★ Overview ★ General Strategies ★ Specific Tactics ★ Tools Against Bullying
“Workplace Bullying” is now “Defense Against the Dark Arts”
I recently rewrote this article after discovering the “T4rG3ted 1ndiv1dual” Community. While alot of that stuff is batshit insane, I have experienced a decade of this. I am a TI in pain and have been since at least 2010. So I recently renamed my workplace bullying survival guide to: Defense Against the Dark Arts. Here’s the new summary post.
No person should ever be miserable at their place of work.
You should do what you love and love what you do.
After recently reading an Io9 article about handling Passive Aggressive behavior, I realized my definition of Paggro behavior was extremely limited. I basically condidered paggro to cover vaguebooking, where you post a vague status online, which everyone can see, but is clearly targeted towards one person. Or maybe not, who knows?
In terms of the negative & toxic behavior that passive aggressive behavior encompasses, vaguebooking isn’t really that bad. Yes, it’s immature and an ineffective ploy for attention. But in terms of the manipulation possible with passive aggressive behavior, * vaguebooking doesn’t even break the surface*. Like who cares? Ultimately, vaguebooking makes you look dumb.
Every Trick in the Book
Yup, there really is A BOOK. And here it is. With great power comes great responsibility. Some people use this book as a kind of bible. $#@! those people. Here’s a blog with a nice preview of the lovely teachings this book entails. You’re going to want to buy this book and study it.
48 Laws of Power
This book includes such lovely gems =)
★ Conceal Your Intentions
★ Play to People’s Fantasies
★ Create a Cult: Play on People’s Need to Believe
★ Disdain Things You Cannot Have
★ Use Selective Honesty to Disarm Your Victim
★ Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy
★ Do Not Commit to Anyone
★ Get Others to Do the Work for You
★ Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew
What great life advice! What morals! Am I right? Find a man’s vice or thumbscrew and really stick it to ‘em
Discovering people’s vices to exploit them is something the mafia and organized crime has specialized in for centuries … Super happy thumbscrews! =)
The “Other” Problem of Evil
Now, this book can be used to manipulate people. It contains dozens of amoral strategies for doing so. However, knowledge of evil can be used to fight evil – it’s a great paradox, one that I call the Other Problem of Evil, a subject for another blog post. And actually – because someone who is ethical has restraints on his behavior and someone unethical may have none – then ethical people are inherently more predictable.
And thus, from a game-theory perspective, unethical people always have the advantage. And that’s a bit depressing, isn’t it?
My point is, in order to know how to fight these strategies, you have to know them well – and if you don’t, you’ll find them used against you! Some of them aren’t so bad, but some of them are downright dirty.
So I’m going to write a multi-part series based on what I’ve experienced. Parts of these articles could be used for evil :) No, I’m serious. I’m going to provide high and low-level details on how to do this to someone else, accompanied by generic and specific details of what I’ve experienced. Not that I’m capable of doing most of this, since I have a conscience after all. But, I’m going to equip you with my experiences, so that you can prevent them from happening to someone else. I hope to provide others with the tools they need to fight back!
I have one friend who mentioned she lost her job a bully in her workplace a few months ago. These people are everywhere and I cannot stand it when they make gains from * unethical behavior. *
Sun Tzu’s Art of War
Here’s another book to read and you can even find it online for free! Read it! It’s like three pages and I recommend reading it first, then finding a version with commentary. Some of the most important topics in this book are:
- Fight a war without fighting. Don’t openly fight battles if you don’t have to. No one wants to expend unnecessary energy. Weigh your options. What are they? Can you play to your opponents motivations? Find something in common instead.
- Know thyself and know your enemy. By predicting behavior and knowing your own capabilities, you know which battles are won and which are lost before fighting them. And more.
- Focus your energy. Avoid wasting it and concetrate it where it will matter most. Some battles are not worth winning and will simply drain your energy.
- Demoralize your opponent! If you can convince them not to fight, you win. I am emphasizing this so that you avoid it.
