Workplace Bullies Target You for Your Competence
Sometimes I just want to scream when I read bad advice about how to handle workplace bullying. And sometimes I want to cheer when I read some research that supports what I know to be true. This is one of those cheer days, because now I have evidence to support my point of view that some targets of workplace bullying are targeted because they are experts.
The Workplace Bullying Institute released some findings that indicate that most people are targeted by workplace bullies because they are good at what they do. (This is a situation of what I call in my model either Strategic or Classic Bullying—that is when a person is deliberately and consciously bullying someone in an attempt to eliminate them.)
In these situations the target has technical expertise that seems to threaten the bully. Perhaps they are new to the department and have strong credentials. Perhaps they have been around for awhile and the boss is new. Whatever the particulars, it’s a good bet that some targets are being targeted precisely because of their expertise, not because they aren’t good enough or confident enough.
If you are being targeted for being good at your job, what do you do? Should you do better or back off? If you excel, then you’re increasing the threat on the boss or coworker targeting you. If you stop producing, then you’re going to get busted (and feel bad about yourself).
Get Off the Treadmill
I suggest you not compromise your career or your expertise, but I also suggest that you do not expect your bully boss or coworker to be respectful or grateful or appreciative. And don’t assume that by working harder and longer that the bullying will stop. So, maintain your integrity but don’t expect a good outcome.
Neither Strategic nor Classic bullying are reasoned or reasonable behavior. Working harder, being more confident, or producing more results won’t protect you. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you will be able to shift your perspective and start helping yourself. Any you do have strategies and tactics you can use in either Strategic or Classic bullying situations. You are not alone.
Finding Another Way
Are you looking for other ways to handle conflict and bullying behavior in your workplace? You are not alone, and many other “workplace stars” feel exactly the same way you do.
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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.