Workplace Bullies and Street Thugs Have THIS in Common…

What is it? Qualification based on two conditions.

Bullies and others who would hurt someone else tend to be cowards, in the way they they won’t just choose anyone. They will choose the people who seem like they’re an easy target (won’t push or fight back), and situations that seem easy to get away with (for example, the nasty comment where no one else can hear). Most predators will test our their targets, through verbal and non-verbal means to see if you qualify…

To make someone a victim, most of the time the target will be qualified based on two conditions:

1. Will it be EASY enough, and

2. Can they get away with it?

The question becomes, what can I do to avoid being chosen as a target?

The answer:

1. Be AWARE. Your intuition, or gut feeling is your guide. If you feel someone at work has bad intent toward you, don’t ignore the issue. Discuss it with them directly over coffee or in a conference room. If you need help, escalate the situation to HR and ask for mediation. Outside of work, recognize the distance between yourself and others. Honor your intuition if you get a bad feeling about a person or situation.

2. Be Assertive and direct. Remember that WE GET WHAT WE TOLERATE. Giving a courtesy giggle, or looking away, or stepping back when faced with inappropriate or aggressive behaviors are signs that you’re likely to let them get away with something. When we call people out by their behavior, “You’re standing too close,” or “You’re yelling at me,” or, “You interrupted me in the meeting,” we can focus on the behaviorinstead of getting into the story or being offended. We can agree on behaviors, even when we have charged emotions over the issue.

3. Be ready to walk away, hang up, or otherwise end the situation. We do not have to tolerate bad behavior from others. If a situation cannot be negotiated, then you have the choice to stay and accept abuse, or you can choose to leave (and address the situation later, if it’s a workplace issue). One Portland woman shared a story about how she told her boss, “I am going to hang up if you can’t talk with me respectfully,” and she hung up on him, more than once while they worked together. Years later, he is recommending her HR consulting services to his peers, because of her willingness to demand respect, or end the conversation.

From bullies on up to full-blown criminals, the two conditions must exist for you to be a target: They have to feel it will be easy enough, and they have to feel like they can get away with it. While we can’t predict where their head is at or what they are thinking, we can certainly follow our intuition, raise our awareness of others and behaviors and attitudes that can lead to problems, and be assertive and direct when dealing with them, so it isn’t easy or tolerated by us. This is how we can reduce the chance that we will be chosen as a target, and more importantly, this is how we gain respect from our peers as well.

Michele Maupin specializes in workplace incivility, bullying, and violence prevention through communication and de-escalation workshops. Contact us for a free consultation!

be safe. Be Strong. Be EMPOWERED!