Dear ABC. ABC Answers Your Questions.

Subject: Rude Supervisor

Dear ABC,
I am just curious. I seem to be having all of these problems with a supervisor and know that I am not the one at fault. But how do I get anyone to listen to my side of the story as it is never heard.

Every time management comes to me I am told a story that is only a little piece of the truth and find that the rest has been twisted or made up, even when they say I said things. What do I do?

I seem to have no one backing me in this store and I am not the only one having problems with this supervisor.

The only other associate that was willing to speak up is one of my best friends and yet management has said that we are just ganging up on this supervisor.

It makes me sick to my stomach as my job is being jeopardized every day and I have 3 children and a household to support. I cannot lose my job as where I live it is very hard to find a new one.

I am lost and confused and have no where and no one to turn to.

Dear Curious,

You are in a very difficult, but typical workplace bullying situation, when it is a “closet bully” that you are dealing with. A “closet bully”, is a type of bully, whose need to hide their compulsion to emotionally abuse others, is as great as their psychological need to do so in the first place. In the workplace their compulsion to abuse others is accomplished through the misuse of their position of power which they hold within the company. At this stage of the game, the bully is emotionally abusing you by using half and/or twisted lies against you. When you react emotionally, the bully uses this against you as well, putting your mental health, competency and loyalty into question.

The “closet bully” is highly skilled in using their emotional intelligence and charm to manipulate others against the target. It is often very surprising to everyone, especially the target, when the closet bully’s true nature is revealed. The term “Jekyll and Hyde like” has been used a number of times in anti-bullying literature when authors try to drive home this very important aspect of this type of bully’s behavior. It is nearly impossible for targets to get others to see their perspective and to believe that the bullying is really taking place, because it’s so unbelievable. Much of the bullying is done behind closed doors, and in covert ways, such as the liberal use of innuendo, nit-picking and trivial fault finding. MOST of the time, trying to get others “to listen to your side of the story” by using the following methods, are a wasted effort, here’s why:

  • Trying to talk it out with the bully or to reason with the bully. Why? You can not reason with a bully because a bully’s complaints are not valid nor based on reason.
  • Talking to the bully’s direct supervisor. Why? Often the bully’s direct supervisor hired the bully and therefore, and/or by level of responsibility, is responsible for the bully’s behavior. An upper manager who acknowledges the existence of their middle manager’s negative behaviors is admitting their own failure and inability to control their subordinates behaviors.
  • Going to Human Resources. Why? Human Resources primary function is to protect the employer, not the employee. It is easier and the path of least resistance, to follow the directives of upper management than to stick up for a low level employee.
  • Asking coworkers to become involved. Why? Coworkers who believe the target, and talk to the bully, the bully’s manager or the company’s Human Resource Department, often find themselves to be a target of workplace bullying. Studies and target’s testimonies, have revealed that bullies will sometimes back-off the original target, to intensely victimize and take down a supporter, usually a supporter who is weaker and easier to take down than the original target.

For all of these reasons a bullying campaign, which often develops into a bullying and mobbing campaign, is a very complex phenomenon to first understand, believe, and then to overcome, many times impossible.

What do you do if the usual means of understanding one another in the workplace are thwarted as in the above mentioned ways? You find yourself “lost and confused” with a job “you cannot lose” and “3 children and a household to support with no where and no one to turn to?” When talking doesn’t work, what’s left? STOP TALKING!

I have found that the best way to deal with a bully boss and any little mob that they’re able to manage to pull together, is to NOT REACT to anything they do or say. It must always be kept in mind that THE TRUTH REMAINS THE SAME regardless of what is said or done to make you and others feel or think otherwise. It is important to know that the bully’s primary objective is to engage you in battle, to manipulate, subjugate and control you. Bullying attacks are premeditated with the intention of not just hurting, but destroying, to take their target down.

If you deny your bully the gratification of a reaction, the bully will probably move on to someone else. It can sometimes be that simple. Don’t give the bully what he/she wants, a reaction. The following points are all based on the primary objective which is: DO NOT REACT! and…..

  • Continue to be the good, loyal, hardworking employee that you have always been.
  • Continue to be the reliable “go to person”, that is always easy for coworkers to approach and get help from.
  • When a bully attacks, defend, do not attack back. Always respond calmly with statements that succinctly demonstrate the truth. For example, when confronted with a lie, state the truth and when ever possible back the truth up with objective evidence. For example, if your bully says that your productivity is down. Show the statistical reports that prove otherwise.
  • Keep a journal of your bullying experience. Record even minor incidents or incidents that you’re not sure about. Keeping a journal makes this experience real and is self validating while clarifying these events for future reference. While writing and reflecting about the details of various events, you may gain insight in retrospect that didn’t occur to you at the time it took place.
  • After a bullying attack, never discuss the incident with coworkers. Behave as though nothing at all is wrong.
  • Never say negative things against your bully. Instead, act concerned and/or perplexed when others question the bully’s behavior.
  • Start looking for a new job. Having insight and information about the phenomenon of workplace bullying and mobbing will make this experience easier for you but may not be able to save you from the ultimate likely outcome which is suddenly being fired by your bully. One way or another 80% of targets lose their job within two years, once chosen as a target. It could be physical or emotional illness, suicide or going postal in extreme cases, that causes you to lose your job. It’s best to go about finding a better job while you’re still employed. You will be more likely to find the job of your dreams, if you have adequate time, rather than being forced to take any job because of a sudden loss of income.
  • Find support for yourself outside of your workplace. Contact your state’s BullyBuster group which are affiliates of the Workplace Bullying Institute in Bellingham, Washington state and founded by Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie. Here’s a link to their site:

I wish there was more hopeful information I could share with you, but the bottom line is that being a target of a workplace bully and his or her little mob, is probably the most difficult situation you’ll ever find yourself in. Isolation caused by the bully, denial by everyone involved, and a general lack of information in the United States about the phenomenon makes being a target a very lonely place to be, for sure, but nothing important is easy. The saving grace being two things, one being this experience may motivate you to get out there and find the job of your dreams! Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants? Just think of it – someday you may be at a new job in which you couldn’t be happier, with a wage to match, and you would have never found this opportunity if you weren’t forced to by your bully. More importantly, you learned first hand, one of the most important lessons of human nature that exists. In grade school we were shown real footage from the atrocities of World War 2. One movie showed emaciated dead bodies being thrown down shoots from second and third floor windows, into open trucks on the street below, to be taken away for burial into mass graves. The teachers justified showing such horrific footage to young children by saying it was important that we know what happened so that our generation could stop it from happening again. This continued to haunt me as an adult because although I knew what happened, and even studied it further, I still didn’t understand how Adolf Hitler was able to get so many people, to do such atrocious things, things that they would normally be incapable of. I then learned about workplace bullying and mobbing, now I know, and you do too. ABC

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