Workplace bullies select targets carefully, focusing on those who can't or won't fight back, because bullies fear counterattacks. If you've been targeted, the bully probably believes you won't fight back, and, paradoxically, that's the key to successful confrontation. Here is Part II of our series on confronting the workplace bully, including six tips for managing an effective confrontation. See "Confronting the Workplace Bully: I," Point Lookout for February 3, 2010, for more.
- Have a clear objective
- You probably can't "fix" or instruct or improve the bully, because you haven't been asked to. But you can force the bully to find another target, or at least, cease targeting you. That is a clear, achievable objective.
- It can't be achieved in one dramatic incident. Prepare for a campaign — a series of small face-offs.
- Rely on strategic surprise
- As you begin formulating a campaign, you'll feel an urge to counterattack immediately in small ways. Resist the urge. Bullies sense these changes. If you counterattack before you're really ready, the bully can prepare for whatever you finally decide to do.
- Strategic surprise is a significant advantage. Maintain the posture of a helpless target until you can suddenly apply overwhelming force. See "Biological Mimicry and Workplace Bullying," Point Lookout for March 31, 2010, for more.
- Most workplace bullying is psychological, not physical
- While physical bullying does occur, most workplace bullying is psychological, consisting of rumors, lies, shunning, innuendo, exclusion, humiliation, shouting, insults, and more. Avoid physical confrontation, because criminal charges are likely.
- Tactics for effective counterattacks depend on the tactics of the bully. Choose an approach at which you're more skilled — or can become more skilled — than the bully is.
- In private, initiate; in public, respond
- In each As you begin formulating a
campaign of counterattack,
you'll feel an urge to counter-
attack immediately in small
ways. Resist the urge.confrontation incident, choose between initiating and responding. In private, initiating the confrontation is a powerful display of confidence and courage. Without witnesses, you have more tactical freedom. In public, wait to be attacked, and respond powerfully.
- If you counterattack in public without provocation, you might seem yourself to be a bully. Provocation by the bully is essential to success in public counterattacks.
- Choose a favorable setting
- Choose the setting for counterattacks carefully. The most favorable setting is either private or one in which most onlookers are hostile to the bully.
- Don't expect open demonstrations of support, because bullies make such demonstrations risky for your supporters. All you need is a few witnesses who are willing to say that the bully provoked you, and that you acted reasonably.
- In attack, be cool
- Screaming, tears, and other expressions of emotion reduce your chances of success. A cool, deliberative posture says, "I enjoy making trouble for you, because you've made so much trouble for me." It shows that you can carry out your plan for as long as necessary.
- The goal of counterattack is to demonstrate that bullying you will be an expensive, painful affair. Coolness emphasizes and supports that message.
All these ideas work better if you believe in yourself. That is the place to begin. You can do it. First in this series Top Next Issue
Is a workplace bully targeting you? 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 . Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenHoWzUJVeioCfozEIner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Workplace Bullying:
- 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.
- Dealing 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?
- The 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.
- Overtalking: I
- Overtalking is the practice of using one's own talking to prevent others from talking. It can lead to
hurt feelings and toxic conflict. Why does it happen and what can we do about it?
- Bullying by Proxy: II
- Bullying by proxy occurs when A bullies B at the behest of C. Organizational control of bullying by
proxy is difficult, in part, because C's contribution is covert. Policies that control overt bullying
are less effective at controlling bullying by proxy.
See also Workplace Bullying and Conflict Management for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 14: Pseudo-Collaborations
- Most workplace collaborations produce results of value. But some collaborations — pseudo-collaborations — are inherently incapable of producing value, due to performance management systems, or lack of authority, or lack of access to information. Available here and by RSS on June 14.
- And on June 21: Asking Burning Questions
- When we suddenly realize that an important question needs answering, directly asking that question in a meeting might not be an effective way to focus the attention of the group. There are risks. Fortunately, there are also ways to manage those risks. Available here and by RSS on June 21.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenHoWzUJVeioCfozEIner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info