You never want find yourself demoralized by others at work. If you do – you’ve lost. You’ve already lost; pack up your things and go home. And this is definitely a strategy you will face if you find yourself being bullied at work.
This person – hopefully, not multiple people! – will try and try to break your spirit. And once they do, they have won. Therefore, the true battle is within yourself. Only once you’ve won the battle within yourself, can you hope to excel.
And you’re going to see this over and over in life. People are going to try to convince you: it’s not worth it, there are shinier things out there with bigger rewards, it’s going to be too hard, etc, etc. They really just don’t want to fight. Don’t give up. At least make things exciting.
The Old Testament
Here’s another book. This one’s chock full of shitty things shitty people did between the years 1,000 and 100 B.C. A lot of people point to the Bible and say “But look at all that terrible stuff in there!!” Yes, there are terrible things in the Bible. They are provided as reference – * so that, if you paid attention, you won’t have to experience them! *
E.G. No, you probably shouldn’t sleep with the pharoah’s wife. And even though you didn’t, you better watch out – cuz that b!@#$ is triflin’! She was really just looking for a reason to burn you all along and she won’t hesitate to !@#$ you in order to !@#$ you.
Fools learn from their experiences – while the wise learn from history
IMO, religion has a lot of offer and those who disdain it are missing out. However terrible they may be, having adequate knowledge of how these situations may play out beforehand can be a life saver! You will definitely find yourself facing specific tactics, the significance of which you will not otherwise understand until it’s too late! You must recognize these tactics when they occur, so that you can cast light on the motivations behind your actions and so that you will not find the appearance of your actions manipulated!
“Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others.” – Otto von Bismarck
But Wait! That’s Not All! – I’m also going to give you tools!
I’m going to equip you with some of the tools that you’ll need to fight back! Generic and specific strategies you can follow to avoid finding yourself in these situations. Tools that I have found invaluable myself.
Working Class Hero
Why am I writing about this?
How would you feel about getting another job if this has been your experience at most positions you’ve held? Neither my family nor my friends seem to understand my reticence to return to work or my high level of discernment in deciding my place of work.
It seems to be particularly bad in software, a field full of incredibly intelligent people wielding event-driven scripts on the internetz like magickz of yore. There are incredibly fucked up things that you can do in software particularly, in order to bog someone down or affect their performance. And I will describe many of these specifc tactics in Part Two. I’m sure there be dragons in other fields too, but some of these software dragons are $#@!’ing vicious.
“You easily make like over $50/hr and over six figures. Why don’t you just get a job?! Just get the first job that pays you well!”
What does an abused dog do, when you reach out to pet it?
Well, avoidance is one of primary behaviors and defense mechanisms that you’ll notice in those who have been abused, physically, sexually or, yes, even emotionally. A child that has burned his hands a few times learns to avoid hot stuff. People that have been through this will begin to confuse normal situations with those circumstances which caused them pain. If you’ve experienced a lot anxiety and repeatedly experience negative situations, one coping behavior is to avoid those situations. However, in my case, * THIS IS RUINING MY CAREER AND MY LIFE! * I have several jobs, where I have been unfairly pushed out, usually due to one person. Oh and then there’s jamskating.
Having High Functioning Autism Makes Me a Target.
And I just don’t get it honestly. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that I have Aspergers. Well, I guess I’m self diagnosed, so I don’t actually have legal rights in this regard – not that I would ever sue over this anyways. That’d be lame and immature. It’s my problem after all, right? However, my symptoms and behavior lead me to be AN EASY TARGET, who is UNABLE TO APPROPRIATELY RESPOND.
Oh, did I mention that I’m quiet and reserved? This means that when someone treats me unfairly at work, there’s a lower probability that other people will hear about it. I’ll get into this in Part Two, but workplace bullies will tend to go for who they perceive as vulnerable and likely to not fight back.
“No consequences? Perfect!” – said every sociopath, ever.
