In the last post, we analyzed the tactics bullying cliques typically use and 10 common reasons why people form or join hostile, predatory cliques at work. Both men and women form and join cliques, even through their tactics are often different. These predators verbally, sexually and physically harass and abuse both men and women. They sabotage performance. Don’t be surprised to learn that women prey on other women in the office – you’ve seen the evidence through elementary school, junior high school and high school.
What can you do if:
- You have a pattern of being bullied all your life?
- You’re a target?
- You have a chance to join such a pack of jackals and are afraid to refuse because you might get attacked?
- You’re a bystander and your heart goes out to a victim?
Bullying, cutting-out and creating and attacking scapegoats comes from a deep place within us and is found in almost all cultures, places and times.
Sometimes you can see that the person on the receiving end has done many things to offend almost everyone else. But let’s put that situation aside for this post and focus on all the rest of the times when the person being cut out or attacked has been okay and the problem is the group that attacks their scapegoat.
If you’ve been bullied all your life, you have a problem that you’ll have to solve before you can deal effectively with a bullying clique. Even if you haven’t done anything wrong to the pack of predators, you’re wearing a neon sign: "Kick me." Lions, wild dogs and sharks can see who the weak and vulnerable ones are. Bullies can too. You’ll have to change your attitudes and beliefs so you’ll have a different sign: "Don’t mess with me!" Let’s also leave this situation for another post.
Many people hope to stop cliques of bullies by analyzing why they do it and then using their understanding to design solutions. Don’t waste your time. You know why some people find others to pick on. That catalogue of reasons is enough.
Management training rarely works. Textbook and educational approaches – we’ll talk and I’ll show them why it’s wrong and they’ll see the error of their ways and become caring – rarely work. They won’t stop bad behavior that’s driven by underlying emotions.
Predatory behavior by packs isn’t driven by intellectual reasons, it’s driven by emotions. Of course the perpetrators can find reasons to justify their behavior, but they don’t do the behavior because of the reasons. They do the behavior because of their own emotional needs and then they try to cover up the ugliness with a pretty picture of justifications.
Ignoring the problem or begging, bribery and appeasement simply reinforce low attitudes and behavior at all levels. A major part of the problem are conflict-avoidant leaders, managers and co-workers who think that if we all talk nicely to each other or try to make bullies happy, they’ll stop bullying cliques.
Some real-world, stepwise approaches are:
- Make efforts to be friendly in practical ways, in order to give them a chance to change – without doing anything immoral, illegal or odious. Bring pizza and donuts. Cover for them when they need help. Socialize with coworkers.
- If they continue targeting you (which they usually will), get help to develop tactics to isolate the ringleaders or get them fired. The key goals are: separation and isolation. Terminated is better than transferred, because transferred means that you’ve helped them create another bully-scapegoat situation. How nice is that?
- Get firmer and firmer. Don’t threaten or share your tactics with them. Get an attorney to advise you about local laws. Get allies – HR and managers rarely want to be involved, but give them one chance. Document, document, document.
- If you have a chance to join such a pack of jackals and are afraid to refuse because you might get attacked, you have an integrity choice to make. Do you want to live in fear or do you want to win a workplace war?
- If you’re a bystander and your heart goes out to a victim, you have another integrity choice to make. Often, if you help a victim, the victim won’t help in return. Be prepared to act alone, if necessary.
Of course, individual coaching will help you design tactics that fit your specific situation.
The strong and clear voice of an outside consultant and coach can change these behaviors or empower managers and staff to remove these bullies. I’ve often helped companies and even non-profits and government agencies create and maintain behavioral standards (team agreements, ground rules for professional behavior) that promote productivity.
As I show in my books and CDs of case studies, “How to Stop Bullies in their Tracks” and “Eliminate the High Cost of Low Attitudes,” bullies are not all the same, but their patterns of behavior, their tactics, are the same – whether they’re men or woman. That’s why we can find ways to stop them.