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.
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:
- The Costs of Threats
- Threatening as a way of influencing others might work in the short term. But a pattern of using threats
to gain compliance has long-term effects that can undermine your own efforts, corrode your relationships,
and create an atmosphere of fear.
- On Being the Canary
- Nobody else seems to be concerned about what's going on. You are. Should you raise the issue? What are
the risks? What are the risks of not raising the issue?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 3: Capability Inversions and the Dunning-Kruger Effect
- A capability inversion occurs when the person in charge of an effort is far less knowledgeable about the work involved or its purpose than are the people doing that work. In capability inversions, the Dunning-Kruger effect can intensify group dysfunction, sometimes severely disrupting the effort. Available here and by RSS on June 3.
- And on June 10: They Don't Reply to My Email
- Ever have the experience of sending an email message to someone, asking for information or approval or whatever, and then waiting for a response that comes only too late? Maybe your correspondent is an evil loser, but maybe not. Maybe the problem is in your message. Available here and by RSS on June 10.
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- Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.
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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.