I’ve found that a handful of people abusing my autistic traits have just added insult to injury, time after time. I think of my singular focus and unique patterns of thought as gifts that contribute to my creativity. Sure, sometimes it’s harder for me to connect and establish relationships at work. But, isn’t it a bit fucked up to use that against me, simply because it’s easier to isolate me and cut me out? I’m sorry that I’m sometimes difficult to deal with, that I’m quiet, that sometimes it’s harder for me to read between the lines. But, I’m honestly trying as hard as I can!
Ultimately, unfairly being pushed out of jobs has led me to:
- Lack of incentive to get another job. Trust me, if you’ve been in my shoes and you’ve faced this over and over again, you’re better off at peace.
- Lack of ability to get a new job. Breaks in work experience in your resume lead you to get filtered out of a list of job applicants – fast.
- Lack of opportunities because I have had to move back to my hometown several times. While I love my hometown, it has a metropolitan population of < 300,000. Guess what? No more meetups. No job opportunities. Not for open source software anyways.
- Disrupted relationships in my personal life, driving me to depression and unnecessary anxiety. I’ve moved across the country like 5 times, just to have to return every time, terminating any new relationships. I am pushed to despair and unable to function. And while some of it is definitely my fault, the influence that others can have on your life can be catastrophic. If everything is ultimately my own fault, then why would others expend so much energy strategically planning their behavior? Would there be any point?
- Lack of acquired experience required for new opportunites. I’m at a point where I’m seriously falling behind in my career. And not for lack of talent, but because of lack of opportunities and direction. I’m doing pretty well, in spite of it all. But, honestly, it doesn’t matter how well I excel in coding while I’m alone in Roanoke. NO ONE RELEVANT IS HERE TO SEE ME SUCCEED.
Empathetic? OMG I have learned to appreciate you!
Most of the people I’ve worked with are friendly, empathetic and frank people who genuinely have your best intentions in mind. Maybe that wasn’t the best way to put it. They at least consider (and reconsider) situations from multiple perspectives, not just their own. But honestly, I’ve had to deal with a few incredibly two-faced people who almost seem trained in the art of duplicity. But, I’ve learned that, unfortunately, you can’t depend on avoiding it – you have to deal with it.
Recent studies show that up to 1 in 25 people have sociopathic tendencies.
There is almost always that one guy and I don’t get it. The person I’m talking about usually underperforms at their actual job – but they excel at manipulating people! They may lack real talent, but they won’t hesitate to take credit for yours. To this person, it’s all about the meta-game. This is the most frustrating part: they distort all your energy and talent, just to turn it against you! You work hard, you try harder – you even work after hours, logging 50+ hours per week. And even that gets turned against you!
“Well, he obviously can’t complete his work during the day!” – An example of how a workplace bully will contort your words and actions to use them against you, no matter how hard you try. And notice: the same guy who distracts you during the day at work doesn’t want you spending time working from home.
Some people just don’t play fair.
However, as it turns out, highly competitive situations attract highly competitive people. In itself, this isn’t actually a bad thing: competition is a great tool for motivating people to achieve better!
I thrive in competitive situations. It is what drives me to be better. I push myself to be challenged. But some people don’t play nice: they lie, they deceive, they omit, they steal credit.
I have tried to empathize with these people. And what I’ve usually found is that they feel threatened by me. You’re just naturally faster, better, harder and stronger than them. But you’re not perfect, you have flaws they can exploit. Flaws that seem to become fractures when protrayed in just the right light.
Motivations for Passive Aggressive Behavior
The goal is to dissociate/disguise cause & effect between actions & reactions in a social setting. This makes situations more confusing and enables someone to cause problems which are inherently more difficult to react to. It becomes especially difficult for people in positions of authority to react appropriately because the true causes of negative situations are hidden and thus, their hands are tied.
Brief list of examples of Paggro Behavior
- Manipulating the Audience that Witnesses Behavior: someone may antagonize you 1-on-1, then act like a concerned friend in front of everyone else.
- Manipulating Channels of Communication: email, text, in person, phone and chatroom. A person will purposely paint a different picture across different mediums of communication.
- Willful Incompetence: someone may agree to complete a task or help you out. Not really though. They just plan on convincing you to pursue inaction, so they can leave you out to dry later.
