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 . Order Now!
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More articles on Workplace Bullying:
- Confronting the Workplace Bully: I
- When a bully targets you, you have three options: accept the abuse; avoid the bully or escape; and confront
or fight back. Confrontation is a better choice than many believe — if you know what you're doing.
- How Workplace Bullies Use OODA: I
- Workplace bullies who succeed in carrying on their activities over a long period of time rely on more
than mere intimidation to escape prosecution. They proactively shape their environments to make them
safe for bullying. The OODA model gives us insights into how they accomplish this.
- When the Chair Is a Bully: I
- Most meetings have chairs or "leads." Although the expression that the chair "owns"
the meeting is usually innocent shorthand, some chairs actually believe that they own the meeting. This
view is almost entirely destructive. What are the consequences of this attitude, and what can we do about it?
- 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?
- 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?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 22: Disjoint Awareness: Bias
- Some cognitive biases can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Confirmation bias and self-serving bias are two examples of cognitive biases that can contribute to disjoint awareness in some situations. Available here and by RSS on January 22.
- And on January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
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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.