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How to Say No to a Workplace Bully

Has the bully demanded an answer from you and you’ve felt put on the spot? Know that you can change the tenacity of the bully’s demanding energy toward you so you can take back control.

Do you find yourself trying to say yes in order to please the bully? And by the way, has this been working? Believe it or not, there are some things you can do to gain back your power and say the “no” you want to say!

How to Say “No” – and Mean It!

1.  Ask for time to think it over.  Use responses such as:

  • “I’ll need to think that over.”
  • “Let me think about that.”
  • “I’ll see.”

In thinking it over, you remind yourself that the decision and power is in your hands. It also takes the ‘steam’ out of the bully’s overbearing presence.

2. Use your nonverbal assertiveness to underline the “No.”  Look into the bully’s eyes as you say “No.” Shake your head “No” as you are saying “No.” Have your arms folded and your feet shoulder width apart, so you are squared off to the bully.

3. Our parents said, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Be friendly, firm, yet not familiar.

4. Once you deliver your response, have somewhere to go. Be the first to walk away. Waiting for a response often indicates need for approval on the target’s part. Know that you have the right to leave, especially if you are in a disrespectful situation.

5. If you say “Yes,” when you want to say “No,” you will feel resentful throughout whatever you agreed to do. This costs you energy and discomfort, and is not necessary if you just say “No” or a form of “No” when you need to. What could you do with this freed up energy?

6. Start your sentence with the word, “No.” It’s easier to keep the commitment to say “No” if it’s the first word out of your mouth.

7. Try utilizing your “No” where the stakes are not as high. Try saying “No” to:

  • A tele-marketer; keep is short and say it;
  • Someone taking your call and then putting you on hold when it isn’t convenient for you;
  • In a meeting where you want to say “No”

Knowing what you don’t want is key. Knowing what you want instead is also important, but it’s often easier to start by being clear on what you don’t want. You don’t want to be tied down while the bully demeans you. You don’t want to be trapped while the bully is verbally abusive to you. Now, just know you have the right to have what you want…and it does not have to be at the expense of yourself!


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One response to “How to Say No to a Workplace Bully”

  1. Ronalee says:

    Please keep throwing these posts up Valerie, they help tons.

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Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to

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