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
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:
- Hurtful Clichés: I
- Much of our day-to-day conversation consists of harmless clichés: "How goes it?" or
"Nice to meet you." Some other clichés aren't harmless, but they're so common that
we use them without thinking. Maybe it's time for some thought.
- 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.
- 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?
- Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal
abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers
rely on to avoid disciplinary action.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming 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.
- And on February 5: Unrecognized Bullying: I
- Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized. Three reasons: (a) conventional definitions of bullying exclude much actual bullying; (b) perpetrators cleverly evade detection; and (c) cognitive biases skew our perceptions so we don't see bullying as bullying. Available here and by RSS on February 5.
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