When bullies engage their targets, they do more than humiliate, abuse, or apply violence — they build and maintain their advantage. The bully seeks confrontation only in topic areas and settings where targets are relatively incapable of defense, and certainly incapable of counterattack. "Standing up to" the bully usually fails. To end the bullying, targets must not wait to be attacked. They must seize the initiative to mount an effective counterattack.
Here is a set of guidelines for ending the bullying, using OODA as a guide. In this Part I we focus on seizing the initiative.
- Accept that counterattack is essential
- Defensive strategies don't work. In terms of the OODA model, the bully seeks positional advantage, and maintains a position "inside the target's OODA loop." That is, before the target can counter a bully's action, the bully will have acted to block the target. For example, bullies know and prevent whatever their targets might try to do in defense, by positioning the target unfavorably in the minds of bystanders, and by readying exonerating explanations for their own behavior. They limit their targets' access to supervisors, wavering bystanders, or information the target could use to support a claim of abuse.
- The bully has prepared for and rendered ineffective whatever the target might try to do in defense. That's the main reason why defense is ineffective. Counterattack is essential.
- Address your reticence about counterattack
- The "D" in OODA stands for Decide. When we consider responding to the bully, we assemble our options and select from among them. Any reticence about counterattack affects not only how we select from among our options, but also the list of options we assemble.
- Targets reticent about counterattack tend to consider options biased in favor of defense. They select for execution less aggressive options. Reticence about attacking is healthy in everyday life, but when being bullied, such reticence is self-destructive. Targets who deal effectively with the source of this reticence are more likely to choose effective responses to the bullying.
- Mount massively coordinated counterattacks
- Counterattacking Counterattacking too feebly
is a common error
targets maketoo feebly is a common error targets make. Bullies know that counterattacks are possible, but since they select "easy" targets, they usually expect feeble counterattacks, if any.
- Bullies generally don't expect massively coordinated counterattacks. That's one reason why massively coordinated counterattacks are so successful. A massively coordinated counterattack is an attack on multiple fronts, simultaneously. Simultaneity overwhelms the bully's ability to process what's happening, enabling the target to get inside the bully's OODA loop. An example: filing a grievance with your employer, filing a lawsuit against the bully personally, and filing a lawsuit against the employer — all on the same day. The key principle: when you counterattack, escalate to the max. Hold nothing back.
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 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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More articles on Workplace Bullying:
- The Costs of Threats
- Threatening as a way of influencing others might work in the short term. But a pattern of using threats
to gain compliance has long-term effects that can undermine your own efforts, corrode your relationships,
and create an atmosphere of fear.
- Workplace Bullying and Workplace Conflict: II
- Of the tools we use to address toxic conflict, many are ineffective for ending bullying. Here's a review
of some of the tools that don't work well and why.
- When the Chair Is a Bully: II
- Assertiveness by chairs of meetings isn't a problem in itself, but it becomes problematic when the chair's
dominance deprives the meeting of contributions from some of its members. Here's Part II of our exploration
of the problem of bully chairs.
- When 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.
- Rapid-Fire Attacks
- Someone asks you a question. Within seconds of starting to reply, you're hit with another question,
or a rejection of your reply. Abusively. The pattern repeats. And repeats again. And again. You're being
attacked. What can you do?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 25: Workplace Memes
- Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our notice. Here are five examples. Available here and by RSS on October 25.
- And on November 1: Risk Creep: I
- Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep? Available here and by RSS on November 1.
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Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.