The Workplace Conflict Expert | Bonnie Artman Fox

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Have you been bringing your family into the office?

The way we each manage conflict is shaped by our upbringing…

And when there’s conflict in the workplace, it’s difficult for a team to collaborate as their best selves…

Bonnie Artman Fox is the Workplace Conflict Expert and an Accredited Boss Whisperer. She specializes in helping teams resolve conflict and come together to be more effective and productive.

In this episode, we’ll dive into her book “How Did My Family Get In My Office?!: Surprising Ways Your Upbringing Impacts You At Work and What You Can Do About It.”

Bonnie will also cover how she coaches leaders to replace abrasive behaviors with emotional intelligence skills. 

Mentioned in this episode:


Bonnie Artman Fox: Regardless of what comes our way, we can be the author of our success. And regardless of what other people do or don’t do, however they choose to show up, we’re responsible for ourselves.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast with professional speaker, coach and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome everybody to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer, and they call me the vibrant coach. And I have got a fantastic guest that just fell into my life through another wonderful colleague. So shout out to you Nanci Appleman-Vassil. So, you know, all of us, all of us gals that just can’t learn enough in life and help enough people in life. We all hang out together. That’s how we do. We’re like a little tribe. 

But I had this woman drop into my lap. Her name is Bonnie Artman Fox. Let me tell you all about her. She is a workplace conflict expert. She is an accredited boss whisperer. I know you want to know about that people. And an author. In fact, I’ve got her book right here. It’s How Did My Family Get in My Office? And I know that you’ve been thinking, it’s like working with my mother. Well, we’re going to talk all about it. All right. 

So Bonnie Artman Fox takes messy team conflict and brings teams together so they’re more effective and productive. Her leadership turnaround coaching program, don’t miss that. Write this down. Leadership turnaround coaching program has an 82% success rate of equipping leaders to replace abrasive behaviors with emotional intelligence skills. 

OMG it’s needed out there isn’t it, friends. And drawing from decades of experience as a psychiatric nurse, that’s what it takes, and a licensed family therapist, Bonnie has equipped 1000s of clients with interpersonal skills to resolve conflict. Oh, my gosh, we desperately need you. Thank you for being here. Bonnie, how are you?

Bonnie: Well, thank you. And thank you for the invitation to be here. It is truly a delight.

Nicole: Oh, we are delighted to have you here. Well, we’re collecting definitions of leadership. So right out of the gate, what’s your definition of leadership?

Bonnie: Leaders who have the self-awareness to recognize the impact of their words and actions on others, that creates a positive ripple effect of positive change in the culture.

Nicole: That is absolutely correct, right. So you’ve got to have self-awareness. And so anybody that’s been listening to my podcast for an extended period of time, already knows I have this little coaching methodology myself called SHINE and the S stands for self awareness. Hello, everybody, take a good look in the mirror. See if you can answer this powerful question. What is it like to experience you? 

That is the question we’re after was self-assessment. And in Bonnie’s book, let me show it here one more time, How Did My Family Get in My Office, you have all sorts of examples of ways people can get self aware. So will you talk a little bit about the book and how you came to write it?

Bonnie: Well, thank you. The book is a compilation of stories of real life leaders who I was privileged to meet and who gave me permission to share their stories of how conflict was handled in their upbringing, and how it impacted the way they handled conflict as a leader. And as the leaders gained self awareness about their family upbringing, the imprint based on how conflict was handled, what they did then to change their conflict pattern for the better. 

And at the end of each of their chapters, they provide their own list of productive conflict management strategies that were meaningful to them. And then I talk about their family factor, which is a term that I coined, that means the connection between the way conflict was handled in their upbringing, and impacts the way we handle conflict today. And what these leaders did well from an emotional intelligence perspective, again, to gain self awareness and to improve their conflict style for the better.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. And and so in this book, if I was to sit down and read it, which I have done, I would be able to read these different stories and maybe identify with one of these leaders and be like, oh my gosh, that’s how I was raised. Right? And then how that transfers over into the workplace. 

The thing that I love and hear the most is that you’ve got a story. Let me see this is chapter, Maria’s story. She says you don’t always have to be the fixer. And I can tell you whenever there was conflict in the workplace, I was always trying to clean up after it, you know, and make everybody feel better. So will you talk a little bit about what it means to be a fixer?

