Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 13, Issue 37;   September 11, 2013: So You Want the Bullying to End: II

So You Want the Bullying to End: II

by

If you're the target of a workplace bully, ending the bullying can be an elusive goal. Here are some guidelines for tactics to bring it to a close.
Gen. Robert E. Lee's traveling chess set

Gen. Robert E. Lee's traveling chess set. The General was an avid chess player. Chess, unlike many other games, unlike war, and unlike bullying, is a game of complete transparency. The contenders always have full information about one another's assets and liabilities. Bluffing is impossible in chess, but it is the essence of many other games. In poker, war, and bullying, the contenders have incomplete information about one another's assets and liabilities, and that makes bluffing an important strategy. Photo courtesy U.S. National Park Service.

In their efforts to end the bullying, targets who enlist the assistance of powerful people, institutions, or law enforcement might succeed, but as we saw in Part I, achieving a truly successful outcome by these means is unlikely. And retaliation and cover-up are significant possibilities. But even if the target is transferred, or the bully is terminated or transferred, or the bully is compelled to stop, the target might acquire a new bully, and the cycle can repeat.

That's pretty common, it turns out, because bullies are everywhere. But their prevalence alone isn't enough to ensure a repetition — they need to find targets. The essential point is that they can find targets, because bullies are very good at recognizing targets. Even if targets can somehow end the abuse at the hands of one bully, unless they alter their demeanor and behavior, the next bully will find them in short order.

Here are some suggestions for targets who want not only to end the bullying by the current bully, but also prevent becoming a target again.

Recognize that your behavior plays a role
Whatever you do, wherever you go, there you are. You can't get away from you. And since the current bully targeted you, the next bully will find you just as easily. It's not that you're doing anything wrong; it's that bullies search for targets of opportunity — people they can bully successfully. Something about you signals to bullies that you're a target of opportunity. Until you change that, bullies will keep finding you.
There will always be bullies wherever you go
Some targets believe that they can find employment in a company where there are no bullies. Perhaps there are such companies, but since modern science has not yet devised a means of detecting bullies before they bully, companies can't help but hire some bullies. There are bullies everywhere.
You probably aren't the bully's first target
Most bullies haveMost bullies have probably
seen most of the obvious
things people do to
end the bullying
probably seen most of the obvious things people do to end the bullying. Whatever tactics you choose for ending the bullying, they're more likely to succeed if the bully has never seen them before. Be clever. Outthink the bully.
The bully will stop only if you make it painful enough
You can't talk a bully out of bullying. You can't reason with a bully about bullying. They do what they do because of pathology — a disorder. To make them stop, make it too painful or expensive for them to continue. You don't have to use tactics like theirs, but nice talk and courtesy won't do the job. Bluffing might work, but be prepared to be tested.

Most important, build and maintain a strong support network. Include people who have been bullied, and who have faced down their bullies. Seek their advice, and have the courage to follow it. First in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: Social Entry Strategies: I  Next Issue

101 Tips for Targets of Workplace BulliesAre you being targeted by a workplace bully? Do you know what to do to end the bullying? Workplace bullying is so widespread that a 2014 survey indicated that 27% of American workers have experienced bullying firsthand, that 21% have witnessed it, and that 72% are aware that bullying happens. 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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Related articles

More articles on Workplace Bullying:

A thiefLooking the Other Way
Sometimes when we notice wrongdoing, and we aren't directly involved, we don't report it, and we don't intervene. We look the other way. Typically, we do this to avoid the risks of making a report. But looking the other way is also risky. What are the risks of looking the other way?
A polar bear, feeding, on landResponding to Threats: III
Workplace threats come in a variety of flavors. One class of threats is indirect. Threateners who use the indirect threats aim to evoke fear of consequences brought about not by the threatener, but by other parties. Indirect threats are indeed warnings, but not in the way you might think.
Gary Jones, Oklahoma State Auditor and InspectorWhen the Chair Is a Bully: III
When the Chair of the meeting is so dominant that attendees withhold comments or slant contributions to please the Chair, meeting output is at risk of corruption. Because Chairs usually can retaliate against attendees who aren't "cooperative," this problem is difficult to address. Here's Part III of our exploration of the problem of bully chairs.
Palm trees blowing in a hurricaneDealing with Rapid-Fire Attacks
When a questioner repeatedly attacks someone within seconds of their starting to reply, complaining to management about a pattern of abuse can work — if management understands abuse, and if management wants deal with it. What if management is no help?
An FBI SWAT team assists local law enforcement in New Orleans in August 2005The Paradox of Structure and Workplace Bullying
Structures of all kinds — organizations, domains of knowledge, cities, whatever — are both enabling and limiting. To gain more of the benefits of structure, while avoiding their limits, it helps to understand this paradox and learn to recognize its effects.

See also Workplace Bullying and Conflict Management for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The United States curling team at the Torino Olympics in 2006Coming November 22: Motivation and the Reification Error
We commit the reification error when we assume, incorrectly, that we can treat abstract constructs as if they were real objects. It's a common error when we try to motivate people. Available here and by RSS on November 22.
A human marionetteAnd on November 29: Manipulators Beware
When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.

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