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Friday, September 25, 2015

The Workplace Bully's Game: How to Stop Playing

Conscience is the window of our spirit, evil is the curtain. Doug Horton
Putting Your Finger on the Unspoken Problem

The other night I had the most enlightening dream. A nice looking man exhibited bad behavior in plain view against my person. This man calmly walked out on 'the playing field', grabbed me, held me down and put his hand on my breast in plain view of all. His sole purpose was to do this publicly and get away with it while the people in the bleachers looking on did and said nothing. It was an unconscionable act--perpetrated by a man with no feeling about his actions whose only intent was to control me and show his domination.

....For him the thrill was knowing he could openly do this in plain sight and get away with it.

Occasionally I come across people in the workplace I'm hard pressed to understand how and why they do unconscionable things. They don't seem to feel bad about their actions--so I begin to look for the logical, rational reason behind their actions. And that is my downfall--for as Martha Stout, author of 'The Sociopath Next Door' says unlike most of us led by our conscience there are people living and working among us who literally have no conscience.

According to Martha Stout, PhD, author of 'The Sociopath Next Door' :
'1 in 25 ordinary Americans secretly has no conscience and can do anything at all without feeling guilty.'

I don't know that I've ever really contemplated the word UNCONSCIONABLE before now--yet I know I've witnessed unconscionable behavior and my dream captured the essence of the experience and fully expressed the game of the unconscionable bully.


Controlling others and winning 

The ultimate thrill is domination over other people.

It's really hard to grasp the thought that another human being actually lives life without a conscience resulting in no feelings of guilt, shame, or remorse for what others would consider bad behavior and actions against other people.

Yet when you understand  'unconscionable people' exist it can explain how bad behavior can exist publicly un-protested--without a reasonable, rational explanation that makes sense to those of us with a conscience. It is simply unthinkable that people would act in unthinkable ways to purposefully destroy or denigrate others so we give them the benefit of the doubt.

Unconscionable Bullies: How To Recognize Them 

UNCONSCIONABLE  When I looked up the definition of unconscionable there it was: not guided or controlled by conscience; unscrupulous;  excessive, unreasonable—as in shockingly unfair or unjust practices; extremely bad, unfair, or wrong behavior.

Of course I just thought that meant a person had a momentary lapse of conscience rather than no conscience at all. Boy was I wrong.

On the surface, most people without conscience--or 'remorseless' bullies--look like the rest of us. They live and work among us and can appear quite ordinary--until we get caught up and targeted in their game.

It's easy for us to assume they're 'just like us', never realizing they have no conscience to guide them. They play by different rules and different games. They have no problem lying straight to your face and in front of other people, and it can be extremely difficult to hold them accountable. They are remorseless.

Harvard psychologist, Martha Stout, says you can recognize the 'remorseless' by one of their chief characteristics--'a kind of glow of charisma' that makes the sociopath more charming or interesting than other people around them.
They are more spontaneous, intense and perhaps sexier than everyone else making them tricky to identify and leaving us easily seduced. Fundamentally sociopaths are different because they can not love.

These charismatic bullies learn to show sham emotions from an early age, but underneath they are indifferent to your suffering and demise. They live to dominate you and to win over you.

Charismatic bullies are the every day, common variety sociopaths who are unscrupulous, unprincipled, and unconscionable liars.

Why Do They Target You?

If you are a person these bullies tend to target for their search and destroy missions, consider that a good mark on your character. What these sociopaths envy they seek to destroy.

According to Stout, there is usually something in your strong character structure that makes you a target for the bully's take down.

The remorseless bully can walk into a room, meet you for the first time, and immediately identify you as the one to target. The stronger or more powerful you are, or the more you are loved and respected by others the better target you make.

Make no mistake, they are intentionally trying to harm you and your ability to do your work. Theirs is a game of 'take down'  pure and simple--'a gratuitous sabotage or undermining of your work performance'.

Workplace Bullies Relentlessly Pick Away at Your Strengths

The workplace bullies are relentless at picking away at the very thing you are really good at and often use their seemingly charismatic ways to subtly and systematically turn others against you and your talents, abilities or strengths.

Are you a highly motivated, creative person? Bingo! The charismatic bully will systematically use his charm to turn other's perception of you into that of an unmotivated, stuck-in-your-ways person who needs to be bypassed to get anything done.

Are you a well loved and respected leader among your colleagues? The charismatic bully will sow the seeds of discontent among the group and work to cut off and limit your interactions with others.

It's nearly impossible to negotiate with narcissistic bullies. 'They're right and they haven't done anything wrong.' You are simply an impediment who needs to be pushed aside or run over.

Why Workplace Bullies Get Away with Bad Behavior

Unfortunately its difficult to get help dealing with workplace bullies and you're on your own to decide to stay or leave the situation.

Colleagues may fear getting splattered by the negativity, or fear upsetting the bullies so they retreat and fail to speak up. Still others are seduced by the charm and attention of the charismatic bully and simply look the other way.

Leaders of the organization may be focused on the high profile position the Bully often holds and be resistant to confronting her. Sometimes it is the leader in the organization that is the problem.

As the chart shows below, the most common employer response to abusive bully behavior at work is to deny, defend or discount it.

Until colleagues and leaders in an organization can openly share and talk about the nature of the bully's public actions he will get away with bad behavior every time.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke

How to Stop Playing the Bully's Game

How do good people fight unconscionable bullies? 

You can only do it by grouping together to shine a light on their dark, destructive behavior.

You can not win by going into direct combat with these sociopaths. You can't win because this IS their game. If you confront the bully, be assertive, not aggressive. Talk facts, not feelings. And if you're a bystander, step in.

You must state the obvious IN PUBLIC--and not be bullied into keeping silent.

Once you openly acknowledge and name what's going on, you must continue to talk openly, keeping no secrets for the bully. Be willing to share information freely with others.

What is an organization's role in fighting workplace bullying?

The organization must take an active role in putting a stop to workplace bullying. If those in authority or a position of influence do nothing, not only is the individual person affected, but the whole of the organization will be harmed by the divisive, destructive behavior.

If the leadership does not directly stop the bullying behavior, morale goes down and turnover increases as good people leave the organization.

How to step out of the workplace bully's game if the organization does not support you...

If you do not have the direct, complicit on-going support of the organization, get out of the situation. Life is too short to stay in the bully's game.

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For more than 30 years, Susan Meyerott has been helping people lighten up and step over invisible barriers to change one step at a time. She speaks to your heart, puts you at ease, and makes changing easier than ever before.

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ArtL said...

Wow! Can I ever relate to this...seeing the bullying in the workplace. I love the explanations of workplace bullying. My only exasperation is that unless higher management recognizes and addresses the bullying, nothing will change.

Life is too short not to be somewhere awesome!

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Ah Art! That IS the exasperation! Within the organizational setting, if higher management fails to recognize, accept and address the bullying, nothing will change. That leaves the only course of action for the affected individuals is to move on to another organization. And, YES--LIFE IS TOO SHORT NOT TO BE SOMEWHERE AWESOME!

Jean | said...

Sue, these two posts are spot on! I could see, looking back, that this new woman in the office had decided to target me the moment she laid eyes on me. I've always wondered who her next target was after I left.

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Well consider her targeting you a good statement of your own character, Jean!