn how. Or contact us to bring this webinar to your organization, to hear about our next public offering, or to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Common Assumptions

Some common assumptions are that abrasive leaders

  • are fully aware of the impact of their harmful behavior,
  • intend to be malicious,
  • dominate via aggression, and
  • can’t change.

In reality, only one of the above is a typical characteristic – they do try to dominate through aggression. But not for the reasons you might think. Instead of being aware of their impact, the abrasive leaders I’ve worked with are baffled by the perception that they want to hurt people.

Their intent is not malicious; they just do what they think it takes to get the job done. They themselves usually don’t recognize that underneath is a fear that they will be seen as incompetent. It’s fear, not malice, that’s driving them.

So they try to defend against their unconscious fear of incompetence in unskillful ways, through overt or covert aggression. They intimidate, ignore, condescend, or criticize.

They must take responsibility for the situation, and they can change. It’s up to the organization to make sure that they do both. As an organization you can get the value from these leaders without demoralizing those around them.


The organization needs to

  • set limits for abrasive behavior with appropriate consequences,
  • make sure policies are in place to ensure a civil and productive workplace, and
  • offer resources to help the abrasive person see into the perceptions of others and their impact on the organization.

The steps are both straight-forward and sometimes difficult to accomplish. But there is a way.

Join Us

JenSellersJoin Jennifer Sellers for What to Do When You Think the Boss is a Bully, a complimentary 60 minute webinar on Wednesday, October 9 at 12:00 Pacific / 3:00 Eastern to learn how. You will learn:

  • the characteristics of the abrasive leaders
  • the basis of abrasive behavior – the Threat-Anxiety-Defense Dynamic
  • the impact on the organization and the benefits of intervening
  • blocks to taking action
  • strategies to move past the blocks

Bring this Webinar to Your Organziation

Contact us to learn how your organization can handle this thorny issue. There is a lot of unnecessary suffering in the workplace, and you can do something about it.

What to Do When You Think the Boss Is a Bully is led by Jennifer Sellers. Jen is Professional Certified Coach, Chief Energizing Officer of Inspired Mastery and specialist in turning around abrasive executives. She is accredited in the Boss Whispering® Method, the first and only research-based method for working with abrasive executives.

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