Bonnie: Yes. And this actually also stems back to the question you asked earlier about how I came to write the book. In my own life, I was the family fixer. The caretaker. When there was tension, I would be the people pleaser, the one of what to bring everybody together and defuse the tension defuse the conflict. And I was in a work situation many, many years ago, I had been recruited for my very first leadership position. 

And I was upfront and said, I’m not sure I’m the person for you, I don’t have any leadership experience. Oh Bonnie, he’ll be great. You’re known for your excellent clinical skills. And besides, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know. So I’m thinking this is great. This is a great leadership opportunity. I’m going to advance my career. I’m in a field that I love. And of course, within a few months, what had been promised wasn’t reality. 

There were closed door meetings, there were decisions made without my input. And as the leader of this department, I asked, why aren’t I included? Where’s the leadership development? And there was silence. And I didn’t know what to do. I loved the work that I was doing. At the same time, I had responsibility without authority. This is way back in the 90s. I’m totally aging myself.

Nicole: This stuff is still happening. It’s still relevant. Okay. So you don’t even have to tell us it was in the 90s, because this happened in 2023. But anyway, go ahead.

Bonnie: Coaching really wasn’t a thing back then and I thought, okay, I’ve got this, I’m at this crossroads. And instead of being a victim, I was like, okay, where can I develop my leadership skills? And I went to therapy. And it was there that I learned about how my own family was in the office. I told the therapist, why I was there and she said, well, tell me about your family upbringing. 

And I said, well, we did family gatherings together, we had extended family, with my grandparents, my cousins, we even went to Disney World. We had dinner every night. That’s great. How was conflict handled? What did people do when they’re upset with each other. And then it dawned on me, there was silence. We didn’t know how to talk through differences. We didn’t know how to talk about upsetness. 

And in that way, my family was in my office. And it was my opportunity then, instead of going into the people pleaser, the fixer mode, then for me to learn how to stand up for myself and set boundaries and to become more assertive. And so that’s, that’s how that led to writing the book. Because she said in that moment, sounds like your families in your office.

Nicole: Oh my gosh. Prophetic.

Bonnie: Yeah, I didn’t know then how those words would be in the title of my book so many years later.

Nicole: Right. And there’s a little chart on page 19. And then another one on page 20. And I love this little chart. I’ve got this dog eared because, you know, we’ve all been in the office with somebody who is an over functioner. Like you need to calm down. Right? And then we have somebody in our office who has in under-functioner. I mean, can everybody relate to this language? 

I mean, I’m just like, this is genius. And you said, you’ve got in here kind of what I can do. So I just want people to know, it’s not just like a therapy book on like, you know, relating to these people. But you’ve got real strategies in here for people to use this. It says as an over functioner, I’ve been told I can be perceived as bossy or micromanaging, come across as arrogant or a know it all. But then you’ve got a list of things that you can do. 

Like, here’s how you can stop that. Stop it. You know, you can ask for others’ opinions. You can listen without interrupting. You can ask questions with curiosity, admit mistakes and ask for help. So if you’re just thinking, whoa that is a good list. There’s all sorts of goodies like this throughout the book.

Bonnie: Thank you. Thank you. Yes. Maria’s story, just the background of her family dynamics, she grew up in an alcoholic family. Her dad was an alcoholic and her mom had a very significant mental illness. And at a very young age, Maria learned how to be super responsible, hence the over functioner and the family fixer. And it was like, by age nine, at age seven, I believe she was cooking for the family. 

By age 14, she was working outside of the home. She was writing checks on behalf of her mother. And by age 19 she owned her first home. And it just came naturally to her that that was the role that she had in her family that she would then take with her into the workplace. And so fast forward as then a leader many years later, and she finds herself in the same position of picking up the pieces for employees and always being the one to save the day. 

And her turnaround came when one day, her husband said to her, why are you always yelling at us? Why are you always so angry? And it was at that point that it was her wake up call that she recognized how angry she was for always being in the position of over functioning.

Nicole: Cleanup crew.

