Here are links to the previous issues of Point Lookout that touch on workplace bullying. Bookmark this page. Or browse the Point Lookout archive by date. Subscribe now.
- Coming March 29: Time Slot Recycling: The Risks
- When we can't begin a meeting because some people haven't arrived, we sometimes cancel the meeting and hold a different one, with the people who are in attendance. It might seem like a good way to avoid wasting time, but there are risks. Available here and by RSS on March 29.
- And on April 5: The Fallacy of Division
- Errors of reasoning are pervasive in everyday thought in most organizations. One of the more common errors is called the Fallacy of Division, in which we assume that attributes of a class apply to all members of that class. It leads to ridiculous results. Available here and by RSS on April 5.
Other topical archives:
October 26, 2022
- Bullying by Proxy: II
- Bullying by proxy occurs when A bullies B at the behest of C. Organizational control of bullying by proxy is difficult, in part, because C's contribution is covert. Policies that control overt bullying are less effective at controlling bullying by proxy.
October 19, 2022
- Bullying by Proxy: I
- The form of workplace bullying perhaps most often observed involves a bully and a target. Other forms are less obvious. One of these, bullying by proxy, is especially difficult to control, because it so easily evades most anti-bullying policies.
September 21, 2022
- 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.
September 14, 2022
- Unrecognized Bullying: III
- Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized because of cognitive biases that can cause targets, perpetrators, bystanders, and supervisors of perpetrators not to notice bullying. The Halo Effect and the Horn Effect are two of these biases.
August 10, 2022
- Covert Verbal Abuse at Work
- Verbal abuse at work uses written or spoken language to disparage, disadvantage, or harm others. Perpetrators favor tactics they can subsequently deny having used. Even more favored are abusive tactics that are so subtle that others don't notice them.
July 20, 2022
- Overt Verbal Abuse at Work
- Verbal abuse in the workplace involves using written or spoken language to disparage, to disadvantage, or to otherwise harm others. Perpetrators tend to favor tactics that they can subsequently deny having used to harm anyone.
June 22, 2022
- Double Binds at Work
- At work, a double bind arises when someone in authority makes contradictory demands of a subordinate, who has no alternative but to choose among options that all lead to unwelcome results. Double binds are far more common than most of us realize.
June 15, 2022
- 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.
April 20, 2022
- Anticipatory Disappointment at Work
- Disappointment is usually unpleasant, and sometimes benign. But when it occurs before we have evidence of bad news — when it is anticipatory — disappointment can be unnecessary and expensive. What is anticipatory disappointment? What are the risks?
January 12, 2022
- On Gratuitous Harshness
- Rejecting with gratuitous harshness the contributions of others can be an expensive pattern to tolerate — or to indulge. Understanding how the costs arise and what factors exacerbate them is the first step to controlling the pattern.
May 26, 2021
- Even "Isolated Incidents" Can Be Bullying
- Many organizations have anti-bullying policies that address only repeated patterns of interpersonal aggression. Such definitions expose the organization and its people to the harmful effects of "isolated incidents" of interpersonal aggression, because even isolated incidents can be bullying.
April 14, 2021
- What Micromanaging Is and Isn't
- Micromanaging is a dysfunctional pattern of management behavior, involving interference in the work others are supposedly doing. Confusion about what it is and what it isn't makes effective response difficult.
October 14, 2020
- Power Mobbing at Work
- Mobbing is a form of group bullying of an individual — the target. Power mobbing occurs when a politically powerful person orchestrates the mobbing. It's a form of bullying that's especially harmful to the target and the organization.
February 12, 2020
- Unrecognized Bullying: II
- Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized because of cognitive biases that can cause targets, bystanders, perpetrators, and supervisors of perpetrators not to notice bullying. Confirmation bias is one such cognitive bias.
February 5, 2020
- 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 some bullying as bullying.
May 15, 2019
- Entry Intimidation
- Feeling intimidated about entering a new work situation can affect performance for both the new entrant and for the group as a whole. Four trouble patterns related to entry intimidation are inadvertent subversion, bullying, hat hanging, and defenses and sabotage.
January 23, 2019
- 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?
August 8, 2018
- Strategy for Targets of Verbal Abuse
- Many targets of verbal abuse at work believe that they have just two strategic options: find a new job, or accept the abuse. In some cases, they're correct. But not always.
August 1, 2018
- 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.
November 29, 2017
- Manipulators Beware
- When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators.
August 23, 2017
- Look Where You Aren't Looking
- Being blindsided by an adverse event could indicate the event's sudden, unexpected development. It can also indicate a failure to anticipate what could have been reasonably anticipated. How can we improve our ability to prepare for adverse events?
November 2, 2016
- Shame and Bullying
- Targets of bullies sometimes experience intense feelings of shame. Here are some insights that might restore the ability to think, and maybe end the bullying.
