#04 Dealing with Intimidating Stakeholders at Work

The 360 Leadhership Podcast, Episode 04, 19 January 2022 by Lucy Gernon

Learn Intimidation Tips and Tactics

You are proud to be a woman in a leadership role and you’ve have fought the inbuilt sexism.

You are paving the way for the younger generation, showing them that women can lead and make a huge business impact.

You have built credibility and respect by doing your job well. You and your team are seen as the go-to and you’re known for getting sh!t done!

Yet despite your success, you sometimes feel intimidated by senior stakeholders and certain people that make you shrink like Alice in Wonderland. You’re probably not quite sure why but when you’re in their presence, you feel like a little girl again.


  • To intimidate: To frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants  (Oxford Dictionary)

  • To bully: a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.

    (Oxford Dictionary)

 The Health and Safety Authority of Ireland clarifies this well. They say:

“You are not necessarily being targeted or being bullied just because you feel hurt or unfairly treated. When we feel bad, we see events less clearly.

We can be biased and blame others. Because we feel vulnerable, we might misinterpret reasonable behaviour for something else, something targeted against us personally. But if there is a repeated pattern of behaviour, picking you out, offensively, then you need to follow your company policies.”

So today I’ll focus on feelings of intimidation that are not related to bullying as that’s not a topic I’m qualified to talk about. You need to follow your local HR policies and speak with your manager if you feel you are being bullied.

Research Findings

As part of development work for my signature program Powerhouse Revolution, I conducted over 100 interviews with women in leadership roles across various sectors including technology, pharma, medical device, financial services, social media, and more.

The purpose of the interviews was for me to gain a broader insight into the specific challenges and goals women in management or leadership roles face, so I could develop a 1:1 coaching experience that provides the exact solutions you need so you can break through.

So you have that career that fulfills you while not burning out or missing out on life.

Top 5 Reasons Women Feel Intimidated

  1. Someone in a position of authority or someone you see as having more power than you e.g. your boss, external auditor, customer, or someone in a position of more seniority.

  2. Someone who you feel threatened by as they have more knowledge or get more recognition than you regardless of level e.g. that other person, your peer, that your boss loves  or team member who is super smart and knows everything.

  3. Your own internal narrative – Imposter Syndrome where your own mind is negative when it comes to your abilities, so you may feel intimidated if you don’t feel good enough yourself.

  4. Someone who tends to shut you down in meetings and makes you feel small e.g. that strong alpha male who makes you quake or that domineering female who likes to take over the room without inviting your opinion or input into the conversation.

  5. Someone who ignores you, is passive-aggressive or is just a bitch!

Hopefully that has given you some tactics and tips to help you feel less intimidated at work. Watch out for signs that someone is trying to intimidate you and respond with using the tactics I’ve described.

Learn more about yourself as to why you feel intimidated by him or her using the prompts above. It might not be that you are easily intimidated, you might just need to use these intimidation tactics when you are feeling intimidated by someone like a co-worker or your boss.