Dealing with Bullies or Why I Don’t Organize Many Events

Boulder Startup Week is this week!  I’m so excited to get back to Boulder and say hello to so many good friends and startups.

Boulder, like many communities, has some interesting characters.  It’s fun to watch, participate and see just what creative projects can take hold.  Every once in a while you run into someone that doesn’t quite meet the community’s expectations.  Rather than do something that everyone can benefit from (community!), they try to break down, threaten and generally grab some power to suck from anyone that will listen.

After a member of the Boulder community was reported as threatening, I emailed them to politely ask them not to attend Boulder Startup Wee.  Here is what I said:

Hey *******,

Just saw that you rsvp’ed for a bunch of BSW events.  You have said some quite negative, dividing and downright mean things to community members in the past, I find it odd that you suddenly want to be involved.  From an outsider’s prospective, you seem to really getting a reaction from people, and will be overly positive or negative…

Either way, that doesn’t lead me to think of healthy motivations for your attendance.  Can I ask you politely to not attend the events?

Hope all is well,

Nothing too personal, just “Please don’t attend the events.”  Seems fair to me, how about you?  There is more backstory there, but this person thrives on attention, and I would rather leave their name out of this discussion.

Here is the gem I got back:

If you do not let us ,me , ************ or any of our staff.

This is what I am going to do;

File a civil rights discrimination grievance, first amendment violation complaint with the city. That will prohibit them from participating.

We will show up anyway and suit you and all of your sponsors for first amendment violations at a public event in which the city is involved.

We will come after you so hard , you’ll wished you never moved here

I will immediately contact all of your sponsors and tell them you are violating our  First amendment rights to the press at a public event.

I will bring a bull horn and a camera to all the events an d announce what a fraud and crook you are and put this scandal on the front pages.

I will turn Start up boulder in to a public relations nightmare for you Andrew , put you on TV as the Devil, and make you wished you never fucked with me.

I hear that several businesses and companies have been contacted today with some pretty serious-sounding language from said person.

I’m taking a step back and laughing a little bit here.  This is a community event – all are welcome.  If you threaten someone, well, you lose a lot of respect from the community.  Most people have chosen to ignore said person.  I feel it was important to reach out, and in a respectful way, ask him to not bring his baggage to a community that doesn’t respect him.

As an update, he just called one of our sponsors a Nazi for asking him to not attend their party.

Boulder Startup Community: time to rally together.  Support each other.  Tell the world just how awesome you are – together.

  •  it’s just like that old adage, “one rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch”.  thanks for trying to keep that rotten apple out of the boulder community, andrew.

  • Stefan Hartwig

     Wow, that’s a pretty heavy response. I think they just justified your original note for you.

  •  Andrew, that sucks to hear.  Sounds like this guy is so selfishly centered on himself that he’ll stop at nothing to destroy something that he’s been asked not to be a part of.  You’re doing nothing wrong in asking a community member not to be involved.  As part of the organizing committee, these are the unfortunate parts that you need to deal with, and have jurisdiction over.  
    This guy, on the other hand, is clearly wayyyyyyyyy over the top when it comes to his decisions.  He’s having an emotional reaction to something that seems like a logical outcome of his past behavior. 

    Unfortunately, you can’t back down now, or you’ll be sending him a message that this type of behavior is “OK” when it isn’t.  

    Sucks you have to deal with this though.  Tell the guy to back off on my behalf 🙂

  • Trolls like this have always gotten me all worked up, which is horrible because that is their goal.   I’ve never dealt with it well personally.   Taking the higher road is so hard. 

    What was it Abbey said – dont let the bastards bring you down?    Wait no that’s a Toasters song….

  • Kelli Donley

     Well. The easiest way to fight a bully is to provide a community so loving and creative, his/her voice can’t be heard above the good work underway.
    You did the right thing. It is sad legal nonsense was thrown at you in this argument. You were polite. In the long run, bullies never win. 
    May this event be the most successful yet and may you be reminded why you began working on it so long ago! 

  •  Seriously, whoever sent that is a tool.

  •  He should really try and get his money back on that law degree of his.  There is no First Amendment right to speak at a private event.  He can picket, but good luck with the civil rights violation talk.  Please tell me you’ve told him to take a hike, I hate it when toolbags like this hijack the public eye.  Also maybe outing him and his company so the rest of us can refuse to do business with him would be nice, but I understand not giving him a platform.

  •  People like that are best ignored. They deserve nothing more. Let them bring it on. It will only serve to decimate what little bit of reputation they *might* have in the community.

  • NULL

    One of the beauties of the Boulder community is that is it inclusive, which means we’ll have to take the good with the bad.  In the long run community members will figure this person out; his/her actions speak for themselves.

  • Typically polite begets polite. This guy is a fire looking for a bail of dry hay. Look on the bright side, your initial email was justified by the response. #saynotowastingtime

    ridiculous

  • Deb Kolaras

    Some how the language and tone of the response sounds very familiar and apparently maturity and human decency have yet to descend into this soul yet. We can only hope it does soon. In the meantime, carry on. This person’s reputation precedes them and our community will carry this event forward with dignity and inclusion like it always does.

  • David Cohen

    sorry you have to waste your time with stuff like this. there’s always haters – you just have to ignore them and keep doing all the great stuff you’re doing. thanks!

  • Don’t let it get you down bud. Haters gonna hate.

  • You asked him politely not to attend.  He decided to respond in a very unpolite, unnecessary way.  Escalating it, including formally banning him, doesn’t do either of you any good.  The response: let him know that you think his response was unnecessary, and ask him to respect the events, the community, the conversations, and ideas, in the same way everyone else does.