- Play to Appearences: they ignore the truth of actions and play to what seems to happen. They play on the fears of your managers and your coworkers.
- Distorting Perceptions: this person even goes so far as to control appearances – in fact, this is where their power lies. They will psychoanalyze you and mine your social media accounts for information they can distort. They abuse channels of communication to present you in the light of their choosing. Or maybe they task you with a Fool’s Errand.
- Downplay Your Contributions: this person will attempt to manipulate how your contributions are perceived. They will make your victories seem like nothing and will draw attention to your failures.
- Lead You with False Hope: they’ll play on your goals or dreams, promising complete bullshit that will never happen. This is particularly bad in the entertainment industry.
Examples of manipulation through false hope
We’ve got some pretty big performances coming up. We could use your talent, you know. And all you have to do is stab your mentor in the back – he’s holding you back anyways. What the $#!@ did he ever do, anyways?
Hey, how would you like that shiny new promotion? Yes, the one with the corner office. We’ll I’m going to need you to grab these chestnuts for me and they’re totally in the fire. Yes, that’s right. You’ll need to be my catspaw. But I totally pinky swear; that promotion is yours.
There’s going to be a Reality TV show and you could be on it! Don’t mess it up for everyone!
That last one didn’t get me, by the way, as Reality TV doesn’t appeal to me. But it did get a few of my friends – they were clamouring over themselves to help out who appeared to be in power. OMG I’LL BE FAMOUZ. This one is powerful – and dirty, in my opinion. It’s one thing to prepare for something you’re trying to bring about. It’s another to manipulate with false hope.
Why I would prefer not to publish this
Many people just won’t understand. To these people, I’ll probably just seem paranoid and negative. Those people probably haven’t lived a very exciting life. At least I can say I’ve lived for things worth fighting for.
Oh – did I mention that I’m looking for a job? It’s not smart to talk about former employers. But, one thing that pisses me off is being bent over a barrel and being unable to tell anyone about it! People can get away with a lot of shit when they think you’re not going to say anything about it.
Con artists use this trick by the way: dupe someone with a particular trick they’ll feel utterly embarrassed to tell someone about. The principle is the same: some people expect that you’ll never talk about what happened anyways, so they think they have leeway to do what they wilt ** … I cannot stand this! **If it burns me, so be it. But I’m not going to let someone get away with something because I’m paralyzed with fear.
Why am I so well acquainted with this?
That’s a really, really good question. I don’t know the answer, but it honestly makes me feel like shit.
It seems like most of my friends my age can’t relate to what I’m saying. At least a few years ago, most hadn’t had enough experience with office politics – or they’re in a field that attracts different personality types.
It seems like everything goes perfectly for them. Maybe they’re not in as competitive situations. Or maybe I just don’t see their problems, or maybe they don’t show them. That’s one thing about this world that I can’t stand. Everyone has problems, but it’s like you’re not allowed to talk about them! Of course, everyone says you should. But really, you’re at an incredible disadvantage if you do. It’s bullshit. And jeez – better not post it to social media. Keep that to yourself, keep yourself isolated.
Also, it seems that most people have better social models than I do. While I seem to be able to predict behavior fairly well, they are more able to react to it. Since I have Aspergers, it seems I am not as great with relationships. I’m more reserved, it can be harder for me to establish relationships, which leads to less experience with people.
Oh, and then I constantly have to move back home out of depression. So, there’s that. Goodbye, relationships I’ve been cultivating. Probably not going to see you again, for years at least.
Basically, it seems that i’m at a disadvantage in life …
… Or maybe I just have a narcissistic persecution complex, like Stephen Colbert.
That’s it for Part One.
I’m totally rambling … and psychoanalyzing myself. Not really a good combination. I’m going to pick this back up with Part Two, where I’ll describe what I’ve experienced, generally and specifically. I’ll also provide some tools to help these prevent these situations from arising.
Part Two: General Strategies
For now, my friends… Watch that clip … It’s hilarious. ^^^