Bonnie: Yes, yes. And then she also recognized, hey, I’m not a victim here. The whole premise of the book is not about blame, or throwing anybody under the bus or blaming our parents. It’s about gaining the self awareness, and then recognizing, okay, what do I want to do about it. And it was at that point that she made the conscious choice then to start setting boundaries, and to allow people to be fully functional and be responsible for the choices that they were making, both in her family as well as in the workplace with her employees. And that alleviated the anger that she was feeling.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. And, that choice that she made, has something to do with that sign behind you. Am I right? 

Bonnie: Yes, yes. 

Nicole: Okay. All right. So, this is an SAT word, get your pens and pencils ready everybody. Bonnie’s going to teach you even more. So tell us about the word and how you found it and worked it through the book

Bonnie: The word is pertinacity. And it’s a real word in the dictionary.

Nicole: You could use it in Scrabble. It’s very long though. It would get you major points.

Bonnie: It’s a combination of persistence and tenacity. And the actual definition is sticking with what’s difficult, no matter what. And it’s a combination of courage, conviction, and a little bit of stubbornness.

Nicole: Okay, fantastic. I’m sticking to it. Sticking to my guns.

Bonnie: Yes. And after I finished writing the book and had analyzed all of this stories, compiled them, I was looking for a word that would describe the theme of what all of these leaders did, who are extremely courageous, to share their story with such vulnerability and transparency, first of all. And then to gain the self-awareness to transform their conflict style for the better. And I came upon this word pertinacity. And I thought, that’s it. That’s it. 

Because they had the persistence, the tenacity to stick with what is difficult for all of us to change how we show up in the world, especially in how we handle conflict. And there are various stories in the book from someone who’s a conflict avoider, someone who’s a pleaser, and a fixer, like Maria, someone who was overly reactive and overly aggressive as a leader. 

That’s Chapter three in June. And then there’s also those who tend to use humor and jokes, in order to alleviate tension and what it took for them to transform their conflict style. And for all of the leaders it was pertinacity that gave them the courage, the conviction, and even the stubbornness to transform their conflict style for the better.

Nicole: Yeah, and I have said this 1 million times. I’m gonna say it one more time, because you know, that old adage, you have to lead by example. So when these kind of, I don’t have a technical word for it, you know, the opposite of pertinacity, might be ickiness, or something. I don’t know, like, you know, your mama and daddy, and your situation at the house is bringing ickiness in here to the walls of this corporation, this store, this hospital, wherever you work, and we need you to leave that stuff at home. 

You gotta have the pertinacity to change it up. So you got to lead by example. I mean, you know, show us how to do it. And, you know, I sometimes I kid with people, Bonnie, but it’s so true. I say, you know, you don’t have a professional life and a personal life. People always, like we have vibrant recruiting also inside of our Build a Vibrant Culture offerings. And you know, I’ll ask people well tell me all about you. 

And they’re like, you mean, my personal life or my professional life? And I’m like, honey, you only got one life, and it is all mixed up. So I want to hear it all. Tell me all your stuff. Go ahead. So don’t you think that it’s a combo and people just, you know, they need to bring this fresh thing because all of our workers need to know what a good conflict manager looks like.

Bonnie: Absolutely, absolutely. And so much of conflict management is recognizing, it’s the self awareness of recognizing when we’re triggered. And when our fight, flight or freeze response goes to town. And what I intended to offer in the book is that it’s not just the awareness of a difficult colleague or someone at work who’s difficult to get along with. 

It’s what does this trigger in me, and how can I recognize what can I do to improve how I show up? We can’t control of course what other people do or don’t. We’re only responsible for ourselves. And in recognizing how am I triggered here? We can recognize it’s not just, okay, this person rubs me the wrong way. 

But how does this person take me back home? And that’s what again, how does my family get in my office is all about is the people in our lives that are difficult to get along with, give us an opportunity if we choose to accept it, to recognize, okay, this person takes me back home to my mother’s in my office, or a siblings in my office, or I’m in the same role that I had in my family like Maria was of being that over functioner. 

That’s how my family’s in my office. May I tell you a story about one of the leaders in the book is Grace. And Grace, grew up also in an alcoholic family. Not all the leaders grew up in an alcoholic family. But these two leaders happen to. Her father was the alcoholic, but he tended to be a very quiet drinker. So when he drank, he just kind of checked out. Her mother was overly emotional. When her mother would be overreacting or overly emotional, Grace would just leave the house, she would just check out too, but she would physically leave. 

