How Targets of Bullies Can Use OODA:
by Rick Brenner
To make the bullying stop, many targets of bullies try to defend themselves. But defense alone is not sufficient — someone must make the bully stop. That's why counterattack is much more likely to work.
A U.S. Marine sniper wearing sniper camouflage gear known as a "ghillie" suit advances through a forest during a training exercise. View a larger image. Ghillie suits exploit a camouflage strategy called cryptic camouflage. Cryptic camouflage is one of the four basic strategies of deception by camouflage. In cryptic camouflage, the deceiver succeeds by blending into the environment so as to deceive the perceiver. Targets can deceive bullies in this way by mimicking other elements of the workplace environment so as to convince the bully that the target is not engaged in counterattack development or counterattack execution. Adopting temporarily the characteristics of a terrorized target can accomplish this. Examples of behaviors that convey this message are withdrawal, absenteeism, and subservience. Since all successful camouflage is designed to match a specific perceiver, targets attempting to use cryptic camouflage should choose approaches that are most likely to deceive their specific bullies. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense.
Observation is the first O of the OODA acronym (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act). Last time, we examined some general properties of counter-bullying strategies, focusing on the inner state of the target and the nature of effective counterattacks. But counterattacks can be much more effective when based on a clear understanding of the entire situation, and that requires accurate information about the bully, the organization, and the legal environment in the relevant jurisdiction. And that's where Observation becomes important. Here are some tactics and strategies for targets, emphasizing situational awareness.
- Exploit situational awareness
- Targets have an edge if they have a thorough understanding of the bully's history, behavior, and plans. Also valuable are the stances and actions (or often, the inactions) of bystanders, other targets, the bully's supervisor, the target's own supervisor, and the HR department. When formulating counterattacks, it all helps.
- Targets can attack the bully in many domains: at work, in the local community, in the professional community, in court — whatever works, within the law. That's why it's helpful for targets to know their legal rights, what's needed for legal action, and how to gather evidence. The legal route isn't easy, but it's a route nonetheless.
- Degrade the bully's situational awareness
- Targets can also work to degrade the bully's own situational awareness. They can accomplish this by neutralizing the bully's resources, or by using those resources to confuse the bully.
- For instance, many targets, or their allies, telegraph to bullies that they "aren't going to take it anymore." Revealing this change in stance is counter-productive. Targets who have allies can impress upon them the importance of depriving the bully of any information about the target's intentions or state of mind.
- Deceive and disinform the bully
- Targets can deliver disinformation to the bully, directly or indirectly, keeping in mind that effective disinformation requires knowing the truth well enough to create plausible deceptions. See "Biological Mimicry and Workplace Bullying," Point Lookout for March 31, 2010, for an example.
- Even better: build relationships with allies of the bully. Converting a bully's ally to a target's ally, or to a neutral, can help to degrade the bully's overall situational information quality.
- Know your own vulnerabilities
- Targets Targets engaging in counterattacks
can sometimes expose their own
vulnerabilities inadvertentlyengaging in counterattacks can sometimes expose their own vulnerabilities inadvertently. For instance, a counterattack in the domain of the professional community might motivate the bully to do something similar, or to mount an attack in the domain of the local community.
- Targets should carefully assess their own vulnerabilities in any domain in which the bully might mount an attack. Upon discovering a vulnerability, targets would do well to take steps to remove it or conceal it, and to conceal any indications of its prior existence.
Finally, if counterattacks fail, escape might be necessary. There are other jobs. Knowing what alternatives are available, and keeping that knowledge current, might be the best path to ending the bullying. 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:
- The High Cost of Low Trust: Part I
- We usually think of Trust as one of those soft qualities that we would all like our organizational cultures to have. Yet, truly paying attention to Trust at work is rare, in part, because we don't fully appreciate what distrust really costs. Here are some of the ways we pay for low trust.
- How Targets of Bullies Can Use OODA: Part I
- Most targets of bullies just want the bullying to stop, but most bullies don't stop unless they fear for their own welfare if they continue the bullying. To end the bullying, targets must turn the tables.
- The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Strategy
- Much of what we call work is about as effective and relevant as rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic. We continue our exploration of futile and irrelevant work, this time emphasizing behaviors related to strategy.
- Power, Authority, and Influence: A Systems View
- Power, Authority, and Influence are often understood as personal attributes. To fully grasp how they function in organizations, we must adopt a systems view.
- Active Deceptions at Work
- Among the vast family of workplace deceptions, those that involve presenting fiction as reality are among the most exasperating, because we sometimes feel fooled or gullible. Lies are the simplest example of this type, but there are others, and some are fiendishly clever.
See also Workplace Politics and Conflict Management for more related articles.
Forthcoming Issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 14: Contextual Causes of Conflict: Part II
- Too often we assume that the causes of destructive conflict lie in the behavior or personalities of the people directly participating in the conflict. Here's Part II of an exploration of causes that lie elsewhere. Available here and by RSS on October 14.
- And on October 21: Managing Wishful Thinking Risk
- When things go wrong, and we look back at how we got there, we must sometimes admit to wishful thinking. Here's a framework for managing the risk of wishful thinking. Available here and by RSS on October 21.
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