The Drive by Bomber

aka The Business Bully


Did that just happen? Why do I suddenly feel bad?

Business Bullies want what they want, and they are very skilled at getting it, often at the expense of others.  That’s what happened to Betsy last week. She was sitting at her desk minding her own business and working away when a client, Claire, pulled a drive-by.

Claire dropped a verbal bomb in Betsy’s email and kept on going.

“Hey Betsey, I didn’t appreciate your tone in our last phone call,  you may want to tone it down a bit when dealing with your clients.”

By the time Betsy called me her heart was racing, and she was livid. She didn’t know how to respond or if she even should. Claire was pushing back because Betsy would not give her work product for free. Something that has come up in our conversations before.

I reminded Betsy about the last time she drew boundaries with Claire, and Claire responded to her with “Some companies would be grateful to have such an easy client.”

This was Claire’s game; blame-shifting, pushing back and seeding doubt.  This is one of the many ways that a business-bully operates.

Business bullies are selfish, they don’t like hearing NO, and they don’t like any change that they didn’t orchestrate. When they want something, they are rarely straightforward about it.

That ‘something’ they want may be simply testing your will around your boundaries. Some are more aggressive in their opposition and use blame and shame tactics. This is why micro-boundary breaches, or those little things that you ignore or give into, are so dangerous.

Beware of the rabbit hole journey prompted by the skilled opposer. They will often employ one or more of these techniques to get what they want:

Rationalization: When someone uses an excuse for engaging in what they know is an inappropriate or harmful behavior. They do so anyway in order to get a result that they want.

Misrepresentation: When someone misrepresents what you say. They will parrot back your words, but they will twist them into a different meaning and argue against this newly created argument, which will lead you to join in the dance of clarification and then to further twisting your words.

Looping: A circular conversations with no clear meaning or meeting of the minds around a topic, an ever-changing topic, or the same few topics that lead right back to each other. Each attempt at clarification or explaining leads to a new (slightly different) explanation or interpretation.

Moving the Goal Post (a form of diversion): When you accomplish a task or respond clearly, this person changes their expectation of you or demands more “proof,” thus perpetually changing, adding to, or moving the goal post.

Guilt-Tripping: We have all felt this one at one point, when someone uses guilt to get what they want. This is most effective if you already have a sense of guilt coming from your people-pleasing or perfectionist tendencies.

So what do you do?

Don’t let the little things go unaddressed.  Shut it down with some of these simple statements.

“I am sorry you feel that way”

“I am not able to do that for you”

“I understand your frustration, would you like me to send you a bid for the additional work you are wanting?”

The best defense is to have clear firm boundaries that you articulate and to be aware of those smaller boundary tests. If you give in once with a business bully, they will expect it every time.

Have you had an experience with a business bully? Leave a comment below and check out my podcast, “Difficult Happens – Effective Communication for Bosses”.

Disclaimer. There is a no-go zone when it comes to opposers and the strategies they use. This concerns people who are mentally ill, addicts or have a personality disorder. For the truly mentally ill there is no reasoning, persuading, or making sense of the behavior. What you need to do is protect yourself, draw clear boundaries, and exit stage left. There are bold disciplines that deal with addiction and mental illness in society, so I’m not going to address that here. And I will leave those issues to them.


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