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Becoming Bully Proof with Dr. Rob Fazio

George Grombacher October 13, 2022

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Becoming Bully Proof with Dr. Rob Fazio

LifeBlood: We talked about becoming bully proof, dealing with toxic work environments, how to know when to leave versus staying and fighting, and how to enlist the help of others, with Dr. Rob Fazio, executive advisor, speaker and best-selling author of BullyProof. 

Listen to learn a framework for overcoming bullying at work! 

You can learn more about Rob at, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Dr. Rob Fazio

Episode Transcript

I’m left with this is George G and the time is right welcome today’s guest strong and powerful. Dr. Rob Fazio. Dr. Rob, are you ready to do this?

Unknown Speaker 0:23
I’m ready, George.

george grombacher 0:24
All right. Let’s go. Dr. Rob is an executive advisor, speaker, member of the Forbes coaching Council, and he’s the best selling author of bulletproof. Rob, tell us a little about your personal life some more about your work, why you do what you do?

Unknown Speaker 0:38
Sure. Personal life, I am the dad of two girls, recent Ray, six and two. And it’s made me realize everything I thought I knew about influence actually is not true. live just outside of Philly, and why I do what I do. You know, I’ve, I’ve over the years, 20 years of doing this, you meet so many awesome people, and you meet so many not so awesome people. And I really got caught up and being obsessed with this idea of, of power and healthy people that get pushed around and dominated, navigate those tough situations.

george grombacher 1:18
And I appreciate that. So bullyproof, we are living through a really challenging time. And that might be a super nice way to put it. I don’t I don’t study cyber bullying that much. I’m just aware that it is awful and particularly awful for young people and particularly awful for young girls. My right wrong close.

Unknown Speaker 1:46
Yeah, so you’re so cyberbullying I don’t isn’t my expertise as well. However, it’s obviously more prevalent than it’s ever been before. And I think where that transitions into the workplace is now that we’re so much more virtual, there’s actually more bullying and less kind of repair because there’s not as much in person time to the damage is greater. Yeah.

george grombacher 2:11
So bullying is something that’s, that’s that’s probably as old as time.

Unknown Speaker 2:17
Yeah, absolutely. It’s, it’s as old as time. And I think one of the biggest problems is, we haven’t done anything with that time to equip people to, you know, navigate it, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working with an organization or an executive. And if it’s a high performer, they just kind of look the other way. And that just sends all the wrong messages throughout the organization.

george grombacher 2:43
And it’s Wow, so the incentive is there, where we’ve got Steve and Steve is, you know, our top XYZ salesperson or whatever. And yeah, it turns out Steve’s a bit of a jerk, and people don’t really like him. And it’s great in a toxic environment, but we need him because the revenue he brings in

Unknown Speaker 3:03
Yeah, and and right, but if these companies actually did the math, they would realize financially, it cost them much more to keep Steve around for the long term. You know, I even see situations where other top talent will lead because of this guy, Steve. And what happens is people lose their, their initiative, right? They don’t want to take discretionary effort be top performers, if there’s someone sitting next to them that just wreaking havoc. And what gets really that is for people that don’t have positional power. They just stop giving information. There’s there’s less collective success.

george grombacher 3:41
Yeah, I’m, I know me personally, I’ve dealt with, with awful people in the workplace. And I’m sure that everybody you talked to has some experience that they’re more than interested in sharing with you. So what since it says all this time and we’ve not solved it, we’ve not really had much impact on it. What, what is the way forward?

Unknown Speaker 4:07
I think there’s a few things. I think, number one, it’s helping people right off the bat D personalize the actual experience. And to be able to take a step back and not get pulled into this reactive state where I feel like I have to either attack or avoid this person that is dominating me. I think another thing is, we’ve got to equip people to be bulletproof to learn different skills so that they aren’t getting beaten down, teach them how to build alliances. And then thirdly, organizations need to have a clear zero tolerance rule around certain behaviors, what’s acceptable, what’s not. And we need more leaders to be courageous and and and step up when there is dysfunctional behavior.

george grombacher 4:59
D PERS internalizing the experience. That’s hard, because it’s so personal.