And she would go to her grandmother’s house, which was a safe place for her. Well fast forward into the workplace as a leader, Grace started to recognize that when her employees were overly emotional and looking to her to solve the problem that they were bringing to her instead of coming up with solutions themselves, she would check out. And she thought, okay, well, this isn’t a good thing to do. 

As a leader, I need to stay present and engaged with my employees. And again, having self awareness she recognized, okay, this is my responsibility, of who do I want to be as the leader and she did some reflecting and recognized it was, took her back home to her mother. This is the way that her mother would react. And now, this is the key part of we gained this self awareness. 

But then what do we do about it? How are we changing our conflict pattern for the better? Grace said something extremely courageous. Her mother was about to have surgery. Grace, went to her husband and said, okay, look, mom’s about to have surgery, and I’m having this struggle with my employees at work. Would it be okay with you, that mom would come to live with us while she’s recovering from the surgery. 

And her intent was twofold. One, to respect her mother to care for her in her time of need. And secondly, here’s my chance. Here’s my chance to interact with my mother and stop myself from getting caught in the same old dance that we tend to get caught up in, and to have boundaries with my mother and to internally shift within her. That’s what happened. Her mother did come to stay with them during her recuperative time. 

And that is what helped Grace to transform her conflict style for the better. So that not only helped her relationship with her mother, it also helped her to be a more present engaged leader when her employees would come to her overly emotional. So that’s just one example that it’s gaining the self awareness of how our family is in our office. How does that take us back home? That’s the self awareness. 

What are we going to do about it? And that will be different for all of us. Because we all have different conflict styles, we all have different triggers from our family upbringing. And that’s where the book covers a spectrum of different conflict styles that I think readers see themselves in, in one form or another. And sometimes in a combination, because we have different conflict style, also, based on the situation that we’re presented with.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. And so again, let’s write, they’re like, what’s the name of the book again? So let me tell it to you. It’s How Did My Family Get In My Office, Surprising Ways Your Upbringing Impacts You At Work and What You Can Do About It. And we’re talking with Bonnie Artman Fox. So this is just a fabulous little book, and I want to talk about what a boss whisperer is. But before I go there, like don’t let’s not get off this whole thing before we do that. You’ve got on page 31 and 34, you’ve got some productive conflict management strategies. 

And one of the things that I tell people is, Nicole Greer is going to bring you strategies, systems and smarts and so via Ms Bonnie, I am going to bring you productive conflict management strategies. The first one says be intentional in learning productive conflict management skills. So how can I do that? How can I learn these skills? I could buy the book, I can read the book, what else can I do?

Bonnie: Well, after each story in the book of each leader, they provide their own productive conflict management strategies, that were specific and personal to them. So and for a reader in identifying what are your productive conflict management strategies or skills that are meaningful to you? I would suggest starting with gaining self awareness and asking yourself questions about how was conflict handled in my upbringing? 

What was my role in the family when people were upset with each other? What did I do? Did I tend to be a pleaser? A fixer? Did I avoid? Did I check out like Grace? Did I overreact and try to control the situation to bring order out of the chaos? We all have a myriad of ways that we handle with conflict. So that would be the first thing is recognizing what is my go to conflict style. And one of the resources that I want to offer to your listeners is a simple assessment they can take. 

Nicole: Fantastic.

Bonnie: They can go to And based on, the questions are all related to how was conflict handled in your upbringing that impact how you deal with conflict at work. And after taking the assessment, just a few questions, it just take you less than five minutes, you will get results based on your conflict style. And then you will get a series of emails that help you develop and give you ideas for productive conflict management strategies based on your current go to conflict style, that are very specific. 

So if you tend to be an avoider, there will be specific suggestions. If you tend to be a controller, there’ll be another set of suggestions. So it really, I hate the answer of it depends. But it really does. It’s knowing yourself. And again, that’s what self awareness is, is recognizing what are my triggers, and how does this situation at work take me back home and developing awareness of how does my conflict style impact how I’m perceived by others? And what do I want to do about it?

Nicole: Yeah, yeah. Which is the pertinacity. Don’t miss that. Yeah. So there’s two styles. You mentioned avoider and controller. How many styles are there?

