The office bully, how to retort

29 12 2008

How to kill a coworker and get away with it. Part II.

I’ve had my days when just after awakening I wanted to scream at top of my lungs: “I am sick, I do not want to go to school today!” But why in heavens sake will I do that? Well, it happens I used this phrase on my early teenage years; whenever I passed part of the night replaying the occurrences of the day and fantasizing about the many ways I could have snapped back at the young man who either routinely stole my lunch money or made a loud remark about anything I was wearing or doing and left me amidst piercing general laughter. The positive thing about this, is that I learned how to recoup bad experiences, learn about what went wrong in order to not misstep again in the future, the bad aspect is that it took me some years to act upon the acquired knowledge.

Don’t think I am once again wandering, truth is most of the environments we live by have their own bully; whether this archenemy uses physical force or psychological punishment what matters is that everywhere you find people fighting for the alpha dog coup and think that by intimidating others they would achieve it. Bullies at the office wear several masks, and I would love to share my own categorization and what are the ways I’ve found out work to retort their actions.

Superman Superboy Super trouble by hyperscholar

Superman Superboy Super trouble by hyperscholar

The Devil’s Advocate

Who hasn’t heard the phrase “let me be the devil’s advocate for a minute”? If you have ever been in an organization; someone, if not yourself, has without doubt used this invocation to play this horny little role in the past while in an all hands meeting. This phrase is the bullies’ war cry. Think about it for a minute and you will see these seemingly benevolent words are a polite introduction to an unabashed critic without the least intent of adding value to your idea or project.

What most do is take a defensive stance and eventually start attacking the devil’s advocate using the very same techniques: long-winded descriptions accompanied by superficial argumentation. It is easy to see that this kind of reply ends resting value to the parts involved and might eventually escalate to a domestic brawl.

What I’ve decided to do when confronting this mighty warrior is to get the most value as possible from the situation. Negative criticism is not necessarily something bad if gathered carefully it might even shade some light into unattended problems and its possible solutions. How to do this? Simply adopt a quizzical role with two intentions: gather background information around what you are being told and try to find a way of bringing the contender to your side.

Set of questions to gather background information: How is that a problem? To what type of costumers will that be an inconvenience? How our competitors faced this trouble?

Examples of questions to build rapport and eventually befriend the devil: How do you think we can work this out? Is there something in your area of expertise we might have overlooked?

The Ninja

Have you ever came back home thinking you might have just delivered the best ever pitch or that you have killed the Goliath of turn? And then waked up and arrived at the office to find people glancing at you just like you were a zombie. Fired up your station to find a single message which, far from being the pompous praise you was expecting, was a single courteous line asking you to get to your manager box first thing in the morning?

What have I done? What happened from 6 pm to 9 am, Armageddon? Chances are you did nothing to change the waters while something extraneous did. It might be that your manager found out a major fallacy in your estimations, but that won’t explain the weird looks you keep getting from others, would it? Besides, this time you doubled and tripled checked the deliverable, reviewed the plan with your manager on an almost daily basis, pitched it against your peers; so, if there was something bluntly wrong you would have found out earlier. Then what? Don’t wind up it might be that there is a ninja in your organization. Someone who surreptitiously works lurking in anxiety for the time in which someone makes a mistake and no one else notices it. Ninjas are people with enough knowledge and intelligence to find slip-ups no one else identified have direct access to powers that be and have faith that if they point to others flaws they will gain recognition and power.

Cosplay - AWA14 - Ninja stalking by mikemol

Cosplay - AWA14 - Ninja stalking by mikemol

In a balanced world managers who receive notice of a mistake thru a ninja should aim to eradicate the practice and then correct the mistake. Why? Because, this kind of practices do not build value. If the intention was to help, the ninja should have gone to you and tell you about the problem once it was spotted, creating the opportunity to correct it before delivery.

Nevertheless a mistake was committed and it most be corrected. Don’t invest time on trying to find out who was or the intentions behind the attack. This turn time is not on your side buddy. If you wander off road you’ll be not only helping the ninja but will also hamper any value created by work done up to this instant. Instead of falling into espionage mode, bravely gather your shredded feelings, face the crowd and approach your manager. Hear what he has to say, asses if an oversight did exist and if so acknowledge it and find a resolution as soon as possible.

If by chance you gather up who was behind, my advice will be to confront show her up how much more value for all will have been created if the mistake was uprooted when sighted instead of waiting to creep into the project and go bombastic after delivery. Explain to your ninja coworker how much better he will have looked if instead of waiting,  you were told about this from the start and that now that the bully waited it just looks less like a team player.

The eternal bully

Some people  cannot grow out the character they once played as little boys and they keep at it their whole life. Ever heard the phrase “you’ll do it because I said so?” on a corporate environment? There is a bully in the wild, someone who has neither tools nor methods to face debate, explain to others why a certain path must be followed or recognize an erroneous position and correct.

What to do? Well, this is something I do and applies to every other bully type: don’t take it personal. If you take it personal the bully will know a button has been pushed and will keep at it until its goal is reached; besides, since you actually acted berserk everyone else at the scene might think he could have a point and you are covering something.

If everything else fails, don’t take it personal ignore the wise remark, the gesture, the attack, at least your bully won’t know what buttons to push. Be more like batman.




4 responses

30 12 2008

nice and interesting blog to read.
by the way i’ve just bumped you from alphainventions.


7 01 2009

Daishz you are too kind thank you! I am also reading yours. I wwas wondering: would you like to share what you would like to read on my blog? any specific topic you think I can attack with my pen with might?

30 12 2008

Yes!!! Finally!!!!!!!!!! We were really looking forward to read this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

23 07 2009

good show man.keep the guts up

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