Unknown Speaker 5:04
It is, it feels so personal. But the large majority of people that are getting bullied, it has nothing to do with him at all it has to do with this person that’s insecure, or has unmet needs. And we get caught up in like, gosh, how could George treat me that way in front of all these people, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with you unless you are in some way giving permission to this person to let them push you around. And that’s why I go into this whole idea of your strength style, and making sure that using subtle strength, or overt strength, as opposed to feeling like you’re completely submissive, or you’ve got to be completely dominant. All those two styles give more power to the person that’s bullying.

george grombacher 5:50
I, if you don’t mind, I’d like to jump to three and then circle back to two Would that be alright? Sure. Before, so I was just I was just thinking about this this morning, when, you know, being in being in the environment that I was in now, it’s been about 10 years. And I still have I don’t know if it’s a very mild form of PTSD, because I think about some of these scenarios all the time. And then I thought about this famous Warren Buffett quote, he said, in a chronically leaking vessel, sometimes it makes more sense just to find a new vessel than to try to plug the holes. So if the organization is not going to do and make a zero tolerance policy, I mean, is there anything that can I do anything?

Unknown Speaker 6:37
Yes. So I, I use this frame work of fit, fight or flight. And it comes from research on successful intelligence by Bob Sternberg. But essentially, if you’re in a situation, and it’s a fit great, if, if it’s not, then you try to influence the situation, the person, if you are not getting any results, if people aren’t supporting you, then yes, there has to be flight, you got to leave the situation, if you can’t judge can’t influence the environment, you’ve got it. And I know, that’s really difficult, but the damage it does to you physically, psychologically, economically, it’s just too great. And you really can’t risk that. Because emotion has memory and your brains gonna get wired to think that like, you’re a victim, and we were trying to avoid, avoid that at all costs. I think something that’s that’s really important is organizations, just level setting, and saying that we all engage in some type of dysfunctional behavior, because we’re human beings. And I’ve got kind of a checklist of 27, different bullying behaviors. And let’s see where you are in that range. So you can be kind of, you know, take ownership of that for yourself and make sure you’re not, you’d be surprised how many people don’t even realize that they’re bullying and dominating others.

george grombacher 7:59
That’s, that’s really interesting. Yeah. I mean, you know, I, I take it personally, why would I do that? It’s not a reflection of me. And this person who is my oppressor, from my perspective, maybe has no idea that they’re even doing it. They’ve just been operating this way through their whole life. Yeah, exactly.

Unknown Speaker 8:19
So, you know, my early years when I first started out doing advising and a lot of work downtown New York City, and I can’t tell you how many people that are natural drivers, that if they were bullying someone, they would think to themselves, Oh, I’m helping this person just do it faster. They need my help. Right. And we know that’s actually not the case. Right?

george grombacher 8:44
Yeah. Fascinating. So, okay. Are our organizations, are you seeing a trend of organizations taking this zero tolerance policy starting to take this more seriously? Is it just completely subjective?

Unknown Speaker 9:04
I think its objective. I think that it’s good that companies are talking more about ESG. And you know, how they have a govern and lead. I still think that perception is right now, at the end of the day, if some of the top performer they’re not getting touched. So I think that there needs to be more, you know, more done when there is dysfunctional behavior. I think that people that are are truly narcissistic and bullies are really good at manipulating the system, right? Their boss will never see them doing these types of things. You know, the board will never see them doing it. It’s the people that they can control. doing that. So that’s why, you know, there there needs to be clarity and really saying, Listen, we are not tolerating these types of behaviors. The word bullying is very loading loaded, but what does that mean? Is it not getting information? Is it parading someone is it closing conversations. So you really should have somewhat of a of a charter on a team around what we’re moving towards and what we’re moving away from.

george grombacher 10:08
Yeah. I think that that makes sense. So for me, the individual, then I’m working to D personalize the experience. Hopefully I’m within an organization that is trying. So I see, okay, this is a great career fit for me. I like my role within the organization. I like the culture and CEO or whoever, but it’s just this couple of people, how can I become more bulletproof?