Bonnie: There are four that I emphasized in the assessment. And then one result may be unknown. And here’s why I included that in the assessment. Sometimes we have different conflict styles, a different conflict style based on the situation, and we can be a chameleon. So that is one possibility that your answer in taking the assessment will be unknown. 

And in the feedback that I provide afterwards in the emails is, again, self reflection questions for you to recognize, do I tend to accommodate based on certain situations in order to keep the peace? What is preventing me from speaking up consistently in the moment? 

And I get it that depending on different circumstances or who’s at the table, and who has the power in the room that it does determine what we say and when we speak up. Or if we speak to someone privately. But the key is, are we making those conscious choices? Are we at some point addressing the conflict? Or are we avoiding it and then it goes underneath the rug, which then creates a Mokita.

Nicole: She’s just held up a little baby elephant for you listening to the audio. Okay, so say that word again?

Bonnie: Mokita. M o k i t a. And again, as I was writing the book, I came upon this word. It’s a word from one of the tribes in Papua New Guinea that means the truth we know about and agree not to speak of. Or in our English language, the elephant in the room. 

And so the Mokita is a fun way of acknowledging, all right, we all feel this tension here. We all feel this, this elephant in the room, but no one’s talking about it. And it’s having the courage and again, the pertinacity, to be able to acknowledge the mokita and to create a culture of permission, that it’s okay as a team that we talk about what we’d rather not talk about. 

And when I bring this in as I work with teams, and I give everyone this stress ball, elephant Mokita, it has been a game changer of giving people permission to talk about those tender topics that tend to be avoided. And it just brings such relief when people have that permission to talk about what’s difficult to talk about yet makes such a difference in how the team functions and gets along.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. I love it. And so don’t miss what she said, is creating a culture of permission by allowing the mokita to come in the room. I love that. Okay, so you know, if you’re thinking, what should I talk about at the beginning of the next staff meeting? I mean, you could just you’ve already got two vocabulary words you can use. 

And definitely I think that this would be a fantastic book, to have lunch and learn with your team. Right? Like once a month, you get in there and you read about Maria, you read about Grace? And you’re like, okay, which one are you? And I think everybody would read ahead. I mean, that’s what I think. And they would come ready to talk about all the different styles.

Bonnie: Yes, and at the end of each chapter are self reflection questions to help you, again, gain deeper self awareness, understanding about yourself, in order to be more self aware in how you show up in the workplace. And thank you so much for that suggestion to use it as a lunch and learn exercise and reading the book. Because that’s again, one of my intentions of the book was to have these type of vulnerability based trust conversations. 

We can be real with each other. This isn’t therapy, but it’s also saying, you know, this is my go to conflict style. It’s really hard for me to talk about conflict or for people to admit that yep, my anger does get the best to me sometimes. And I own that, and I apologize for it. So everyone can be honest, because everybody knows about it. Again, we all know about the mokita.

Nicole: That’s right, we know you have a little fit and fall in it. It’s all good. We’ve seen it 712 times. Yeah. And just just as a point of reference, and I’m curious, you know, we were mentioning emotional intelligence, and I, you know, you and I run in these circles, and we’re both like, you know, love all this leadership development, organizational development stuff. But emotional intelligence, the way I’ve been taught, the way I’ve always taught is there’s like four buckets. 

The first bucket is the self awareness bucket, like do that work first. You know, it’s easy to say, you know, Susie has a problem over here, or Mikayla has a problem over there, or Juan has a problem over there. It’s really easy to point fingers and judge, but you got to turn the mirror inward first, right? So you do self awareness. And then this thing of pertinacity is the decision and choice to do self management. That’s the second bucket. 

So self awareness, self management, then the third bucket is social awareness. Like seeing what’s going on, you know, like, actually conscious of the fact that there’s been a big mokita in the room for about 12 years now we should talk about it. And then and then the relationship management that has to happen after that. So how do those four buckets, is that kind of how you see the emotional intelligence framework?

Bonnie: Yes, yes. At the end of the book, I talk about the four R’s of conflict resolution. And the first two R’s have to do with self awareness. And the second two have to do with self management and relationship management. So going back to the four buckets that you just spoke of, the first R is regard the scar. 

