Smart moves: Toughen up and beat the bully

WHEN Jo Ellen Grzyb's former boss bullied her into breaking down in tears - twice - she decided enough was enough. "I thought: 'Nobody is going to do this to me'.

Then he came up again and said: 'This report isn't very good'. I would have justified myself before, which is what most people do with bullies. But instead, I said: 'You're right, it's not very good. Maybe you should get someone else to do it'. I wrong-footed him, and he never bothered me again. But nice people fall right into the trap."

Ms Gryzb, a trained psychotherapist who started her career marketing the New York City Ballet and worked alongside the Royal Opera House's Mary Allen, now helps "nice people" eradicate bowing and scraping habits and to develop their full potential in the workplace. Eight years ago she set up the Impact Factory with actor Robin Chandler. The pair had a brainwave one Christmas.

Ms Gryzb recalls: "I had just split up with someone, and I told Robin I was tired of the way I was with men and that I didn't like the person I was turning into. He was dealing with some of the same issues and put it down to the nice factor. We both looked at each other. We created the course in half a day."

"The Nice Factor", which subsequently became a book and has now developed a sister course called "The Nice Factor At Work", goes beyond the standard assertiveness training, which, Ms Gryzb claims, doesn't often examine the roots of "people-pleasing".

"Most assertiveness training courses are for women," she says. "It's much harder for men to say: 'I'm not very assertive' than 'I'm too nice for my own good'. When we started the course, I wasn't expecting to get people who were intimidated of their own secretaries, too frightened to ask them to do the photocopying."

Impact Factory, which counts BT, Christies and Glaxo among its corporate clients, tailored "The Nice Factor At Work" to concentrate more on resolving problem situations through role-play than on past influences.

"A lot of people don't want to give up that softness, and we don't want to make them strong, stand-up-for-myself type people. We are trying to get people's awareness to a level where they have the possibility of changing."

Body language, says Ms Gryzb, attracts bullies and extra work like a magnet. "The big boss will come in, look around and say: 'Who am I going to get to do this?' They know it's going to be an easier ride with a nice person."

Smiling, avoiding eye contact or fidgeting while giving an assertive verbal message can all be counteractive. People who are nice at work often take out their frustrations at home, or they can lie to themselves, saying: 'I didn't really want that promotion'," says Ms Gryzb.

She describes the attitude she has encountered in Britain as commonly a mix-up between politeness and niceness. "Politeness really does oil the wheels, but over-niceness is apologising for just being here," she says. Sometimes, nice can flip quickly into nasty. One course participant, an IT helpdesk manager for a financial company, would come in early each morning, but would occasionally blow up and scare workmates. "He didn't know how to say no; he had to learn the difference between urgent and important," says Gryzb. Another woman took the course because she couldn't face firing a subordinate, while one man in his twenties came after his protector at work left. Some participants are sent by managers to toughen up; others at the top of the tree need to survive in an ever-more-ruthless business culture - but cannot give up nice habits.

Gryzb claims her methods work: she receives letters from clients thanking her for the changes the course has wrought. "In two days you can accomplish a lot. A huge amount of talent gets wasted by people not being fully in their individuality, and part of the pleasure of running these courses is to see that working."

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam