Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 14, Issue 27;   July 2, 2014: Seventeen Guidelines About Workplace Bullying

Seventeen Guidelines About Workplace Bullying

by

Bullying is a complex social pattern. Thinking clearly about bullying is difficult in the moment because our emotions can distract us. Here are some short insights about bullying that are easy to remember in the moment.
Bowling pins for ten-pin bowling

Bowling pins for ten-pin bowling. A standard bowling ball is 8.5 inches to 8.595 inches (about 22 cm) in diameter. A standard ten-pin bowling pin is 4.75 inches (about 12 cm) at its widest point, which is 4.5 inches (11.5 cm) above the lane surface. That's a little more than the radius of the ball. The pins are spaced exactly 12 inches (about 30.5 cm) apart. That means that the space between pins at their widest point is about 2.5 inches (about 6.4 cm). In other words, the ball diameter is about 3.5 times the space between the pins. If the bowler can roll the ball so it stays out of the gutter, knocking pins down is a certainty.

Conventional conflict resolution makes certain assumptions about conflict, including the assumption that the parties to the conflict would prefer a healthy relationship to a relationship burdened with toxic conflict. That assumption is not valid for the bully-target relationship — at least, not from the point of view of the bully. Trying to resolve a bullying issue with conventional conflict resolution techniques is like bowling with golf balls. Photo (cc) Stefan Grazer.

When we must make quick decisions about emotional issues, we're more likely than usual to make mistakes. It's helpful in those situations to have distilled what we believe into guidelines we can easily recall when we need them. Here are some memorable guidelines for dealing with bullying.

  1. Letting yourself be bullied without end isn't a success strategy.
  2. Ignoring bullying won't cause the bully to get bored and find another target. It's more likely to convince the bully to do something you can't ignore.
  3. Hiring an attorney won't stop the bully, but it will make your employer aware that you're a threat. Your employer must then decide which threat it fears more — you or the bully. If you do hire an attorney, be certain that your employer will fear you more than the bully.
  4. Trying to end bullying by avoiding the bully is as likely to succeed as trying to survive while swimming in shark-infested waters by avoiding sharks.
  5. Humor can deflect a bully's attack if the attack is public and the bully doesn't want to be seen as a bully. Otherwise, humor is unlikely to help.
  6. Bullies fear harm, just like everyone else. To make the bullying stop, convince the bully that if the bullying continues, severe harm is inevitable.
  7. Someone who has never been bullied can't really understand what it's like to be a target.
  8. Someone who has never been bullied by this specific bully can't really understand what it's like to be a target of this bully.
  9. The trouble between the bully and the target isn't a "personality clash." There is no such thing.
  10. Targets cannot end the bullying by trying harder to "get along." The bullying isn't about the target's misbehavior.
  11. Bullies don't bully their targets to "get even" for their targets' past offenses. They bully their targets because of inner compulsions that the bullies don't yet know how to control — or don't yet want to.
  12. Bullies cannot Bullies cannot be persuaded
    by rational argument to stop
    bullying. Their inner compulsions
    aren't rational.
    be persuaded by rational argument to stop bullying. Their inner compulsions aren't rational.
  13. Being bullied isn't the target's "fault."
  14. Letting a bully abuse someone else without end isn't a way to avoid becoming the next target.
  15. Bystanders who are aware of the bullying and don't act to stop it share responsibility for the bullying. They aren't innocent.
  16. Many organizations claim, "We don't hire bullies." Horsepucky. All organizations hire bullies, mostly unintentionally. The key word is "mostly."
  17. Trying to resolve a bullying issue with conventional conflict resolution techniques is like bowling with golf balls. You might knock a pin down here and there by chance, but it would be a freak occurrence.

If you're a target, keep these in mind. If you know a target, keep these in mind. Go to top Top  Next issue: What Groupthink Isn't  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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Bullying in meetings is difficult to address, because intervention in the moment is inherently public. When bullying happens in meetings, what can you do?
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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?
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Social isolation is a tactic widely used by workplace bullies. What is it? How do bullies use it? Why do bullies use it? What can targets do about it?

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

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