Outsmarting Bullies–here’s what to do & true stories of others who’ve done it

He’s smug, arrogant and has bullied you for months. Before you he bullied a string of good people, each who had the good sense to quit before he destroyed their work lives.  

You’ve thought about quitting but don’t want to. That leaves you one option. You need to know how you can take him down before he takes you out. 

Here’s what you need to know: Bullying rests on psychological power. Bullying causes psychological harm to the target and those who witness it but feel powerless to intervene. Those targeted feel their bully has all power and they have none.

That isn’t true–every bully has an Achilles heel. For example, narcissist bullies can’t take criticism and when you criticize them, they lose their cool and react. Angry, aggressive bullies thrive when others fear them but often back down when others stand up to them in the right way.  Dr. Jekyll/Ms. Hyde bullies maintain their power by hoodwinking the managers above them as they kiss up and claw down, but their façade can wear thin. And bullies of all stripes forget that while they rule the world in their workplace, they don’t rule the outer world, where employees have legal protection. When bullies cross the line through criminal assault or by attacking their targets in legally protected areas, such as discrimination against age, race or sex or in the exercise of protected rights such as safety, they hand ammunition to their targets.

That’s what happened in Raess v. Doescher when an employee sued a doctor at an Indianapolis hospital for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress after the doctor aggressively approached the employee with fists clenched, screaming and cursing. The employee won $325,000 when the trial court refused to instruct the jury that there is no “workplace bullying” and the jury decided there was such a thing.

Or in Hahn v. Davidson when a Dallas jury awarded a nurse $348,889 against the physician who bullied her – along with a $1.08 million verdict against the physician and his medical practice for sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and retaliation.  

At trial, Nurse Hahn described a hostile, threatening work environment and told the jury how she’d sought help from her organization by filing a complaint with the practice’s Human Resources manager. After that, the physician called her into his office after business hours to prove he hadn’t screamed by demonstrating to her and an office manager what screaming was.

When Hahn then protested to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the practice fired her. Left with no workplace recourse, the nurse filed a lawsuit alleging assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and retaliation. Hours before the jury announced its verdict, the Clinic settled with Hahn, paying her $440,000.

Your job? Collect ammunition while you keep your cool. Your bully can’t smile smugly if you turn yourself into Teflon and give him the sense that the punches he wants to land go nowhere. By rattling his cage, you increase the chance he’ll react and make mistakes, potentially big enough ones to catch the attention of the managers above you.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully: a tactical guide to taking charge” (AMACOM, 2016, a self-training manual for those who want to outsmart bullies) and “Solutions” (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at lynnewriter10@gmail.com or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

2 thoughts on “Outsmarting Bullies–here’s what to do & true stories of others who’ve done it

  1. I so want these comments to be true! It’s hard to build a good case and some of us are less than perfect ourselves and fear that negative and targeted-to-impugn-our-testimony comments and incidents could be brought forward about us in a legal setting, Not that we are ourselves bullies, necessarily, but that we aren’t totally upright people.

    1. Sue, it’s true legal battles can be fierce.
      I remembering telling the target of a bully (written about in chapter 13 of the Beating the Workplace Bully book, that covered taking out “scorched earth” bullies) that if she went forward she would win even if she lost because she would regain her sense of self, and then she won.

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