Bullies can be anyone. They vary from ordinary people who bully to achieve personal goals, strive for promotions, impress their managers or put you down because they see you as a threat. On the other hand they may be psychopaths, sociopaths or people with anti-social personality disorders. Bullies want to control, manipulate, intimidate and control others. They are clever, subtle, devious and treacherous. They usually pretend to be good managers and take pains to profess having the best interests and values of the organization at heart. They are power hungry and are skilled at distorting, fabricating events and character assassination. These people are self-centered, narrow minded and use people to further their own interests. They are motivated by a desire for power and to be seen as lords and masters of everything and everybody.
You must understand this and the fact that there is very little that you can do to change a bully’s mind or behavior. Be very careful when dealing with them as they can be very vindictive when challenged. It is simple minded and fruitless to politely ask them to stop bullying. Resistance from you will likely lead to renewed attacks.
How to deal with bullies
You must not be a willing victim and take whatever is dished out to you. This means that you must understand what is happening and that it is not your fault. You should plan, take action, resist and be self-reliant. This is very hard to do when you are in turmoil.
Knowledge is power and you should learn as much as you can about bullying and how others have coped with it. You are not alone. Read accounts by other people who have been bullied.
Suggestions for how to cope with bullying.
- Try to avoid it. You are unlikely to win, be exonerated or receive justice. It does happen, but the costs are high physically and financially.
- Recognize that you are not alone and many others have gone through this.
- Read stories about other victims and share your case with them if you are up to it. There are many good books and online sites for this. The more you know the better.
- As soon as possible educate yourself about your legal rights and consult the best lawyer you can find. Be sure that you find one that is experienced and aggressive. Things can get very messy very quickly.
- Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you are paranoid, or crazy. You are not.
- Don’t expect that right will prevail, that the truth will come out and be believed, that there will be justice or forgiveness or re-instatement. It can happen but it will take a huge amount of time, effort and the cost will be great.
- Don’t expect all of your friends or colleagues to stand up for you and support you. You will become a pariah and most will treat you as such.
- Realize that administrators can seldom be embarrassed and will ignore allegations that they are wrong, wilfully ignoring rules, doing anything bad or underhanded. They don’t care what people say about them.
- Go to the media as soon as possible. Don’t come across as a whiner. Take the high road and tell everything. If you delay, the opposition will get there first, say the most appalling things and people will tend to believe them given who they are. Don’t expect the media to be impartial or fair. They are only interested in attracting readers or listeners. The facts will only get in the way. If you win, be prepared to have news about that relegated to a back page as it will no longer be news.
- Don’t agree to keep anything confidential. They certainly won’t so why should you? Openness and transparency are your best defences.
- Think about whether it is worthwhile to win and especially to win at all costs. If you win and try to stay on, what will you be getting yourself into? You will still be unpopular, a target and probably not very happy. Defeating them even a little bit will make them crazy and they will be only too determined to carry it on.
- At the end of the day, it may be better, easier and wiser to leave. But if you do, go on your terms. Remember they want to get rid of you, so make them pay and pay and pay to get their wish. Demand a large financial settlement, or leave or benefits or anything you can get. A public apology will NOT be part of it, but you can often obtain a good set of references detailing your skills and abilities. They will be very careful about giving you anything in writing that will give you grounds for wrongful or constructive dismissal.
- Understand why bullying happens and why it has happened to you. Something triggered this and you need to be clear about what it was. You may be completely blameless, but you must recognize what has led up to the situation.
- Realize that this is a crisis and unless you have been through it before, it is a situation you don’t know how to handle no matter how clever you think you may be. You will need help to get through this and you cannot do it alone.
- Don’t let yourself become emotional. The bullies would love to see this happen.
- Develop a support network. The more people you have who are behind you, the better. However, recognize that this may make them targets too.
- Keep records and a journal and document everything. Be careful that you don’t leave this where you work or in a spot where anyone but you has access to it.
- Maintain your physical and mental health. Beating a ball against the wall in a squash court while you think of it as the bully can reduce some of your stress. But take care of your mental state too. People being bullied often think they are losing touch with reality and it may be useful to talk to a counsellor.
- Don`t expect that you or anyone else will be able to change the way the bullies think and behave. Nothing short of a frontal lobotomy will change their minds or attitudes.
All of this may sound pretty negative and it is. Can you win? Yes, but the cost psychologically, socially, career wise and financially may not be worth it. To be sure there have been successful legal challenges but they may take years and extract a heavy toll. Be prepared to reconsider your goals and career. Whatever job you have is not the only occupation in the world. You might be happier and more fulfilled doing something else. Look on this as an opportunity. The best revenge you can possibly have is to be outstanding and fulfilled elsewhere.
It is possible to fight back but you must be careful what you do and how you do it. Striking back or retaliating may simply lead to more bullying and damage to you. Consider your options carefully and understand that you may not be able to defeat the bullies in court, hearings or tribunals and appearing in any of these venues may damage your case.
There is a lot of foolish and unworkable advice out there so be careful about who you are listen to for advice. Suggestions to go to the bully and have a pleasant chat or appealing to your union or the company HR department probably won’t work.
Can you win?
It all depends on how you defining winning. It is unlikely that you will be successful in trying to set the record straight, publicizing your side of the story or seeing to it that the perpetrators are found out and punished. Nor is it likely that you will be able to stay on in your position. Refusing to be intimidated and continuing in your position makes the bullies crazy and they will likely renew their efforts to ruin you. The best thing you can do is to get the better of them by moving on to a different organization and being successful in a new job or even a new career. Your main task will be to become successful somewhere else.
This doesn’t resolve the desire for revenge nor does it deal with your concerns about what other people think. There is relatively little that you can do about either of these things except to understand that no one really cares about what has been said about you and the people closest to you know the truth anyway.
The best thing you can do is to get over it, put your bullying experiences out of your mind, and resist dwelling on what is past. Refuse to allow this to ruin your life. Move on. This will be far better than thinking about the bullying and how dreadful it was. If you do that, the bullies will have won.