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What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

Insecure Workplace Bully Targets Coworker

by Justin
(San Francisco, CA)

Even though I am now 40 years old I am new to dealing/having dealt with a bully/workplace bully.

I was never bullied growing up although I knew my place having 5 older brothers. I grew up in a loving home by two parents who are still married today having just celebrated 55 years of marriage.

My brothers and I were raised to always stand up for the defenseless and help the downtrodden so I always used the golden rule in relationships and when meeting new people at school or in the workplace.

My experience with workplace bullying began after starting a new job in a different state than where I grew up. All started off great, co-workers seemed happy to have me aboard and offering support while I am settled into the new transition. After 3 months on the job that is when I first felt in my gut something was off with one of my other co-workers who at first had been supportive of me being there.

He seemed a little aggressive and jealous, someone who had many insecurities. I do know he had an abusive mother and father (divorced) growing up and abandonment issues from his mother leaving him and his siblings at a young age. Within three months his passive-aggressiveness was very intense, along with two-faced behavior. The bully would make physical harming threats towards me behind my back to other co-workers, but never to my face. The bully would try to make fun of the way I spoke i.e. my accent in meetings. I thought about confronting the bully about the threats of physical harm towards me behind my back but being two-faced I knew the bully would deny it and I did not want to drag another co-worker into this developing saga. I am sure you are wondering if I informed HR... Well, let us just say this professional company was a very small startup with one incompetent HR person.

After many hours researching workplace bullying during this difficult time at work, it did not take me long to realize this bully is insecure and jealous of me. Unlike a schoolyard bully, I was not targeted because I was a "loner" without friends to stand up to the bully. Nor am I a weakling. Most likely, I was a target (for reasons my bully may or may not have known) because I posed a "threat" to him. This perception of threat is entirely in the bully’s mind, but it is what the bully feels and believes.

After many hours of workplace bullying research, I discovered that thousands of targets have confirmed that targets appear to be the most skilled person in the workgroup. I have included more information here on the characteristics of a potential target: Targets are independent. They refuse to be subservient. Bullies seek to enslave targets. When targets take steps to preserve their dignity, their right to be treated with respect, bullies escalate their campaigns of hatred and intimidation to wrest control of the target's work from the target. Targets are more technically skilled than their bullies. They are the "go-to" workers to whom other employees turn for guidance. Insecure bully co-workers cannot stand to share credit for the recognition of talent. Bullies will try to steal credit from skilled targets. Targets are better liked, they have more social skills, and quite likely possess greater emotional intelligence. They have empathy, even for their bullies (This was true in my case). Colleagues, customers, and management (with exception to the bullies and their sponsors) appreciate the warmth that the targets bring to the workplace. Targets are ethical and honest. Targets are not schemers or slimy con artists. They tend to be guileless. The most easily exploited targets are people with personalities founded on a prosocial orientation -- a desire to help, heal, teach, develop, and nurture others.

Targets are non-confrontive. They do not respond to aggression with aggression. (They are thus morally superior.) But the price paid for apparent submissiveness is that the bully can act with impunity (as long as the employer also does nothing).

Now I will write about what steps I took to combat my workplace bully. Having an incompetent boss and HR rep, I decided to combat this bully on my own and my first step was to start distancing myself from the bully. The bully’s reaction to my new cold shoulder was comical at times because he would ask me weekly “Is everything okay? Or “Did I do anything to make you upset?” I tried my best to always show up to work with a positive attitude. Any coworkers that needed my help I would stop what I was working on and help them. At times I would totally ignore my workplace bully or if the job I was working on required any interaction between me and my bully I would kill him with kindness albeit always in short message form. From my personal experience ignoring the bully works best and I know it is harder said than done, but once the bully sees that his/her actions do not outwardly affect you in any way and they constantly receive the cold shoulder from you the bullying should subside. If not, definitely find another job if you can.

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