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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bullies at Work: Deny, Deflect, Persist, Discredit

The Bully's Destructive Template:
Divide and Conquer

When Confronted, Don't Expect the Sociopath-Bully to Fess Up

In my twenties I had a relationship with a man who was also carrying on a concurrent relationship with a colleague I worked with on a daily basis. We never knew about his relationship with the other--each believing the stories he told us about why he was spending time with the other. He told me this very healthy-looking nineteen year old was very sick but didn't want anyone to know about it and he--a doctor--was helping her (She wasn't sick).

On the day we discovered the truth about his deceit and unconscionable lies we confronted him.  And what did he do? Did he break down and confess all? No, he masterfully threw a cloak of secrecy over the confrontation and continued the deception by pulling each of us aside to spread his lies about the other while using his charm to attempt to make each of us feel special. This was my introduction to the artful maneuverings of the sociopathic-narcissistic bully.

Deny, Deflect, Persist, Discredit

Sociopath bullies are not only found in the personal realm, they are also prevalent in organizations--and right out in plain sight for all to see.

Recently on the MSNBC Chris Hayes show, Jeffery Sonnenfeld, Senior Associate Dean for Leadership Studies at the Yale School of Management and Lester Crown Professor of Management Practice and co-author of 'FIRING BACK'  had this to say about former Hewlett-Packard CEO and Presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina:
'If I wasn't on t.v. I would say she had a sociopathic denial of reality. When confronted with the facts, first she denys, then she deflects. When we persist in questioning the truth, she discredits and attacks.'

Can You Avoid the Lure of the Charming Bully?
If there is a narcissistic bully in your midst you will be pulled into their game either as a charmed ally/follower or as a targeted person to attack, discredit, and bring down. There is no middle ground.
Narcissistic bullies are sociopaths without a conscience and without the ability to care. Despite giving the illusion of caring about others they are incapable of loving. They are narcissistic users and manipulators who can do a lot of damage to you and me--and to entire organizations and countries--when we succumb to their false charismatic charms. 

It doesn't matter how smart you are. You can be a very astute and intelligent person and still fall prey to the sociopathic bully's charm and deceptions. All of us--wise and gullible--need to learn how to protect ourselves from their destructive ways.
None of us are so wise we can avoid being pulled into a master manipulator's game. 

The ultimate question for those of us unknowingly brought into the bully's game:
How do we do damage control to our own integrity or self esteem once we've been brought into the game? How do we move forward keeping our best self intact? 

Seeing Past the Cloak of Secrecy and Deception

Protect Yourself: Recognize You're Dealing with a Sociopath
Question: 'Is she truly a sociopathic bully'?  How can I know for sure? Sure, I get that niggling feeling down in my gut, but how can I really know? She accomplishes so much and I personally haven't had a problem with her--she seems to like me.'
Answer: As George Bernard Shaw once said, 'No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious.'  
When things start to feel wrong and you can't quite put your finger on what that is--start looking for a unconscionable bully in your midst artfully spreading misinformation and discord in a game of divide and conquer to win in their personal game of control and domination. Then look for a pattern of deny, deflect, persist and discredit.

While it may be impossible to avoid the lure of the charming bully, it is possible to recognize the results of their destructive game--such as creating factions at work; denigrating comments about others; suspicion of others; conflict and unease; and being pulled into private conversations separate and apart from others.

Bullies can be so charming and and subtle in their destruction it can be difficult to see what they're doing. But learn to look beyond their initial engaging behavior to see the destruction and distrust around you so you can be on the alert for a destructive sociopath among you. 

What behaviors to look for in a bully: 
  • Playing the Games: Divide and conquer; control and domination
  • Divisive and Destructive: Discord now present where there was none.
  • Charm and Discredit: charming one person while discounting/discrediting the other. Going around some; engaging and charming others.
  • Leads through Manipulation rather than Motivation: Gets others to do their bidding.
  • Deny and Deflect: When confronted with truth/facts....deny, deny, deny.
  • Persistent: After being called on for destructive or deceptive behavior...he/she starts up again...persistent--never giving up the charge.
Beware: Ongoing underhanded and furtive behavior is hard to catch even after you've recognized it once.  Because we don't like to think poorly of others we may find ourselves just wanting to get on with things--and not wanting to get in the middle of 'someone else's fight'.