And this is where we gain awareness about what are our scars, our wounds, our hurts, unresolved from our upbringing. And it’s not to blame or throw our parents or whoever raised us under the bus. It’s simply to look back and recognize the events that happened, that still have an imprint on us. We tend to have this overreaction during conflict in the workplace because that scar, that wound hasn’t been healed. 

So that was the first R. The second R is reframe, to stop blame. And this is where we take control of our mindset, take control of our thoughts. Again, not to look back to blame, but to take responsibility for our actions. And I personally believe that our parents do the best they can with what they know at the time. 

Nicole: That’s right. 

Bonnie: And, and so having the refrain to blame is to look at the context of our own parents or whoever again raised us about their upbringing about what life challenges they had, that influenced how they parented and who they were when we were growing up. And when I worked as a marriage and family therapist, that was one of the work that I loved, I loved it all. 

But that was just very meaningful when adult children would come in and have conversations with their parents to work through stuff from their upbringing. So there’s regard the scar, reframe to stop blame. Again those two R’s focus on self awareness. The third R is respect and connect. And this is now where we’re shifting from having self awareness to how do we interact with others who are difficult to get along with? 

How do we stay in that tension of conflict without blaming, without pointing fingers, or going into our own camps, cutting off relationships. How do we get along when we have differences and look for the common ground and still respect each other as people. And it does require having a lot of self awareness and boundaries. This isn’t about being a doormat of allowing people to treat us however they want. It’s ourselves, respecting others. And again, really being aware. Managing our reaction when we have differences. 

And then the last R is resolve to evolve. And that is that regardless of what comes our way, we can be the author of our success. And regardless of what other people do or don’t do, however, they choose to show up, we’re responsible for ourselves. And it’s a lifelong journey. I don’t know about you, but boy, wouldn’t it be great if we would just you know, we would arrive and this work was one and done.

Nicole: Oh, no. Enlightenment. It’s a thing. Keep trying people. That’s why the company is called vibrant. It’s like we’re working on getting this enlightenment. We’re trying to learn, trying to grow, trying to get better. Absolutely. It’s a lifelong journey. And you know, when I’m listening to what you’re talking about, I mean, you can’t help but listen to this. Everybody’s having a little flashback. 

Okay, mom was like this, dad was like that. So my mom passed away when I was really little. And my father raised me and he, you know, he was a happy drunk. I just think it about you know, I did always have a lot of respect for him, even though it’s like, what are you doing? You know, I mean, like, he was crazy, but he never, I don’t think meant malice. 

Do you know what I mean? Like, he just couldn’t, he had a disease, he couldn’t stop. And so you know, but at the end of the day, I mean, I always had clothes on my back, I always had a roof over my head. I always had food to eat, you know, we got by we did well. I don’t want to repeat that for my people. And I didn’t repeat that for my people. 

But you can sit there and you can look at you know, that’s where you get, you know, a little bit of your crazy, that’s from him. So, I mean, I think we all can kind of identify how we’re like, and plus your cousins, your aunts, your uncles, your people say you’re just like your mother. You’re just like your father. I mean, they tell you. Pay attention.

Bonnie: Your story, if you haven’t gotten to it yet, you may relate to Regina’s story. How her mother died when she was 12. And then her she was raised primarily by her father. And on her deathbed, she promised her mother that she would become a lawyer. And that was always her dream. 

But her dad did not want her to become a lawyer because of what he saw in his workplace of how hard lawyers worked and the stress that they went through. And he was giving her a lot of pushback about it. And finally, it she was pretty much a conflict avoider growing up, but at her graduation, she said to her dad, either I’m going to college to become a lawyer, or I’m not going at all. And that was her standing up for herself. 

Nicole: Fantastic. 

Bonnie: And she did, and the same issue. She loved her father dearly. She knew that he was only trying to protect her. But she really learned how to stand up for herself. And that’s, as she learned, to overcome her conflict avoidance was learning to have a voice for herself.

Nicole: That’s so fantastic. All right, well, if you’re not already convinced, you gotta go out and you got to get the book, How Did My Family Get In My Office, Surprising Ways Your Upbringing Impacts You At Work and What You Can Do About It. You need to identify with whichever leader you see inside of here, you know, look at the tips that they give, the strategies and then do the self reflection questions. And then of course, go over, tell us again where we can take the assessment. What’s the website?


