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Leadership Thought #338 – Never Allow Yourself to Get Bullied

April 18, 2012

Free Woman in Black Blazer Writing on White Paper Stock Photo

Never allow yourself to get bullied.  It was true on the playground when we were kids, and it is true as an adult in your business dealings.  I make it a rule to never do business with anyone I perceive doesn’t have my best interest at heart.  Any dealing that is completely one-sided is not a good business deal but extortion.  The good news is that once you survive a bad economy, it becomes pretty evident who the worst transgressors are.  I hope that they end up being held to account for their actions.

There is an old saying that you see a person’s true personality when they have achieved wealth and/or power.  When you are on top or have significant leverage over another person you can either give them a hand up or keep them down.  You can reward loyalty and think long-term or squeeze every last dollar out of every deal.   You can take a win-win mindset or make sure you win, and the other person loses.  You can be honest and straightforward or disingenuous.

You see it everywhere you look.  Banks calling in loans at inopportune moments to push someone out of business just to make their balance sheets look better (then blame it on the regulators).  Credit card companies charging exorbitant rates that border on usury when their customers misstep slightly.  General contractors who beat down their subcontractors so much on price that it is impossible for them to make a profit.  Large corporations intimidating local governments to give them everything they want or threatening to relocate.  Popular business brands who rely on child labor or abhorrent labor practices in other countries to maximize their profitability.  Public officials using rules and regulations to inhibit the success of people they don’t like.  Customers having unrealistic expectations of price and results from their service contractors and making their business success harder than it needs to be.  The list can go on and on.

I believe you should never get ahead in life at the expense of someone else.  You may have to pay a little bit more at times but that’s okay.  When the growth of McDonald’s first started to take off, Ray Kroc several times increased what he was paying his potato suppliers on purpose so they would have money to invest in their own capabilities and share in the rewards of success.  I.B.M. used to purposefully pick facility locations and offer generous retirement benefits that would guarantee an excellent quality for life for their employees.  Sam Walton used to take pride in the fact that Wal Mart carried so many items that were made in America and that he had strong healthy vendor relationships.

When you find yourself in a position where you feel you are being bullied by the other party, do your best not to succumb to their pressure and stand your ground.   Surround yourself with employees and business partners who have your best interest at heart and act in the same fashion.  Share the fruits of your success with those who made it possible.  Be generous (within reason) when some of your partners/colleagues struggle because at some point every business inevitably will.  Help people win today and they will help you win long-term.   Avoid large banks who may offer lower rates but who also have no loyalty to you whatsoever.  Never trust someone who breaks his/her word and exit that relationship ASAP.  Don’t work for a boss who treats you unfairly or is ethically challenged.  Call out public officials and bureaucrats who are unwilling to promote progress, compromise for the greater good, or who are pushing a hidden agenda.

The best way to deal with a bully is to first stand up to them and then ignore them altogether until they consistently change their behavior.  Work with your colleagues and business partners to isolate those organizations who are bad for business and only support others that practice a win-win mindset.  Worst case scenario is to get out of a business where you don’t like or trust the major players and do something else.  You are only ever as weak as you allow yourself to be.