Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 11, Issue 17;   April 27, 2011: How Targets of Bullies Can Use OODA: I

How Targets of Bullies Can Use OODA: I

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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.
A captive zebra of the species Equus quagga (plains zebra)

A captive zebra of the species Equus quagga (plains zebra). There are three species of zebras, but none of them are a match for their predators, which include lions, spotted hyenas, and when crossing rivers, Nile crocodiles. Their foals are also prey of hyenas, dogs, cheetahs, and leopards. Zebras survive against their predators mainly through flight in herds. If a predator manages to isolate an individual and tire it, the probability of survival drops dramatically, because zebras simply cannot match their predators in direct confrontation.

A common metaphor applied to the bully-target dynamic is that of predator and prey. This metaphor is extraordinarily misleading, because unlike actual predators and their prey, bully and target are individuals of the same species. While predators and their prey are differently endowed, bullies and their targets have almost identical capabilities. That's why targets who choose to can use counterattacks very effectively to bring an end to the perpetrator's abusive behavior. Photo courtesy Chaman Singh Verma of the U.S. Department of Energy.

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 make
too 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.

In Part II, we'll examine how targets can end the bullying by focusing on situational awareness.  Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: How Targets of Bullies Can Use OODA: II  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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See also Workplace Bullying and Conflict Management for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Mistletoe growing in abundance in the Wye Valley, WalesComing April 25: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VI
Narcissistic behavior at work distorts decisions, disrupts relationships, and generates toxic conflict. These consequences limit the ability of the organization to achieve its goals. In this part of our series we examine the effects of exploiting others for personal ends. Available here and by RSS on April 25.
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Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects of that disregard. Available here and by RSS on May 2.

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