Case 103 - Office Browbeater
One evening, whilst I was doing some research for an assignment on status within the workplace for my Sociology course, I stumbled across the concepts of serial bullying, sociopathy, narcissism etc. within the office. I then came to think that there might be indeed a supervisor in my office, who had been there a year, which encompasses all of these notions. This prompted me to go into book and web research overdrive and as a result, confront them.
Based on observations and the research, I felt that I had experienced and witnessed a supervisor giving constant trivial criticism, excessively supervising, shifting goal posts; whilst having an autocratic, authoritarian, micromanaging style. They would also subtlety say inappropriate statements, of which their target would only know the real meaning, when no one else was around, or able to hear. They would though, on occasion, quite contradictorily and disturbingly, give 'some' praise, as well as destructive criticism (masked as constructive) to try to cultivate an unwholesome mental dependency on them.
This type of bully also tried to be slyer than a fox, often by displaying a front of great charm, confidence, competency (through taking credit from technically minded subordinates), deep knowledge and persuasive ability to their power base (other managers, superiors etc). This is done to pave the way for fast track promotion to obtain more power, status and control, as sociopaths suffer from severe status anxiety, an over-egotistical nature and, ultimately, extreme inadequacy.
This is also achieved by undermining those subordinates whom are more vulnerable, naive, eager to please, conforming and weaker minded, but do have integrity, honesty, morality and a hard work ethic (the later traits are the most despised). They often use and destroy others psyches to prop up their own by stealing ideas, overloading them with work, fabricating poor work performance, and stripping them of any authority, autonomy and general dignity. Their rise to power, and Jekyll and Hyde nature, is also perpetuated from reading books, such as ‘stabbing your way up the career ladder’, ‘money & power’ and so forth. On the rare occasion the mask does slip when stripped of their fake public personality, webs of deceit, and their real inner-self is completely laid bare, the sight, although hideous to behold, is pitiful.
When I had been somewhat blissfully unaware of anything about controversial workplace bullying, I had planned to leave the company in a few months as I was going travelling to Australia & New Zealand on working holiday visas and then afterwards go to University, as a mature student.
So, as I was leaving the company shortly to pursue my personal goals (as opposed to bullying) and had got my visas, passed my Access to University Course, got fit, learnt to swim, quit smoking; but most importantly swotted up on bullying, I felt empowered to approach the human resources office and arrange to confront what I now knew to be a sociopath, who I thought had gone unchallenged long enough. I had no fear of being labelled as a 'trouble maker' or losing my job, as I was leaving. Also, the bully had just secured a promotion, but was still to be in my office for a little while yet before rising to further power. So, the bully was dealing with someone with nothing to lose and fear (one of the most dangerous types of people) when they had everything to lose and fear; a very fortunate position to be in. I had, partly unwittingly, struck hard and fast with perfect timing.
I then had to recall as many inappropriate incidents and dates as possible to prepare the key to the downsizing of the bully, THE JOURNAL. The bully was given a few days to consider their response to it before any meeting. The next chain of events, although stressful due to taxing the time spent on my imminent travel plans, I imagined would play out according to textbook psychology and case studies. This was partly thanks to the book & web research and so this gave an edge of fortitude, foresight and power. What happened in the meeting was like nuclear war (or in other words a psychological war) however, I state again that the knowledge gained from research was my instrumental in turning the turn the tide against the bully, as it became my ally, shield and weapon.
When both ready we had the meeting umpired by a human resources member and went through the log of incidents. The bully then turned on the charm with honey on their forked tongue and sounded most reasonable saying they had no intended ill will in their actions, as they were just trying to raise me to the best of my ability, of which is the main role of any supervisor. They sounded like a kind hearted person aggrieved by injuries undeserved. Anyone there would be hard pressed to be unmoved by this performance (I did for a few moments have to keep telling myself that the bullies main fear is their bullying and inadequacy being revealed). Each incident alone is too subjective and ambiguous to indicate the possibility of bullying intent, of which the bully always knows. As I kept plugging away through the incidents and paid no heed to the devious charm, I then stated that it was ‘the pattern’ I was referring to that constituted bullying, of which some of the incidents had witnesses. This key point fully uncloaked that I had been hard at work articulating their paradox. This caught them by surprise, as until then I had been wearing a mask myself of a bewildered victim hastily making a complaint on the spur of the moment. They now knew I was one of the few people they were completely transparent to and everything changed. I was beginning to get the upper hand and outwitting them. They now saw me 10 times taller and looked at me with a grudging respect. So they then had to excuse themselves from the room to buy time to think as I was starting to hit the nail on the head.
When they shortly returned after realising the sweet tongue was not having the desired effect on me, as it had lost now it’s suave, they then changed to how I really knew them. They tried to make the meeting backfire on me by using it as another opportunity to fully launch into an attack on my work performance, thinking if they can't sweet-talk me then they must annihilate the threat (me), as quickly as possible. I replied that their so called 'performance issue' had only a grain of insignificant truth, and that it was actually an old psychological device used by workplaces bullies to undermine their target, to shield themselves from the accountability and inadequacy of their actions.
This had been a bitter struggle, but I stood by the courage of my convictions. I then demanded the apology letter; a most reasonable, generous and undeniable request considering the nature of the allegations. This is likely to look bad if they refused to consider it. So, finally, the confrontation ended. On exiting the meeting room, this last request incensed them immensely to walk out in a blazing trail of smoke, off somewhere to probably nurse their hate and gnaw the ends of their old plots to weave such webs as they could.
As expected, from research, the bully doubled and trebled their mental assault on me, but I held out and disputed their every attack. Then, all of a sudden, they immediately stopped as they finally knew they risked giving me more potential evidence to use against them. This kind of defiance and strength can be very intimidating to even a workplace bully. However, as I started to feel less resentment now that I had understood and repel the anti-social personality, I started to feel pity. I quickly pushed this merciful thought aside for the sake of their present and future targets. Though if the bully were to really know me they would know I do not wish any ill will, or destruction upon them, but only to render them harmless. Of course though the bullying mind can only think in its own capacity of power, malice, revenge etc.
After vainly using every intimidating tactic in their arsenal, and me being no fun anymore, they then fell to feigning victimhood by pretending to take some 'personal’ time off. From what I had studied, this is when I knew I had prevented any infliction of injury, as they were the one acting like the victim in order to get sympathy from everyone. Usually, it’s the other way round with a real victim having to take days off due to stress (bullying and harassment being responsible for a third of workers being signed off with stress). However, the thought of them suffering me hadn’t even entered into their darkest dreams; and thus found impossible to endure.
So in the end I got the apology letter. Anyone, not just a workplace bully, doesn’t want something as dangerous as this hanging around when about to step into a promotion! Of course the letter never actually admitted to anything. It only stated they were sorry if any of their interactions with me were seen in any way to be of an offensive nature; but an apology nonetheless.
I knew there was little worth in going down the lengthy hassles of formal grievance procedures, employment tribunals, lawyers etc. Besides, I had my personal goals of travelling and university to pursue. So, I felt I had done enough for my office colleagues and accepted the matter had been brought as concluded as could possibly be. Everything had changed and I had victory for them, as well as myself. This conflict, alongside completing my Access to University course, has excelled my independent critical thinking more than I ever thought possible.
After the bully had left that meeting, I will always remember the human resources facilitator (even though they maybe be professionally biased in favour of the bully) winking at me impressed that I had somehow managed to outwit the bully and knowing they had no doubt I would be getting the apology letter.