THE BLOG

How Being a Bully Made me Better at Business

09/06/2013 12:20 EDT | Updated 11/06/2013 05:12 EST

I was a bully.

Bullies are sad people longing for acceptance disguised as strong threats.

Some bullies are bullies forever, and some bullies can be reformed.

I am a reformed bully.

A lot of business people like to act like bullies to try and sway situations, negotiations, and even people in their favour. The reason a lot of people do this is because it works a lot of the time.

I re-phrase that. It worked a lot of the time. Bullying does not work as well anymore.

Why?

Because there are a lot more sandboxes to play in.

Ten years ago this week when I started my MBA I pulled up to the school thinking that everyone inside of it would be douchey. They were business people, after all, and all business people were either bullies or scammers of some sort. I was sure that I would be the only half decent reformed bully there.

Turns out that I was the douchey one for thinking this about all of my classmates.

Turns out that most of these people were amazing, kind, generous people who probably never were bullies before. They were probably mostly nerds who got bullied, I have to assume that there was a strong component of former nerds at the best business school in the country.

Beyond the vast majority of people in my MBA class there were one or two people who I will not be surprised to see in a white collar litigation over something totally despicable... but only one of those two had skills in the art of slime that would be slick enough to pull something big off. I still keep my eyes on the press for his name.

Wether they were formerly bullies, formerly bullied, or had nothing to do with bullying, a disproportionate amount of my classmates came out of school, got into business, moved up the ladder and started dropping stink bombs on the people below them or whom they perceived they had one-up on. They became bullies at work and in business because it worked, back then.

So why then do good people, people who were not even bullies to begin with, go out and be jerk-offs when it comes to business? Because when the market is small and options are limited, a bully can force someone into making a decision that benefits the bully. Essentially, the bully limits the other person's options so greatly that the fear of recourse triggers the person being bullied the succumb to the whim of the jerk.

Now, 10 years later, the bullies are seeing the tide turn, and it stinks like a rotten shoreline of their past fishy-behaviour carcasses.

Worldwide markets are tremendously open and accessible and talent is mobile. The presence of, and access to, talent via the web alone has been a game changer. Couple the tremendous shift in the global reach of business since 2004 with the fact that the next generation of business people coming out of school now has been broadly and loudly educated to spot and deflect bullying behaviour that the old tactics of bullying simply do not hold.

The blade of the ninja bully is no longer as cutting. It has been dulled by education and globalization.

So then, if bullying no longer works as well, how did being a bully make me a better business person?

Well, it was the act of reform that made me a better business person. Learning how my actions had truly changed peoples lives for the worse had a tremendous impact on me and I set forth to do a 180. I had to look hard at the way I negotiated my life, situations, influence and shoot some piercing arrows through my past beliefs. I learned to deal with people and business as they ought to be dealt with - respectfully.

I can still negotiate the pants off and through situations but the difference is that I know how to keep the person or business in the room as opposed to those who are still trying to bully which simply sends the other person or business running out of the negotiation pant-less and into the arms of anyone around the world who will offer them pants.

Good business is based on trust and respect. If you are not doing good business the other person will simply find someone else to do business with. There are lots of other sandboxes to play in. If you keep your sandbox respectful you will have more friends to play with. Remember that you can still reach a win win by negotiating the pants off of someone -- respectfully.