We read in the newspaper and hear on news broadcasts daily of kids getting bullied at school or over the Internet and how to deal with it but there is very little information about bullies in the business world. It is only inevitable that if left unchecked a bully in school will continue their bullying tactics when they enter the business world. While bullies in school pick on those who are weak or different, bullies in the business world use their position in business, financial strength, physical stature or acid tongue to force their will upon other people.
The most common bullies in the business world aren’t even called bullies, they are called sexual predators. Those people who use the power of their position to harass or coerce sexual favors with promises of promotions or threats of demotion and termination. Laws have been put in place to protect individuals from sexual harassment and businesses have taken a proactive role in educating workers of how to respond if confronted. However, what about the other bullies in the
business world, those people who threaten though physical and verbal intimidation to get their way? Unfortunately a lot of these people are rewarded by businesses for this type of behavior because businesses are willing to look the other way as long as the business itself was not hurt and it achieved its goal. I call this type of bullying Business-to-Business Bullying (B2B Bullying).
Working in the real estate industry brings me in contact with a lot of B2B Bullies. An example is the tenant who without cause threatens to sue the property owner unless their demands are met. If the financial cost to the owner is greater to defend against the actions of the tenant then the action demanded of the owner, the owner usually acquiesces. Doesn’t this sound like business as usual in any industry? Probably so, but it is in fact B2B Bullying. An even more pervasive B2B Bullying tactic in the real estate industry is the tenant who calls to complain, whether the complaint is justified or unjustified, it doesn’t really matter, yelling, swearing, demanding and threatening the unfortunate individual who just happened to answer the phone. If the recipient of the call is ill prepared to deal with such a call the caller usually achieves what they demand.
How should businesses respond to B2B Bullying? I doubt there will be laws put into place that protect business from such tactics so the only defense businesses have is to be proactive and train their staff how to deal with such individuals. In the case of threatened lawsuits there truly isn’t much a business can do that makes economic sense other than to compromise. You will have an opportunity to conduct a cost benefit analysis of maintaining the business relationship with the threatening party at a later date and can use the experience as part of that process. I can attest that I have “fired” several clients over the years after doing such an analysis.
Responding to B2B Bullying over the phone is more immediate, requiring staff to know exactly how to react and respond to such tactics. As a property manage company, my firm is in the business of customer service and if a tenant calls to complain our goal is to assist them in resolving the issue. However, nobody deserves to be yelled and sworn at over the phone. I’ve found that being firm and direct with the caller is the best response. Telling the caller that you are trying to
help them and you object to their tone and language usually gets them to momentarily stop. This allows time to inform them that you will hang up if such tone and language persists. If another outburst occurs, politely tell the caller you are hanging up and do so. When the caller again calls remind them firmly that you will hang up if their tone and language is objectionable. Normally the recipient will only have to hang up the phone once to diffuse the bully and an amicable solution to their problem will be the end result.
While we can and will have to deal with B2B Bullying on the immediate and mid-term, the long term solution to B2B Bullying is to train proper social and business behavior to kids while in school and to administer appropriate consequence to those kids who fail to adhere to those norms.