Unknown Speaker 10:36
So so the first thing is the after depersonalizing, taking ownership, meaning that you’re actually going to do something and you’re going to have a plan. And that plan should not just involve you, you want the perspective of other people. And in particular, other people that are alphas and strong, have strong personalities. I call them aware adaptive alphas if you partner with alphas that have strong personalities, but get the importance of bringing other people along, they very are very good at buffering the negative impact of someone who’s unaware, non adaptive. So building those alliances, naturally. I think that having conversations, and letting the person know that it’s not okay the way that you’re being treated, but the way you do that is critical. So there’s an acronym in the book called deals, which stands for depersonalize, empathize, align, look for the hook and show strength. So I won’t go through all those we already talked about the personalized, but the empathize part shifts the dynamic so much, because people when they’re interacting with bullies are so used to, like I said, either avoiding or attacking, if you actually try to understand the bullies, ambitions, which I know sounds crazy what they’re trying to accomplish, let them know that you’re not a threat, it changes the pattern in the interaction, you’re not used to that. So they’re more likely to be influenced with you. And then it’s easier to give them some feedback when you’re when you’re playing into their ambitions and priorities.

george grombacher 12:16
Can you give me an example of that?

Unknown Speaker 12:19
Yeah, sure. So, let’s say you know, I work with you and I feel like you’re, you know, you’re, you’re bullying me all the time. And I get through them. Okay, okay, you’re not, this is just Georgia style. But I’ve got to change that. You continue to you continue to do it. And rather than me just say, hey, Georgia has got to stop. You can’t do that. I say, George, look, no, there’s a lot of pressure on quarters. And I know that you said it’s really important for you hit this number, I think it’s a that is as well, can we talk a little about how I can help you do that. And then you go into, you layer there, then you go into, hey, another thing would be helpful to me is when we communicate, here’s my preference, but yours. So it’s kind of like a continuum where you’re starting out more subtle, and then you get more overt around pulling out the behaviors we don’t want to do is getting to a boxing match with a bully, because they’re, that’s their turf, you want to you want to get into a position where they feel like you’re walking alongside them, and you’re and you’re partnering in some way.

george grombacher 13:23
That makes sense. Not easy, but it makes it easy.

Unknown Speaker 13:29
No, none of it none of it’s easy to aligning in the A to the aligning and agreeing. It’s painful for someone who feels like they’re getting beat up to say, Hey, George, you know what, I agree with what you said on this point, because we just want to take them out, right? Like we know, but you’ll see how, how the shift happens. It people a bully will start to see outside of themselves somewhat. If they’re not a true narcissist. If you actually tap into it, there’s something that happens in the brain where it’s they’re more open minded. Because they’re so used to people, you know, really pushing back or completely avoiding them.

george grombacher 14:07
Yeah. All right. So the personalized empathize, align with L.

Unknown Speaker 14:14
L is as looked for the hook. So, you know, in most conflict or tough conversations, people leave somewhat of an opening. So that hook might be what’s really important to them, what really is motivating to them, right, what’s their motivational currency? Is it performance, people power purpose? You know, I mentioned their ambitions. But sometimes it’s just a pause where you see that and there’s an opportunity to say, hey, you know what, this is a really tough conversation or something like that, where there’s always something in a conversation where there’s an opportunity, and you want to do that. And then the final one is, is is show strength. And so, you know, I don’t want people coming out and being a great Asif but I, what I want people to do is to let that other person know in some way that you don’t give them permission to do that. So it might be a pointed question, it might be using humor. But you want to make sure that you demonstrate some type of strength. So you’re not letting that person push you around.

george grombacher 15:21
Makes sense, makes a ton of sense. So taking ownership of the situation, and having a plan and enlisting the help of aware and adaptive, strong people alphas within the organization, is that. Is that obvious who those people are?

