Shame can be overpowering. It can hijack your mind. It can limit your ability to think, let alone think rationally. Sleep, even fitful sleep, can become possible only after exhaustion sets in. Connecting with friends or loved ones can become so burdensome that being a friend, or being loved, can feel like a demand, or worse, an attack. Counterattack, against friends and loved ones, can be the only available response.
Shame can be debilitating.
For targets of workplace bullies, shame can be the dominant emotion. Not fear of the bully; rather, fear of being humiliated by the bully. As a target, you come to fear what others think when they watch how the bully abuses you, and when they hear what the bully says about you.
Some bullies choose tactics and timing that maintain the target's shame at the "right" level. Too little shame lets the target think clearly enough to find a way out. Too much shame is a waste of effort.
The shame that targets feel is typically out of proportion to what's actually happening. Here are some reasons why.
- Targets are usually overmatched
- Workplace bullies choose targets; targets hardly ever choose their bullies. Bullies usually have the advantage, because they choose targets they believe they can easily bully. If you're now a target, the bully is better prepared to bully you than you are prepared to defeat (or escape) that bully. This is the bully's doing. For targets, there's no shame in that.
- Powerful bullies seek powerful targets
- Every bully For the targets of workplace
bullies, shame can be the
dominant emotionhas strengths and weaknesses with respect to their effectiveness as a bully. As a target, the bully probably selected you because you're a good fit for that particular bully's strengths and weaknesses. Being the target of a particularly powerful bully means the bully sees you as powerful enough to merit attention. For targets, there's no shame in that.
- The bully's bystanders are afraid
- Most bystanders fear becoming targets themselves. Out of fear, bystanders maintain a sense of safety by appearing to support the bully. To targets, this stance looks like acceptance of the bully's tactics. Although bystanders do seem to believe the bully's assertions, many don't. They're just cowed. This is the bully's doing. For targets, there's no shame in that.
- Bullies try to nurture shame
- Shame is one of the tools bullies use to control their targets. They nurture shame. If they sense that their targets aren't experiencing enough shame, they make adjustments accordingly. As a target, if you're feeling up to it, one way to end the bullying is to refuse to feel ashamed of being targeted.
In workplace bullying, the most shameful act is the bullying. The second most shameful act is the bully's supervisor's failure to end the bullying. The third most shameful act is the bully's supervisor's supervisor's failure to … you get the idea. 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:
- Covert Bullying
- The workplace bully is a tragically familiar figure to many. Bullying is costly to organizations, and
painful to everyone within them — especially targets. But the situation is worse than many realize,
because much bullying is covert. Here are some of the methods of covert bullies.
- How Targets of Bullies Can Use OODA: II
- To make the bullying stop, many targets of bullies try to defend themselves. But defense alone is not
sufficient — someone must make the bully stop. That's why counterattack is much more likely
- When the Chair Is a Bully: II
- Assertiveness by chairs of meetings isn't a problem in itself, but it becomes problematic when the chair's
dominance deprives the meeting of contributions from some of its members. Here's Part II of our exploration
of the problem of bully chairs.
- Rapid-Fire Attacks
- Someone asks you a question. Within seconds of starting to reply, you're hit with another question,
or a rejection of your reply. Abusively. The pattern repeats. And repeats again. And again. You're being
attacked. What can you do?
- See No Bully, Hear No Bully
- Supervisors of bullies sometimes are unaware of bullying activity in their organizations. Here's a collection
of indicators for supervisors who suspect bullying but who haven't witnessed it directly.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 8: The New Virtual Meeting: Digressions
- The bane of meetings everywhere, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, has been digressions. But there are reasons to expect the incidence of digressions in meetings to increase now. What reasons could there be, and what can we do about digressions? Available here and by RSS on April 8.
- And on April 15: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
- Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs. Available here and by RSS on April 15.
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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.