Self Reflection

Got a bully boss? 3 tips to help you.

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What is a bully boss? Bully bosses are people who are very goal-oriented, get the job done, but leave a lot of human wreckage in their wake. We’ve all worked for them at one time or another. Or have had clients who fit the description.When you work for a bully boss, you notice that you have no personal life. Though it’s not written anywhere, the bully boss’s expectation is that you be on call 24/7. You personal boundaries erode to the point of becoming nonexistent and you live in a lot of fear, waiting for the other shoe to drop. If there is a conflict and you stand up to the bully boss, you usually find yourself trapped in a paradox. The bottom line is, you are destined to be wrong because he has to be right. The bully boss rarely listens to anyone with a different opinion and will gather support for his own opinion from those who are too afraid to do anything else but agree.

With the Presidential race ramping up, we have plenty of opportunity to witness this kind of behavior. Some have suggested that Donald Trump is a bully boss. Whether he is or not, we’re not going to weigh in on because we’re coaches, not political commentators. Besides, you can’t do anything about the behavior of Presidential candidates. But you do have some choices when it comes to your bully boss.

What most people do is complain about their bully boss and feel like a hopeless victim. And you’re probably waiting for us to tell you what to do about him or her. But we’re not going to do that, because you can’t change a bully boss. That’s part of their profile; they’re unchangeable and not usually capable of psychological insight. So we’re going to shift gears here and tell you what you can do. You can do something about you.

TIP #1: Back Pocket Coach strategy #25 asks: “What if I don’t have all the facts?”

In the context in which this strategy was written, it refers to the importance of having all the facts about others and the situation at hand. For bully boss, we are suggesting a twist on the strategy, which is: “What if I don’t have all the facts about myself?” Such as, “why am I still in this job?” Well, maybe you’re working on a project that you’re passionate about. Or maybe you like the money. Or perhaps you’re the sole source of income for your family. Whatever the reasons, they are your reasons. And it’s important to get clear on these reasons. You are there by choice. You are a free agent and can come and go at will. Once you embrace this, you will discover that this is where your power lies.

As human beings, we need to know that we have choices -- no matter what our age or stage in life. And by making a conscious choice about staying in your job and working for a bully boss, or polishing up your resume to start exploring your options, you are operating from a place of personal power. When you make choices within this context, you won’t risk poisoning your nervous system with resentment. Because resentment comes from feeling like a victim who has no power. This anonymous quote says it beautifully: “Resentment is like you taking a poison pill and hoping the other person dies.”

TIP #2. Back Pocket Coach Strategy #33 says: “Shake it off!”

The three components to this are: 1) don’t take things personally; 2) stay focused on the outcome; 3) remain flexible. All three are good advice when engaging with a bully boss. But not taking things personally is perhaps the most important. And if you’re dealing with a real bully boss, this is way more about him, than you.

TIP #3. Be impeccable with your work.

Don’t give your bully boss a reason to find fault with your work product. This ties into not taking things personally, because when you are impeccable in your words and in your deeds, there will be nothing for you to take personally.

Please share your thoughts about your experience with a bully boss and what you did to stay afloat and fulfill your goals and purpose. We’d love to hear from you!

Difficult conversations just got easier

Some of the more frequent areas we are asked to work on with individuals and teams include enhancing communication skills, conflict management, and difficult conversations. These are not lightweight conversations and while some may enjoy the challenge ‘conflict’ brings, others are skeptical or even averse to engaging in the difficult or potential conflict evoking conversation.

So what is it that makes difficult conversation hard and why do we say it just got easier?

Difficult conversations require courage, emotional intelligence, and savvy communication and leadership skills – no matter what title or role you hold in an organization, including with your family and friends. It also requires you to have some sense of personal power, in other words – work on yourself and your personal development rather than worry about fixing or correcting the others in the conversation. Sounds simple, but it is challenging. We know this from our work and from our own personal development. It’s why there are so many resources to support us in developing communication skills, dealing with conflict and having those challenging conversations. We each have our favorite authors and influencers in this area, and we’ve appreciated what we’ve learned and applied as part of our own development, personally and professionally. Notice our inclusion of ‘applied’ in the previous sentence – the application of what we learn is really important to integrating learning into practice. This principle is what spurred us to create Back Pocket Coach as a tool to use for applied learning, practice, and ultimately habit to approach those potentially challenging or difficult conversations with ease.

Click here to get Back Pocket Coach on Amazon Kindle!


We saw successful clients challenged by bully bosses and boards as they devolved into emotional turmoil rather than address from a place of strength. We know it’s hard to be strong when people are yelling, and unfortunately bad behavior still happens far too often in all types of places in organizations.

So how can you combat bad behavior and stay strong?

Try strategy #26 in back pocket coach: Assume positive intent. No matter what the other person is saying or doing remember they are human and they are probably doing the best they know how to at any given moment in time – even if it seems like they should know better. So Assume positive intent – Working with others can be challenging. Our emotions may cause us to question their intent or motivation, especially when they seem to be in opposition to ours. Next time, try this: Before assuming you “know” what the other person’s intention is, ask! Then methodically reflect back what you hear them say. This simple act of clarifying will calm your nervous system and allow you to set the tone for a positive dialogue.

Remember, you have the power to make the difference!

6 Ways to Boost Your Self-Awareness (Hint: It’s Good for Business)

To start building a process in self-reflection, try this: Use these starter questions to reflect on the results of a recently completed project or conversation. Bring a mindset of curiosity, openness and honesty to your answers. Adapt the questions to fit your situation.

reset your mind self awareness in business
  1. What went well (with this conversation, task or meeting)?

  2. What could I have done to have made it work even better?

  3. Did I have unexamined assumptions (regarding the information I had, or about a person or situation)?

  4. Who else should have been included here and how might I do that in the future?

  5. Who needed to be appreciated, and for what?

  6. What follow up is needed now and by whom?

Next, Try This

After answering the questions, reflect on what you wrote. Did you discover anything that surprised you? Or something that you hadn’t previously thought of? Did you get any new insights into your own behavior or have a new perspective about someone else’s? Whatever you did, congratulations for engaging in the process! You now have the foundation for a self-reflection discipline.

Look for opportunities to use the process whenever and wherever you can. Adapt the questions to fit the situation. When you’re ready, find an opportunity to try it out in your team environment. And remember to have a conversation about the process itself.

There are lots of opportunities to use this skill -- even at home! Remember that supporting others, and particularly your direct reports, in developing their skill in self-reflection can have huge payoffs, helping them and you become more self-aware. And, just like anything else, it takes time to cultivate a new habit, so have a patient heart -- with yourself and others!

When you give this a try, let me know how it went. I’d really like to hear from you!