How Workplace Bullies Use OODA:
by Rick Brenner
Workplace bullies who succeed in carrying on their activities over a long period of time are intuitive users of Boyd's OODA model. Here's Part II of an exploration of how bullies use the model.
A modern roller coaster showing an inverted portion of the trip. Although targets of bullies often use the roller coaster metaphor for its evocation of the "up and down" of being the target of a bully, the metaphor is much more useful than that.
Roller coasters produce in their riders an overwhelming sense of fear. Even though they progressively slow down after their first hill, the experience of fear never lets up, and in the best coasters, it builds throughout the trip. They accomplish this by using ever-tighter turns, inversion, and view management to create a heightened sense of fear as the ride proceeds. Fear management is the essence of the coaster designer's art. Bullies do exactly the same thing. Photo courtesy U.S. Access Board.
Last time, we began our exploration of how workplace bullies use the OODA Model by noticing that most bullies are very intuitive about it. And we gained some insight into how bullies select targets, and how targets can respond. Let's now consider how bullies use the OODA model for shaping the dynamics of the environment in which they work.
- Controlling tempo
- Bullies understand that a high tempo of attacks can overwhelm targets. By getting inside their targets' OODA loops, they reduce the effort required to maintain the advantage. Since workplace bullies also understand that targets who feel hopeless are more likely to quit their jobs, bullies relent when they sense that their targets are near their breaking points.
- Targets often report a feeling of being "on a roller coaster" of emotion, as they experience this alternation of intensity levels of bullying. The variation of intensity itself wears on targets. Some cease all efforts to resist, resigning themselves to just finding a way to endure. Bystanders are often intimidated, too, as they witness the bully's power to destroy targets.
- Targets who understand and expect this alternation of intensity levels are better able to maintain emotional control. They won't relax as much during low-intensity phases, and they won't lose all hope during high-intensity phases. They also understand that their bullies use the targets' own responses to gauge what level of intensity would be most effective.
- Environmental shaping
- From the bully's perspective, environmental shaping requires paying attention to the activities of many people. First, there are the targets themselves. But there are also bystanders, supervisors, and miscellaneous officials.
- Because From the bully's perspective,
environmental shaping requires
paying attention to the
activities of many peoplebystanders might report the workplace bully's activities to officials, bullies seek to intimidate bystanders, or better, to convert them into compliant allies. Since supervisors can also be threats, bullies either mollify them with bribes of performance, or threaten them directly or indirectly. They often employ deception to confuse the supervisor, and they carefully monitor the supervisor's state of mind. They must also monitor, deceive or control other organizational officials, who tend to be less trouble since they're usually more distant.
- Since the environment surrounding the bully can be very complex, the bully tries to simplify the situation by limiting the number of players involved, or by deceiving them about the nature of the bullying activity. Undermining the bully's deceptions is therefore a profitable strategy for targets, because it adds complexity to the overall problem the bully must solve.
These observations suggest that to confound the bully, targets can also use OODA. By being less predictable, and by overloading the bully's ability to shape the environment, targets can get inside the bully's OODA Loop. We'll examine ways to accomplish these goals next time. First in this series Top Next Issue
Are you being targeted by a workplace bully? Do you know what to do to end the bullying? Workplace bullying is so widespread that a 2010 survey indicated that 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand, and that bullying is about four times more prevalent than all other forms of illegal harassment combined. Yet, there are few laws to protect workers from bullies, and bullying is not a crime in most jurisdictions. 101 Tips for Targets of Workplace Bullies is filled with the insights targets of bullying need to find a way to survive, and then to finally end the bullying. Also available at Apple's iTunes store! Just USD 9.99, Order Now!
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Devious Political Tactics: Divide and Conquer, Part I
- While most leaders try to achieve organizational unity, some do use divisive tactics to maintain control, or to elevate performance by fostering competition. Understanding the risks of these tactics can motivate you to find another way.
- Knife-Edge Performers
- Some employees deliver performance episodically, while some deliver steady, but barely adequate performance. Either way, they keep their managers drained and anxious, on the "knife edge" of terminating them. How can you detect knife-edge performers, and what can you do about them?
- Nasty Questions: Part II
- In meetings, telemeetings, and email we sometimes ask questions that aren't intended to elicit information. Rather, they're indirect attacks intended to advance the questioner's political agenda. Here's part two of a catalog of some favorite tactics.
- Reverse Micromanagement
- Micromanagement is too familiar to too many of us. Less familiar is inappropriate interference in the reverse direction — in the work of our supervisors or even higher in the chain. Disciplinary action isn't always helpful, especially when some of the causes of reverse micromanagement are organizational.
- Communication Traps for Virtual Teams: Part I
- Virtual teams encounter difficulties that rarely confront face-to-face teams. What special challenges do they face, and what can we do about them?
See also Workplace Politics and Conflict Management for more related articles.
Forthcoming Issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 4: Virtual Trips to Abilene
- One dysfunction of face-to-face meetings is the Trip to Abilene, which leads groups to make decisions no members actually support. It can afflict virtual meetings, too, even more easily. Available here and by RSS on March 4.
- And on March 11: Historical Debates at Work
- One obstacle to high performance in teams is the historical debate — arguing about who said what and when, or who agreed to what and when. Here are suggestions for ending and preventing historical debates. Available here and by RSS on March 11.
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