Monday, April 25, 2011

U. Underestimate & Unrelenting. Workplace bullying

It's best not to underestimate the tenacity of the serial bully. They will have bullied before, possibly for their entire life. They may have started in the rough and tumble of the playground and advanced to the more sneaky secondary system, to graduate into the workplace where their years of practice culminate in holding power over other adults who expect to work with a mature human being.

The bully may have manipulated themself into a position of power where they can bluff and bluster by appearing busy doing important tasks which they tackle with a frenzy of busy work, meanwhile letting everyone around know how busy they are, how vital to the smooth running of the department.

When tackled about bullying behaviour, the bully will profess innocence, insist there has been a misunderstanding, and they are in no way bullying. But they will go on with the same behaviour; they have no desire to change. The trusting target/s forgive again and again, underestimating the seriousness of the problem they face.

Equally, don't underestimate the power of a friendly word to a friend, colleague or family member who is being bullied. A simple "good on you", a supportive email or text message, a friendly comment can strengthen the target's confidence. Your assistance can make the difference between the target feeling completely alone and knowing that others are in the background; reliable and solidly dependable. I've found it best not to assume that those close to the target will be there when needed (for all sorts of reasons). Kind words are usually very welcome.
"Thoughts are like traces of birds in Heaven" as are kind, supportive words.
East Side Gallery. Berlin. 2009. 
The serial bully is unrelenting in their desire and ability to systematically undermine the target. The bully will continue leaving devastated co-workers or subordinates in the wake of their malicious, vindictive behaviour.  On closer investigation you may find there have been a number of unexplained dismissals or staff leaving without a specific reason. There will be a feeling of tension around the department where a bully operates, a sense of unease and possibly talking behind closed doors.  Co-workers may give veiled hints alluding to a lack of harmony behind a blustering facade of togetherness.

The serial bully will manipulate situations shrewdly and deviously to gain any advantage, their goal is to underminine the target and possibly avoid being seen for being out of their depth. Their self serving goals are obtained at the expense of others and they may have no scruples about tampering with data or systems to make the target appear incompetent. One person I worked with found that whenever data needed to be entered on the computer system, it inexplicably 'crashed', but whenever those on the inner group needed access, all was well.

Bullies are masters at manipulation and deception and are operating from a different set of values and moral code than normal, mature adults. It isn't possible to use the same sort of rational discussion or assume they will behave in ways that are calm, considered, rational and reasonable. Bullies manipulate shamelessly, they are devious, cunning, unreliable and simply not to be trusted no matter how many times they promise to change.

Here tomorrow: Vulnerability

There are many outstanding resources on line. A couple I find useful are Bullying. No way! an Australian resource for teachers and students, and a UK site Bully On Line. This is in no way an exhaustive list, and each country will no doubt have equally good or more relevant websites. If you're being bullied please seek advice from a professional health care practitioner experienced in this area.

Over at jumpingaground I'm spending the month Drabbling using alliteration, many with an environmental theme.


Angela Felsted said...

What's sad is that many believe what they are saying and don't know any other way to be.

It's as if they never matured past the age of 6 or 7. Thank you for this post.

Ann said...

I experienced this type of bully in the workplace a few years ago. Thankfully I am not out of that situation. A manipulator who casts blame on others for their lack of achievement both in the daily sphere and otherwise. said...

Sue, I really appreciate your writing about bullying in the workplace. The way you describe the psyche (lack of scruples, etc.) and agenda of the workplace bully, it's very accurate and helpful. It's an out-of-control problem these days.

sue said...

Angela, that's true, and you're so right about the age range, they're like nasty children in adults clothing. I cringe watching parliamentary "debates"; the lack of maturity and wisdom is sadly lacking.
Ann, congratulations for getting out. They are often lacking in many areas, but shift the blame swiftly, never taking responsibility and learning to behave in an adult manner.
Robyn, thankyou. I suspect it's always been there in one guise or another, but now we're starting to call it for what it is.

Tony Payne said...

Nicely said.

sue said...

Thanks Tony.