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.
In Part II, we'll examine how targets can end the bullying by focusing on situational awareness. Next 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!
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More articles on Workplace Bullying:
- 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.
- 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?
- Judging Others
- Being "judgmental" is a stance most people recognize as transgressing beyond widely accepted
social norms. But what's the harm in judging others? And why do so many people do it so often?
- We Can 'Moneyball' Bullying
- Capturing data about incidents of bullying is helpful in creating awareness of the problem. But it's
like trying to drive a car by looking only in the rearview mirror. Forward-looking data that predicts
bullying incidents is also necessary.
- Online Ethics
- The array of media for exchanging our thoughts in text has created new opportunities for acting unethically.
Cyberbullying is one well-known example. But sending text is just one way to cross the line ethically.
Here are some examples of alternatives.
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.
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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.
- Wikipedia has a nice article with a list of additional resources
- Some public libraries offer collections. Here's an example from Saskatoon.
- Check my own links collection
- LinkedIn's Office Politics discussion group