Posts Tagged ‘targets’

Fourth of Five Freedoms for Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

#4: Freedom to be Innocent & Not Exploited

Freedom From Bullies Week Workplace Bullying is unjust primarily because the assaults launched against targets have everything to do with the perpetrators’ unmet social needs and their ability to act on opportunities to exploit others that go unseen by most workers. It has nearly nothing to do with work itself. It is even less about the person targeted. The injustice of suffering without provocation or deservedness becomes a focal point for bullied individuals that can last months or years, if left unresolved.

I say unprovoked because targets would not, do not, awake on a workday wishing for some personal humiliation at work, that they would “ask for it.” That provocation is no more likely than battered spouses asking for a physical beating on a given day. Yet, bullies and their apologists (including many business school researchers) deflect responsibility away from perpetrators (especially when they are perpetrators) and onto their victims.

We have written about this blame-the-victim tendency before. It is rife in the workplace because it is nearly the American mantra when horrific events happen to people.

Some consider our declaration of targets’ innocence misguided or defensive. OK, assume that we are defensive on behalf of targets. We proudly admit this often. We are target-centric. We have chosen sides. We defend those who cannot defend themselves, those who are the underdogs and the ones victimized by perpetrators with a more advantageous power perch in organizations.

We have talked to bullied targets on the phone for 16 years — an accumulation of over 10,000 one-hour conversations. Coupling that qualitative database of stories with our 39 quantitative surveys allows us to speak confidently about the character of individuals selected for the psychological terrorization that is workplace abuse. Targets are selected primarily because of the threat their talents and skills pose to the bully who relies more on political acumen than production-related skills.

Targets do not react spontaneously to aggression with counter-aggression. If they could have, they would have and not been attacked. Call it a fault or call it noble, principled conduct that conforms to “turning the other cheek,” as some religions dictate. The other shortcoming targets bring to the workplace is an optimistic, politically naive, set of expectations that the world is benevolent. That is, good outcomes necessarily follow hard work (inputs). Unfortunately, traumatologist Ronnie Janoff-Bulman believes that expectation is a good predictor of suffering trauma when exposed to abuse. Finally, it is clear that many targets are not effective at setting personal emotional boundaries. To gain swift approval from others, they eagerly share too much personal information that is later used against them by perpetrators who collected the information for later nefarious use.

However, targets chosen for bullying at work are not as meek and mild as bad stereotypes suggest. Over time, as the injustice percolates and the employer fails to provide relief the target requested, the likelihood of exploding emotionally and losing control grows.

For some individuals, that explosion will happen at work. It might be the target’s long-postponed confrontation (most wait months to react). In any case, the explosion is emotional and an out-of-character moment. If directed against the perpetrator, the bully can point to the ill advised tactic as “proof” that the target is “contentious, unruly, aggressive and provocative.” In this way, targets become their own worst enemies. The impression of self-control is blown. The act need not be physical. In one case for which I served as expert witness in court, a target-plaintiff’s case was seriously weakened with the discovery of an emotion-laden letter that she should have never sent. It made her appear vindictive and petty. She was at wits end with her judgment strained.

The perp uses the single emotional event as a retroactive justification for the abuse leveled against the target. And in a sick twisted turn of events, the bully gets to play victim. They accuse the target, who sustained months of private and deniable health-harming abuse, of being the aggressor, as observed by others. The organization erroneously characterizes the bully-target relationship as one in which aggression flows in both directions — a false equivalency.

As soon as the organization can hint that the bullied target is to blame, it jumps on the chance to deny the target’s complaint. A pox on both houses nullifies the claim from the only legitimate victim, the bullied target. Worse still, many bullies abuse anti-bullying policies to claim they are the victims deserving protection. Strangely managerial bullies are given protection denied to non-supervisory targets.

Five Freedoms for WBI Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week
To Affiliate with Friends | Dignity at Work | To be Believed | To be Innocent | From Fear


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WBI Study: Age and Workplace Bullied Targets

Monday, July 1st, 2013

WBI 2013-G Instant Poll

For the 16 years of WBI operations, we have noticed that telephone callers seeking help with their workplace bullying problems are rarely young. They tend to be veteran workers with long careers. For a variety of reasons documented by other WBI studies older workers make ideal vulnerable targets. An earlier WBI study found the average age to be 41. We again asked about age when bullying started at work.


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New WBI Training DVD: Teach your psychotherapist

Friday, May 24th, 2013

An Introduction to Workplace Bullying: For Mental Health Practitioners

We designed this brand new DVD with two goals in mind: To help Targets of workplace bullying and to train mental health professionals about this challenging topic. It is the perfect introductory training for mental health practitioners.

It gives Targets the power to teach their counselors about workplace bullying. As a bullied target, you can watch this video alongside your therapist and learn about the phenomenon together, during a single session. Don’t blame your therapist for not understanding workplace bullying. There are not many professionals out there that have experience with the phenomenon. In a 2013 WBI Instant Poll only 29.7% of Mental Health Professionals had a complete understanding of workplace bullying.

Teach Your Psychotherapist How to Help You

Bullied targets are a challenging clinical population, in part due to the recurring trauma and marked isolation they endure. And, while a significant body of research links workplace bullying to physical, mental, social, and economic health harm for the bullied target, there is a paucity of mental health professionals specially trained to work with this phenomenon.

What to do: Use one 50 min. session with your psychotherapist to play this DVD while you are in the room. Stop the disc whenever questions arise, or if you want to make a point to your therapist about your experience. Use the DVD to start a dialogue.

In this video, Jessi Eden Brown, MS, LMHC, LPC, NCC an experienced, licensed mental health therapist and the WBI Professional Coach, shows clinicians the pitfalls many therapists fall into when helping Targets of workplace bullying. She offers practical advice about how best to support those hurting. Viewers will learn how to recognize the signs, and address the symptoms, of workplace bullying in their clients. Ms. Brown skillfully imparts the unique treatment considerations associated with counseling bullied targets and offers practitioners an assortment of resources for supporting clients and their families.

Targets and counselors, click here to purchase a DVD for your next session!


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No excuses. Workplace bullying & abuse are perpetrated by people.

Monday, February 4th, 2013

I’m old enough to remember when prostitution was rationalized as a “victimless” crime. The lies included: no one gets hurt, everyone is an adult free to choose, customers aren’t bad people just doin’ what comes naturally, blah, blah. Then newer generations discovered the sex slave trade, exploitation of young children, crime syndicates keeping the spoils. There certainly were then, and are, victims.

In our 15-year (16 in June) American campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of workplace bullying, we’ve seen some similar nonsensical rationalizations about this particular form of interpersonal violence. Excuses and protections for offenders delay societal rejection of workplace bullying. We call for an increased sympathy for bullied targets, the victims, to accelerate change.



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Labor Day Bullying Survey Results

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

According to the WBI survey of 422 respondents, the proposition that bullies are being purged by employers during the recession [see WSJ column] is debunked. Bullies lose their jobs at a rate under 2%, while 44% of bullied targets lose their jobs. Retaliation is the most common consequence for targets. Bullies (still) abuse with impunity.

Read the complete results.


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