Bullying can take on many forms, from microaggressions during a Zoom call, a nasty series of Tweets, or a Medium article with numerous false accusations. Whether you achieve success or failure as an entrepreneur, you can become a target of bullying from trolls. Not the cute ones from the ‘90s, but the troll bullies who hide behind their computer screens who bring negativity into your life.
I have always been one to stand up for myself, and when someone trolls me, my instinct is to fight back, so for me, it’s hard to just ignore them. Especially when they attack my character. But feeding the trolls usually leads to more online negativity and drama.
So what do you do?
Over time, I have learned how to fight against trolls without feeding them, and I want to share four lessons with you so that you can do more than just turn your back on them.
Accept that friends may become frenemies.
The times when bullying hurts the most is when business partners and employees, whom I thought were my friends, blindside me. The mistake I have made too many times is thinking with my heart, and not my head. And that has resulted in me being overly trusting in people and letting them in too close.
These days, I make more of an effort to not just think with my heart, not to trust too quickly, and be more careful about who I let into my inner circle. If people in my life turn against me and do so online, I try to not get emotional and let my heartbreak. I reflect on the relationship, take ownership of my part in what they might be upset about, and think of what I could have done better. This helps me form better relationships moving forward, and sets me up for less heartbreak.
Be transparent in your transactions.
I like to assume that people are inherently good, but the reality is that not everyone has a kind heart. And even worse, we may have good intentions but may do damaging things to ourselves due to peer pressure from others.
For one of my companies, I was working with an investor who was so paranoid about me spending money, that he pressured me to move out of my apartment and live in the warehouse for over a year to reduce my overhead. At the time, I did not realize how absurd this was. I was blinded by desperately trying to keep him happy and was not thinking about myself. This whole situation got worse when I got trolled by employees and competitors about sleeping on the floor to keep the business alive. I should have been more transparent about my financial situation, and should not have taken money from him.
Document your story: focus on inspiration, not agitation.
When people make the decision to talk negatively about you on public-facing platforms, they are trying to drag you into a fight.
That is why I no longer waste energy thinking about my tormentors and instead focus more on myself. I am beginning to share my side of the story online, but not in response to their posts. I know that not everyone will believe me, but I have to stand up for myself somehow. There are always two sides to a story, and the one thing I can control is sharing my perspective.
My reputation is everything, especially when dealing with international imports and exports. When things work out in business, there is a reward that comes with the risk. However, in addition to successes, I have had companies fail. The result of a business failure can be messy, including getting sued, and employees becoming disgruntled. There is risk in building businesses, and you have to keep moving forward the best you can. When a startup is unsuccessful, I do my best to minimize the losses, identify lessons learned, pay people back, and move forward. When trolls lash out as a result of your failing business, don’t waste your energy on their negativity. Instead, focus your energy on telling your story, regardless of the false narrative that naysayers may try to spin about you online.
Report to authorities.
Let’s face it, you can accept frenemies, be more transparent, and share your story, but trolls can and will still come after you. That is why it is important to understand that major publishing websites have a legal department. If false information is posted about me, I will contact the legal team and submit an official request to take that information down. It really helps if you have also filed a police report and restraining order against the troll.
As a female entrepreneur, I have been bullied in the workplace by co-founders, employees, bosses, and even investors. The attacks range from sexual harassment to lies about how I run my business, to coordinated attacks on my character across social media platforms. My advice to you is to focus on yourself and not just ignore them. Learn to get better at judging people you get close to, be transparent in your transactions, and share your story without defending yourself. Accept that there will be trolls who try to bring you down, and fight against them by letting your actions speak for themselves. If you want to connect or need support about how to deal with trolls, you can find me on social media and contact me directly through Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.