Nicole: All right, and then you’ll get feedback right away and then a series of emails that will kind of keep teaching and telling. So I think that that would be very good for you. So here’s what I want to ask though. Like my final question for you is this. What is a boss whisperer? We all want to become one. So will you please tell us what it is and what you do when you’re doing that?

Bonnie: Sure. The boss whisperer is a specialized coaching program, specializing in coaching leaders who exhibit abrasive behaviors, and helping them to replace abrasive behaviors with emotional intelligence skills. Unlike a bully, who knows what they’re doing and they have targets, the impact of an abrasive leader can be very much the same in terms of the condescending comments and the yelling, the overreaction, the public humiliation, the impact is very similar. 

The difference is the intent. Abrasive leaders genuinely have blinders on. They don’t realize how they’re coming across. All they want to do is get the job done and get it done well, and anyone or anything that gets in their way, is when they react. 

Our focus is on helping the abrasive leader gain self awareness of the impact of their words and actions on those around them and develop more positive again, emotionally intelligent ways of getting the job done other than yelling or making condescending belittling comments, and where people wouldn’t just want to run the other way. 

So that’s, that’s the emphasis on it. And how I got into this is, as we’ve mentioned, I have a background as a marriage and family therapist. And before I moved to Pittsburgh, almost 11 years ago, I saw a lot of people in my private practice dealing with upset stomachs, headaches, sleepless nights from abrasive bosses. And myself had been, had that experience many years ago. 

So when I was moving, I thought back, okay, what do I want to do with this next chapter of my life. And it was then that I recognize I want to go into the workplace and help these leaders change and stop the suffering that employees are going through. 

And so I found the Boss Whispering Institute that was founded by Dr. Laura Crawshaw. And that’s the model of coaching that I use that has an 82% success rate of helping leaders lift the blinders and gain self awareness and transform how they deal with their conflict, and also their interpersonal emotional intelligence skills.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. And, you know, I just had a guest on the show just a little while ago, his name is Paul ter Wal, and he is a fantastic fella. And he has a new paper out. And it’s the role of value to profit model in 21st century organizations. And it talks about how employee engagement makes money. And so I just was connecting the dots between, you know, these bosses that want things done exactly right, lose their mind don’t have good emotional intelligence skills. 

They’re just shooting themselves in the foot per se, because that creates, you know, the conflict that people disengage or they avoid the boss. And the boss is not going to get 100%. You’re not gonna get that discretionary income because we ain’t happy if you know, the leader is not happy.

Bonnie: Right, right. And the message I want your listeners to hear is that change is possible. 

Nicole: I agree.

Bonnie: These leaders truly lack the self awareness. It will take the manager of the abrasive leader to intervene and say, hey, we value you, we want you here, this behavior can’t go on. And we want to offer you help to turn around this behavior. And what people tell me after they’ve gone through the program is I’m so grateful. I’m grateful for my employer that they invested in me and they cared enough to help me improve. 

I hear from employees who have such profound respect for the leader who transformed and appreciation for their organization, that they work at a company that wants to help people transform and stop the suffering. And the credibility of the leaders and the business owners, the senior leadership team goes up because something was done to stop the suffering, and to help the abrasive leader change.

Nicole: Hmm, that is fantastic. All right, everybody. I know you thoroughly enjoyed this episode, and you’re dying to get your hands on a copy of Bonnie’s book. So let’s read it one more time. How Did My Family Get in My Office by Bonnie Artman Fox. She’s got a whole alphabet after her name. So she’s totally qualified and she’s a boss whisperer. Hello. So Bonnie, if we wanted to get a hold of you, what would we do?

Bonnie: My website is And again, if your listeners would like to take the assessment, they can go to

Nicole: All right. So go out there, get the book and figure out which leader you relate to. Work through the reflection questions, look at the strategy she’s got for productive conflict management and go out there and take that assessment and definitely go down and like this episode. It just takes your hot second to click the like button and then go up and click the subscribe button. 

And if you’re feeling very energetic after all of this, I’d love a comment. Both Bonnie and I will be quick to answer your questions and give you feedback. So please do that. Thank you, Bonnie, so much for being a guest on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast.

Bonnie: Thank you. It’s truly been an honor to be here with you.

Nicole: All right everybody. Have a great day.

Voiceover: Ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with their strategies, systems and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email And be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

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