    You did what you had to do. The community will take care of the rest.

  • heyrich

    Boulder stands out from so many other places one could build a tech startup in that there’s a spirit of cooperation, encouragement, and civility. I’ve seen people go far out of their way to help others succeed and that’s a big part of why I’m here to stay.

    Unfortunately, not everybody gets that or wants to play by these relatively unspoken but vital rules. 

    Because you’ve created and been at the front of bringing so many terrific community-building events to town, you’ve wound up with the rather thankless job of helping to discourage bad actors and make sure everybody plays nice.

    My question to you is this: How can we, as a community, step up and help share that responsibility?

    @heyrich:twitter 

  • I’m sure there’s a ton of backstory there, but putting myself in this guy’s shoes, he may have no idea he’s been acting like a tool (most never do).

    Coincidentally, my local paper’s business section had a column today about using positive statements when dishing out constructive criticism. For instance, instead of saying “Why can’t you understand this?” the author adjusts the language while still achieving his point: “This is a complicated procedure. It’s important you understand every step.”

    Now… I’m trying to think of how to word your email differently to this guy without muddling your intention! Perhaps he truly doesn’t know he’s been a d-bag and with you stating it so matter of fact, it put him on the defensive so no matter what else you do, you’ll always be wrong in his mind. Gotta think about this – sorry for the ramble!

  • Out them & include headers so the rest of us can avoid these types like the plague.

  •  Minus the seriousness nature some of the threats entail… this actually quite hilarious! What a loon! 

    This sounds like that Boulder Channel 1 nut. He’s said some similar things to me and others I know in the past. Loves to use the words “Nazi” and “Fascists” especially.

  • NULL

    Just tell him you’ll pray for him. I’ve had that happen when I had an altercations with nut job while driving. (He then told me off again and said this is why there’s war in Iraq.)

    What’s even more interesting…I actually did go back to my house and pray for the guy.

    Just have the best event you possibly can.

  • boulder_tim

     Any individual or sponsor that received a threat from this nimrod should post it online.  That will (hopefully) make him think twice before spewing venom in the future.

  • Hahaha! I was right! Now I can laugh about it more ’cause, of course, he is no threat. Way to go Andrew! Besides “to avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing” and that is not you.  

  • Jessica L.

    As a fellow event planner and person who has helped bring communities together in various capacities for the past ten years, I’ve realized that it is almost inevitable that there will eventually be someone who tries to pull crap like this – who doesn’t understand that truly being part of a supportive community means being civil and reasonable and sane. I’m just sorry that he has been so blatantly mean and so public with his unwarranted bitterness – especially to a guy who is the epitome of kindness and generosity. Just keep moving forward knowing that there are a whole bunch of us out there who have your back. 

  • NULL

     I hate to see such negativity surrounding something that has such a positive vibe. Boulder (and Denver too, ha ha!) has such a sense of community – the great thing is no one person can bring it down. (And really? 1st amendment for a private event? RIIIIIIGHT.)

  • I miss the Boulder community so much because it was exactly that: a community.  Much of that was thanks to you.  Unfortunately, as things grow – a bad element always surfaces.  Much love to you and you handled it well.  Good luck with things out there.  The only good thing about something like this happening is that maybe it will keep you here in NYC.  LOL.

  • kia

    People can be entitled a$$holes in this town but generally just need to be told to play nice with others when they get too weird.  You won’t need to out this person, though we have lost much of the closeness from a year ago (I have told you my thoughts on this topic) we are still close and gossipy when one of our own needs to be regulated.  I hope I get to see you for a long hug tomorrow – Trada social?  I am being lame and going to the east coast during #bsw11 for Fitbloggin after that.

  • Great post, Andrew. I have a few thoughts:

    First, this is clearly trollish behavior and it’s quite sad that some people feel the need to respond with hyperbolic negativity. This is, however, a fact of life and we all must learn to address – as you have – issues in a positive manner.

    Second, this person clearly does want attention. It’s best to just ignore these people – frequently they go away when it’s clear there is no attention to be gained.

    Third, this person threatened legal action which, sadly, must be taken seriously. Does the City fund the event in any way? If not, there’s probably no claim. If so, then you should pass his threats on to your lawyer and make a note of it. There is little to no chance that this is a serious threat and legal battles simply to ‘get your way’ are not financially sustainable. A good course of action might be to pass the threats on to a lawyer friend of yours then respond with, “Hi! It was my hope that we could handle this like adults in a positive and constructive manner. Sadly, you made legal threats. Our group is inclusive and does not discriminate. But because you made a serious threat I was forced to pass your threats on to my council. I’ll have her response by the end of business today.” As Bill Clinton taught us, one method of dealing with bullies is, when punched punch back twice as hard. Do not tolerate empty threats and a show of force will often (again, sadly) resolve the problem. Receiving an actual letter from an actual lawyer will often cool hot tempers with reasonable fear. As this person is clearly full of anger and vitriol, it’s likely that this person will have a difficult time securing a good lawyer. A bad lawyer can file suit as easily as a good lawyer, but the court system does not tolerate time wasted with frivolous suits.

    Fourth, this person has probably treated others in a similar manner and as a result probably has few allies, legal or otherwise.

    The lesson to be learned here can be summed up by the words of a great cowboy who once said, “be a good person, do the right thing, but don’t take no shit from fools.”

  •  Good on you for taking the high road, Andrew. And not surprising at all. 🙂

  • This is the part where you out him to us.

  • This is the part where you out him to us.

  • This is the part where you out him to us.

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