July 2, 2014
- Seventeen Guidelines About Workplace Bullying
- Bullying is a complex social pattern. Thinking clearly about bullying is difficult in the moment because our emotions can distract us. Here are some short insights about bullying that are easy to remember in the moment.
October 16, 2013
- 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?
September 11, 2013
- So You Want the Bullying to End: II
- If you're the target of a workplace bully, ending the bullying can be an elusive goal. Here are some guidelines for tactics to bring it to a close.
August 28, 2013
- So You Want the Bullying to End: I
- If you're the target of a workplace bully, you probably want the bullying to end. If you've ever been the target of a workplace bully, you probably remember wanting it to end. But how it ends can be more important than whether or when it ends.
August 21, 2013
- 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?
December 26, 2012
- 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.
October 3, 2012
- 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.
August 8, 2012
- 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?
August 1, 2012
- 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?
July 4, 2012
- 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.
June 27, 2012
- 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.
June 20, 2012
- 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?
June 13, 2012
- Meeting Bullies: Advice for Chairs
- Bullying in meetings is difficult to address, because intervention in the moment is inherently public. When bullying happens in meetings, what can you do?
June 8, 2011
- Workplace Bullying and Workplace Conflict: II
- Of the tools we use to address toxic conflict, many are ineffective for ending bullying. Here's a review of some of the tools that don't work well and why.
June 1, 2011
- Workplace Bullying and Workplace Conflict: I
- Bullying is unlike other forms of toxic conflict. That's why the tools we use to address toxic conflict simply do not work for bullying. In this Part I, we contrast bullying and ordinary toxic conflict.
May 4, 2011
- 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 to work.
April 27, 2011
- How Targets of Bullies Can Use OODA: I
- Most targets of bullies just want the bullying to stop, but most bullies don't stop unless they fear for their own welfare if they continue the bullying. To end the bullying, targets must turn the tables.
April 20, 2011
- How Workplace Bullies Use OODA: II
- Workplace bullies who succeed in carrying on their activities over a long period of time are intuitive users of Boyd's OODA model. Here's Part II of an exploration of how bullies use the model.
April 13, 2011
- 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.
August 4, 2010
- 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?
March 31, 2010
- Biological Mimicry and Workplace Bullying
- When targets of bullies decide to stand up to their bullies, to end the harassment, they frequently act before they're really ready. Here's a metaphor that explains the value of waiting for the right time to act.
March 3, 2010
- What Is Workplace Bullying?
- We're gradually becoming aware that workplace bullying is a significant deviant pattern in workplace relationships. To deal effectively with it, we must know how to recognize it. Here's a start.
February 10, 2010
- Confronting the Workplace Bully: II
- When bullied, one option is to fight back, but many don't, because they fear the consequences. Confrontation is a better choice than many believe — if you know what you're doing.
February 3, 2010
- 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.
January 13, 2010
- 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.
March 12, 2008
- 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.
February 27, 2008
- Responding to Threats: II
- When an exchange between individuals, or between an individual and a group, goes wrong, threats often are either the cause or part of the results. If we know how to deal with threats — and how to avoid and prevent them — we can help keep communications creative and constructive.
February 20, 2008
- Responding to Threats: I
- Threats are one form of communication common to many organizational cultures, especially as pressure mounts. Understanding the varieties of threats can be helpful in determining a response that fits for you.
November 2, 2005
- 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.
October 12, 2005
- Looking the Other Way
- Sometimes when we notice wrongdoing, and we aren't directly involved, we don't report it, and we don't intervene. We look the other way. Typically, we do this to avoid the risks of making a report. But looking the other way is also risky. What are the risks of looking the other way?
July 27, 2005
- Hurtful Clichés: II
- 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. Here's Part II of a series exploring some of these clichés.
July 13, 2005
- 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.
June 29, 2005
- Deniable Intimidation
- Some people achieve or maintain power by intimidating others in deniable ways. Too often, when intimidators succeed, their success rests in part on our unwillingness to resist, or on our lack of skill. By understanding their tactics, and by preparing responses, we can deter intimidators.
August 25, 2004
- Some Truths About Lies: II
- Knowing when someone else is lying doesn't make you a more ethical person, but it sure can be an advantage if you want to stay out of trouble. Here's Part II of a catalog of techniques misleaders use.
March 24, 2004
- Intimidation Tactics: Touching
- Workplace touching can be friendly, or it can be dangerous and intimidating. When touching is used to intimidate, it often works, because intimidators know how to select their targets. If you're targeted, what can you do?
March 17, 2004
- When You're the Target of a Bully
- Workplace bullies are probably the organization's most expensive employees. They reduce the effectiveness not only of their targets, but also of bystanders and of the organization as a whole. What can you do if you become a target?
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