Case 050 - Solicitor's Office

Reading some of the case histories reminded me of a two-year period early in my legal career while employed in a Government Solicitors Office. I had heard that the general manager had a reputation as a bully. Naively I thought I could handle it, as my previous experience with bullying had been at school and the Army, and dealt with it OK.

I had not really experienced the Office bully. Reading your selection criteria, this guy was an expert, and I am positive that he knew exactly what he was doing - his bullying was to keep order. He would pick someone in the office - someone who did not fit his world view of the grey public servant, and start a campaign of putting that person off their work. It would start small scale - the occasional critical comment on a piece of advice, but then built up. An advice prepared a month previously would turn up on your desk with "please discuss" on it. An appointment would have to be made to see him. Then, at your appointment he would read out passages of the advice, out of context, and ask why it had been expressed that way - and that he was not sure that the law was correct - and no matter how you expressed yourself, he would not see your view.

As one of the senior government lawyers said, he was never more right than when he was wrong. The "please discuss" treatment would last, on average, 2-3 months. Once he had locked on though, no-one in the office wanted to know you. It was known as having the "kiss of death". No more invitations to coffee or lunch. Complete isolation while the little (short man) creep had his fun.

Without really being equipped, I stood up to him. The pressure got worse and worse. I got to the point where I had to see him once a month to basically tell him what I'd done the previous month. Go through my advices and other work, explain why I had done things a particular way - all of which he subjected to ridicule -often in front of my supervisor (who, of course, privately sympathised, but did not hesitate to put the boot in when the boss was around - or in any of these meetings).

In those meetings I felt myself withdrawing, curling up to make myself a smaller target. It didn't work, as the bully he was he just went harder. I was threatened with disciplinary action, and was told that he'd had other legal officers removed from duty by "breaking them" and that is what he was going to do to me.

What I did do was get some help in realising what it was that let this man affect me - and I realised that nothing had prepared me for this sort of power relationship. Even in the Army, a bullying superior can be circumvented (normally the ones at the same or higher rank sort this out). I had to identify what this guy got off on in the bullying and take that away. I found out he got a buzz out of the fear he caused, and that as long as you were frightened of him, he was always going to go after you.

And so I learned to not be afraid. This came about as part of rebuilding my self-confidence via completing a course of martial arts to the level of 1st Dan Instructor. This was done through personal training with a Kung-fu Grand Master. He was aware of what I was going through, and he literally taught me not to fear anything.

I was called into see my boss after a weekend where I had, after a very torrid grading, achieved the rank as above. It was torrid as it was very physically demanding. I was sporting some cuts and bruises, but I felt like I had not felt in a long time. I walked into his office feeling ten foot tall. Instead of hunching over, I sat in the chair bolt upright, and looked him dead in the eye, and did not look away.

"Well", he said "Would you like to tell me how you're going?"

"Why don't you tell me" I said, "as yours is the only opinion which matters"

"Are you feeling alright?" he asked, sneering. Very matter of fact I told him I'd never felt better. He quizzed me as to my cuts and bruises, and inquired whether I had been in an accident. I informed him I had been doing some Kung fu with some friends on the weekend. In his most mocking tone he said:

"Hohoh, are you some sort of black belt?" Fixing the little bastard dead in the eye, I leaned forward and said very quietly:

"I am now".

That moment was priceless. Instantly the power relationship changed. He shrank back, and look of real fear crossed his face. I told him to relax and:

"I guarantee, you are in less danger today than you were last week. I am fully in control of myself. You don't frighten me any more, and this is the last meeting we will have on these terms".

And it was - and I was left alone - and he didn't start on anyone else until I had moved out of his Branch.

I wish, however, I had known about Bully OnLine back then - because everything you say about bullies and how to deal with them is true - for my case history points out something unfortunate - to be left alone I had to have him fear me - and that is not right - no matter what the little creep did to deserve it.