From Bully to Victim: How Some Workplace Bullies Turn the Tables on Their Targets
Here’s a frustrating situation I know all too well. What if the person at work who is bullying you claims he or she is actually the victim of bullying…by YOU!
This is an all too-common scenario, and when I read this recent article from David Yamada, I found myself nodding knowingly. Yes, those aggressors that display bullying behavior often claim to be victims themselves. I can confirm I’ve seen this countless times in many of the cases I’ve worked with. And Yamada points out excellent reasons why this happens.
Retaliating Against the Bully Makes You Look Bad
If you’ve ever been a target of bullying, you know that the cumulative effect of the abuse can build up and make you feel like you will explode in anger.
Don’t do that.
As Yamada says, “Being bullied at work sometimes leads targets to retaliate or act impulsively, saying or doing things they’d like to take back.”
And if you publicly melt down and verbally attack or shout down your aggressor – it is YOU who will look like the bully to everyone else in the office.
It’s not fair, to be sure. But it’s an insidious strategy on the part of the bully: poke the hive until the bees attack, then complain about being attacked. If you want to avoid being called a bully BY a bully, then refrain from fighting back. It’s a trap.
Venting Makes it Worse
It’s usually not a good idea to use social media to vent about things bothering you at work. In cases of bullying, it’s an even worse idea.
Any posting you leave complaining about specific person could be construed as bullying, even if you are complaining about being on the receiving end of bullying behavior. Singling someone out is a big no-no, no matter what the situation. Yamada says, “Repeatedly doing so, especially in angry, emotional tones, heightens the possibility that the aggressor may find out and claim that he’s the victim of an online vendetta.”
And worse…there’s a digital record to prove it!
Appearance vs. Reality
Unfortunately, in a work situation, if it appears that you are the bully because you retaliated or vented online, then that is probably how you will be treated. This is true even if you have been on the receiving end of bullying or other aggressive behaviors for a long time.
That’s why it is extremely important to document objectively the behaviors and instances where you are being bullied. As Yamada suggests, “…some bullying situations require attention to detail merely to understand. Time lines and sequences of events matter. Maintain a chronology of everything that happens. Save e-mails, notes, and any other physical evidence, while taking care not to obtain anything in a manner that could lead to discipline or worse.”
This documentation can vindicate you in the long run. Though it is no guarantee, the more you document, the better your case against the aggressor.
Change and the Way Forward
I can recommend that targets have to change their mindset about the bullying, become strategic in their responses, manage the triggers that will make them aggressive, and learn to manipulate (yep, I am not kidding here) the bully so that the bully is clearly identified as the perpetrator rather than the victim. It can be done. My work with targets is proof positive that targets can prevail.
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Also read my upcoming book, Success Strategies for Handling Workplace Bullying, which outlines strategies I have been teaching targets. My strategies have been proven effective and empowering for targets and I’m committed to sharing them with the world.
I’ve been a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years. My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts.
I’m Kathleen Bartle, Conflict Consultant.