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Working For a Bully Who Doesn't Bully You?

by Chris Hendricks

What do you think? Is there a difference between working for a bully and being bullied by a boss?


For me, the difference was clear and at times became my problem .. although as my sister tells me .. I can be on the intimidating side myself .. although she softened the blow saying my heart of gold is consistent:)

Yes, I've worked for a bully, but she didn't bully me personally. However, I witnessed her relentless bullying of one particular co-worker and I regretted giving her empathy .. when she asked for it.

It always seemed appropriate to me that to empathize with the victim and suggest strategies to combat her feelings of helplessness was the right thing to do. Until it became clear that when she wasn't actively suffering from the bully boss's wrath and seeking empathy, she was not above trying to employ the same tactics on her co-workers to win favor with the bully she was now in good graces with .. including throwing co-workers under the bus upon occasion for simple good faith mistakes we all make while performing a job.

And sometimes, she even disclosed embellished content of what I discussed with her while I was trying to bolster her spirit and encourage her to detach from this sick inter-dependency of the relationship.

Of course this could lead the bully to think I needed to be address as a threat which inevitably ended with no sign of me shaking in my boots.

And then somehow.. things just went right back to normal between the bully and I .. She once again started emailing directives and pertinent stuff I needed to know to do my job, from her cubicle ten feet away. Ironically, very few spoken words were ever uttered between us in regards to the job.

Much unlike what went on between her and her victims.

Of course, being who I am and what I knew about UI, I never missed an opportunity to protect myself by documenting any need for
clarification of unclear written email directives and pertinent stuff to do my job per ever changing procedures.

I hear a lot of bullying stories, but bullying itself is not against the law .. at least not unless the bully touches on a protected class you happen to be a member of to be discriminated against.

But bullying has a purpose, and often enough, the purpose isn't to fulfill reasonable expectations of an employer.

Therein, is that rogue element employers fear. A bully boss that takes retaliatory actions, make legally non-compliant statements and all while using their position of authority to hurt subordinates in retaliation .. for just exercising a right to file an official complaint. Or, maybe .. just because they feel the need to punish one of their victims for what they think they have a right to expect on a personal level.

But let's think about that person a bully cannot live without. Their victim. What is it about the victim that draws the bully like flies?

And why do those poor victims sometimes the emulate the behavior of their bully?

Whatever it is .. it's insidious and left unchecked, grows exponentially as some of the worst human behaviors we hope against.

History and literature is full of examples of bullies and their captive lackeys.

Can you name one famous example of this weird sick symbiotic relationship?

Can you think of one known only in the place where you work?

Do you try to help those without the emotional resources to help themselves?

Do you put your head down and ignore what's wrong when you see it?

Bullying at work is no different than bullying in school .. in fact it is probably carried over from our experiences there and unfortunately, from home.

We have the authority to teach our children through love and respect, that everyone deserves basic human respect at home, at school, and at work, as much as we have the power to control and teach them fear is a powerful control tool.

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