Do you ever feel you’ve been bullied, pressured or intimidated in business? It happens all the time, in various forms; bullying goes far beyond children and the playground. Maybe the word ‘bullied’ is a little strong, but it definitely happens. Sometimes we are pressured by clients, suppliers, competitors, staff or even salespeople. We get intimidated, harassed and pressured.
Here are my top tips on how to avoid being bullied in business:
Having agreements and contracts will save you – simply quote the contract and hold your ground. If you advised a client or supplier how business would occur, then reference that document if they start to put ‘the screws’ on you. If you are seriously being hassled, then talk to a solicitor; maybe a ‘cease and desist’ order will be just the ticket.
On the other side of the coin, always read contracts, agreements and any official document. Never ever let someone (when you are trying to read something before signing) say “oh, don’t worry about reading that, it’s just a standard contract” …. If it’s a contract and they expect you to sign it, be sure to read it. If it’s something quite important, such as buying or selling a business, or getting into a franchise, absolutely be sure to consult a solicitor and have them check it over. Lawyers are not cheap, but the mess they can keep you out of could potentially save you a fortune.
The customer is not always right.
I started work in the early 80’s and remember being told “the customer is always right, even when they are wrong”. Always listen to their viewpoint, request or comment, but at the end of the day, don’t allow them to bully you. I remember a few years back one client berating me for ringing up to chase payment; how dare we call him and ask to be paid! He threatened to take his business elsewhere, because my staff (politely) was asking him to pay his very outstanding account. My first thought was that HE is putting us in that situation by not paying his bill. Secondly, if a client is not paying then you are working for free – unless you are a charity, then this is not acceptable. He was hoping this bully tactic would get him off the hook, but we firmly but politely continued to pursue payment – and got it. I then terminated business with him; he was what I classified as a “D” grade client and D’s get ditched.
Take your time.
Sometimes we are pressured to sign, or pressured to buy. The deal will disappear in five minutes. Take your time, do your due diligence, research or simply take a pause to really consider what is in front of you. Perhaps you want to compare pricing or get the opinion of an advisor. If so, be firm and advise them you are considering it and will get back to them promptly. It’s all about being calm and firm. Don’t allow people to intimidate you and pressure you into quick (and possibly erroneous) decisions.
Never allow anyone to make you feel stupid, dumb or incompetent. Certainly, I believe confidence comes with years and maturity, but at the end of the day, remember you are the business owner (assuming that’s the case) and it’s your business and your choice. Better to pause and possibly miss an opportunity, than to jump in and make the error of a lifetime. Remember you have the right to stop, think, research, check out, investigate or simply to say ‘no thank you’.
Know your rights.
Staff is another area where business owners are bullied. The staff member takes over the business, harasses other staff, treats customers poorly and the distressed business owner just retreats because they are scared of being sued for unfair dismissal or similar. Firstly, if you are clear about what is acceptable or not (ideally up front) then this is not likely to even evolve. Secondly, have clear (ideally documented) processes in place. Thirdly, ‘educate’ your difficult staff member. They need to be given the opportunity to rectify and improve their manner. Finally, get a HR/IR consultant on board and find out exactly how you can remedy the situation legally. Better to action this sooner rather than later. Remember this expression (it’s a favourite of mine):
“We deserve what we tolerate.”
Trials, Samples or Free Consults ARE obligation free.
If you accept a trial or free sample or free consult (I do these myself) they are obligation free. Unless it’s clearly stated that you have to sign your life away afterwards, it’s a reasonable assumption that you are just testing and can walk away. A poor salesperson will pressure you; a great salesperson will know their product or service is great and talks for itself. It’s totally reasonable and fair they will follow up and ask for your business, but equally fair and reasonable is your right (without pressure) to say no thank you. In fact, a great salesman will appreciate your honestly and directness rather than the avoidance, not answering the phone, saying you’re ‘thinking about it’ (when you already have made up your mind). Be decisive and strong; if you don’t want to proceed, say so and allow them to move onto a prospect who is interested.
Social Media – working for bullies.
Bullies are often cowards who feel safe hiding behind their computer screens. In this age, we see a string of wonderful reviews and then out of the blue one which is just nasty. If you get a nasty review/comment and you know it’s not justified (be honest with yourself in assessing that) then don’t remove or hide the review or even ignore it. Simply be very polite and discuss the matter with the person. Take the high ground; everyone is watching HOW you handle it and if you are polite, apologetic and ask them to contact you to rectify, then it can be sorted out well. Now when I say apologetic, you can apologise that they are not happy, rather than apologising that you did something wrong. “Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback. I’m sorry you were not happy with your stay; we want every visitor to enjoy their stay with us. Please contact reception on XXXXX and ask for XXXX and we’ll look after you”. Being super nice and helpful shows others how you deal with things, but also takes the wind out of their sails.
Social Media – working against bullies.
The other side of social media is that, particularly in business groups, if someone is picking on a business, often the group as a whole will stand out and say “that’s not fair” and encourage the bully to stop the harassment and in fact ask the Administrators to step in. I’ve seen competitors on business pages being nasty and sledging a business because they themselves are losing business to this other. Fortunately others have stood up and said they had a great experience and ‘defended’ the business being bullied. I am in fact an Administrator on a business group ‘Redlands Business Referrals’ and one of our ‘rules’ is that no-one is to post anything negative. We don’t tolerate bullies, harassment or any sledging.
Bullying and intimidation isn’t acceptable to our children and it’s not acceptable in business (hey, didn’t we grow up somewhere between primary school and business?). Know your facts, be respectful but at the end of the day, don’t take it. I’m not saying return the bully tactics, but instead take the high ground, be polite but don’t accept these tactics from anyone. Stand up for yourself and try to ‘negotiate’ the situation. Some bullies won’t see logic and will never recognise that they are doing the wrong thing, but fortunately you are not stuck in the playground; as an adult we have many options open to us.
For more business coaching tips call me on 0411 622 666.