Letting Your Guard Down too Soon: Even after we recognize the bully for who he or she is, many of us let go of 'what we know' too soon, and let our guard down too quickly after we solve an immediate skirmish with the persistent bully. When we let down our guard, the charming narcissist regroups and attacks from another angle. 
'Relentless' is the bully's middle name.

Protect Yourself: Know You are NOT Special to Bullies 

When you're groomed as an ally rather than the target for the Bully, its easy to be seduced into believing you're special. 

The charming narcissist will tell you--you have special talents and invite you into her inner circle because of your 'leadership' qualities, while leading you to believe you're a notch above and different from everyone else. The ability of the narcissistic charmer to make you feel special and apart creates blinders that make it more difficult for you to see the bully's behavior for what it is: divisive and disruptive.

Remember, bullies have no true feelings as we know them. No matter how it looks--you are NOT special to them; you are merely a pawn in their game, not a favored person.

Regular rules of engagement do not work with bullies. What you see is NOT what you get with them. You can't just communicate 'as usual' or draw the usual conclusions when dealing with these master manipulators. They know you better than you know them and they'll manipulate your attitudes and actions.
If you're a kind-hearted, trusting person, the charming bullies know you want to communicate in an upfront, trusting manner--believing in the basic goodness of all-- and they'll use that against you. If you're naturally skeptic, the bully is artful at sizing you up and using that against you too. They simply play the game better than the rest of us.

Protect Yourself: Know the Difference Between Motivation and Manipulation

There is a subtle, but important difference between master motivators and master manipulators. They both 'inspire' you to do things. But motivators help you do what you want yourself to do, while manipulators get you to do what they want you to do.

Motivation: Getting others to do what they want themselves to do.

Manipulation: Getting others to do what you want them to do.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you being motivated or manipulated into action?
  • Do you find yourself withholding what you really think?
  • Are you uncomfortable about the direction the process or the conversation is going?
  • What do you think to say but fail to speak up about?
  • When you do speak up to get your thoughts on the table, are you listened to or ignored unless your suggestions are in alignment with the narcissist's?

Protect Yourself: Step Out of the Bully's Game by Acting on Your Core Values

Once you see the bully's behavior for what it is--commit to clean communication with all others--and consciously protect yourself and the organization or family by staying alert to the bully's self-centered intentions and sometimes charming, yet destructive methods.

When you check in with yourself to guide your actions by your own beliefs and goals it provides you the measuring stick you need to judge if you're being motivated or manipulated. 

Give yourself plenty of down time to examine your own core beliefs and values--and consciously act in ways that are closely aligned with them. Don't be bullied into doing someone else's bidding.

The only long-term effective way to step out of the bully's game is to have plenty of down-time to consider your beliefs and goals along the way so your actions can be internally driven. The more time you spend with narcissists, the more easily you're manipulated by them. 

There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity.Nathaniel Branden

The Anti-Bully Team Communication 
and Conflict Style

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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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Jean | said...

Sue, "divide and conquer, discord where there was none" is a simple description of a "bullies at work" situation I was in years ago. After seven years of a peaceful situation, I found the workplace unbearable after this woman was hired. At that time, I didn't have the energy to stay on and solve the problem (my energy had to go to my sister who was dying), so I bowed out. I was sad about it, but I then went on to start up a new career that I was in for a long time.

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

Jean, I am so sorry you lost your sister. You always strike me as someone who finds your way through difficulty and go on to create something better as a result of that difficulty. You are yet one more statistic showing why organizations with bullies freely roaming the workplace lose so many good people. The negative effect of these sociopaths is significant. That is why we must all help each other find our way through dealing with them!