Unknown Speaker 15:44
I don’t think it says obvious. But what I do is I give people a matrix and ask some questions. Right? Does this does this person take the lead in situations, whether they’re identified leader expert, that’s a good way to do it. And then there’s some questions around, you know, how how well they are perceived to adapt. The other thing that’s really important is what I call value based power. So finding people that are self ambitious, want to help other people also want to help the organization, the business, and then overall society. So it’s kind of like almost a balanced scorecard for how you use your power. That’s a good way to identify people that can advocate for you as well.

george grombacher 16:31
That makes a ton of sense. So people who are interested in the growth and success of the organization and the culture, if it’s just some somebody who is, you know, the wants to burn the world down, that’s probably not your guy or your gal, or if they’re just doing their job and clocking out at the end of the day, probably also not your, your ideal partner.

Unknown Speaker 16:51
Yeah, absolutely. And so it’s the balance across those four facet, you know, yourself, others organization. And society, where we get out of balance is that like someone just completely self ambitious and focused, without counterbalancing that with something outside of themselves, and the best leaders are the ones that are self ambitious, but they’re just as motivated to elevate others in the organization. Those are the ones that gain credibility the fastest, and are able to help others more, they get a lot of power credibility that way.

george grombacher 17:23
Got it? Well, that makes that makes a lot of sense. How hard is it? I mean, I just I’m thinking back to my personal experience and where I went wrong. And where I tried to do some of these steps just just sort of intuitively. But it is my my natural inclination to want to punch the bully in the nose where I remember doing that, and it didn’t work for me at all. I didn’t actually punch anybody in the face. I, I, you, I think you understand what I’m saying?

Unknown Speaker 17:58
I do. Yes, I do. I’m Sicilian. So I know exactly what you’re saying. I think that you know, some of it is is philosophical, and that we need to be the masters of our experience, and to be able to rise above of our initial experience and what we’re getting triggered about, if we want to win the long term game, we can’t be strategic when we’re stressed and being reactive. That’s why I think having other people that are in this bulletproof Alliance, to help hold you true, right, I’ve worked with a lot of senior executives that, for lack of better terms have been in traumatizing political car accidents, right. And it’s tough for them to go back and lead. But if you have someone guide you and kind of walk you through that, and reassure you and help you gain your confidence back, that goes a long way. The other thing is, I believe, you know, there’s so much more we’re learning about neuroplasticity, and our our neural pathways, and I really believe the more we equip ourselves in a certain direction, we can train our brain. And everything else follows. So it takes discipline and working on that. And becoming bully proof. It’s the responsibility for the village, right? It’s the individual that’s getting bullied. It’s the bully, and it’s the organization. So it’s a it’s a lot.

george grombacher 19:24
Yeah. Well, I’m super grateful that you’ve done this work, because having a framework for dealing with these situations that invariably will happen to all of us at some point in our lives or are currently happening to some of us in our lives. Is is extremely helpful. So, so thank you. Yeah, absolutely. Then thank you for coming on the show. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage and where can they get a copy of bullyproof

Unknown Speaker 19:57
so I think that you know all things bulletproof If you go to get There’s some free templates. There’s quizzes, there’s a great quiz. That’s Wait, am I a bully? I encourage people to take that quiz. LinkedIn, usually couple times a week, I do a quick one minute or less learning on the topic. So people have ideas that they want to hear about. Let me know. And you can get the book at Barnes and Noble at your favorite bookstore anywhere really

george grombacher 20:25
excellent. If you enjoyed this as much as I did show Dr. Rob your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to get And if you’re wondering, maybe I’m the bad person in this scenario, take the quiz. Wait, am I a bully and then pick up a copy of bully proof where you buy your books.

Unknown Speaker 20:45
Thanks again, Rob. All right. Thanks, Greg. Appreciate it.

george grombacher 20:49
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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