How do workplace bullies escape prosecution for as long as they do? Why do their targets tolerate ill treatment for as long as they do? Why do bystanders look the other way as consistently as they do? While most bullies do intimidate nearly everyone around them, that alone doesn't provide satisfactory answers to these questions.
A more satisfactory explanation is that workplace bullies shape their environments to enable continuation of their activities with a minimum of interference. The OODA model, due to US Air Force Col. John Boyd, is a useful tool for understanding how bullies shape their environments. See "OODA at Work," Point Lookout for April 6, 2011, for a summary of the model.
Here is Part I of a small catalog of the ways workplace bullies use the OODA model.
- Most bullies engage in bullying out of compulsion. Although they do plan and they do consciously formulate their attack strategies, they generally don't study bullying scientifically, and they are thus unaware of models like the OODA loop.
- Their understanding of OODA is thus intuitive. Since intuition is founded on experience and observation, the bully's use of OODA is usually limited to what the bully has experienced or seen.
- Targets can exploit this limitation by devising responses to bullying that would require their bullies to use OODA in ways their bullies are unlikely to have seen or experienced. See, for example, "Biological Mimicry and Workplace Bullying," Point Lookout for March 31, 2010.
- Selecting targets
- Bullies tend Since intuition is founded on
experience and observation, the
bully's use of OODA is usually
limited to what the bully has
experienced or seento select targets who, in their estimation, will not effectively resist the bullying. For example, bullies often regard someone who has a limited network of close associates as less likely to be able to mount effective resistance. That's one reason why bullies favor targets who are isolated from, withdrawn from, or different from the group as a whole. Since members of minorities tend to associate most closely with other members of their minority group, they're more likely to have limited networks, and thus make tempting targets for bullies.
- Here are two examples illustrating the importance of limited networks of close associates. Observation is the first element of the OODA Loop. Since a limited network reduces the ability of the prospective target to acquire information about the bully's activities, people with limited networks are less able to observe their situations, and thus less able to respond effectively. Action is the fourth element of the OODA Loop. Limited personal networks also reduce the ability of prospective targets to act in their own defense, because, for example, they have less ability to secure testimony in support of allegations against their bullies.
- Prospective targets can reduce their attractiveness to bullies by expanding their networks of close associates.
In Part II, we'll examine how and why workplace bullies try to control the tempo of their activities, and how they approach the more general shaping of their environments. Next in this series Top Next Issue
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:
- Responding 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.
- How Workplace Bullies Use OODA: II
- Workplace bullies who succeed in carrying on their activities over a long period of time are intuitive
users of Boyd's OODA model. Here's Part II of an exploration of how bullies use the model.
- 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.
- 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.
- Social Isolation and Workplace Bullying
- 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?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 15: Entry Intimidation
- Feeling intimidated about entering a new work situation can affect performance for both the new entrant and for the group as a whole. Four trouble patterns related to entry intimidation are inadvertent subversion, bullying, hat hanging, and defenses and sabotage. Available here and by RSS on May 15.
- And on May 22: Newtonian Blind Alleys: I
- When we decide how to allocate organizational resources, we make assumptions about how the world works. Often outside our awareness, the thinking of Sir Isaac Newton influences our assumptions. And sometimes they lead us into blind alleys. Universality is one example. Available here and by RSS on May 22.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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.