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ALL CONTENTS FROM: http://www.bullyonline.org/
Where are people bullied?
• • • • • • • • at work by their manager or co-workers or subordinates, or by their clients (bullying, workplace bullying, mobbing, work abuse, harassment, discrimination) at home by their partner or parents or siblings or children (bullying, assault, domestic violence, abuse, verbal abuse) at school (bullying, harassment, assault) in the care of others, such as in hospital, convalescent homes, care homes, residential homes (bullying, harassment, assault) in the armed forces (bullying, harassment, discrimination, assault) by those in authority (harassment, abuse of power) by neighbours and landlords (bullying, harassment) by strangers (harassment, stalking, assault, sexual assault, rape, grievous bodily harm, murder)
How do you know if you're being bullied? Bullying differs from harassment and assault in that the latter can result from a single incident or small number of incidents - which everybody recognises as harassment or assault whereas bullying tends to be an accumulation of many small incidents over a long period of time. Each incident tends to be trivial, and on its own and out of context does not constitute an offence or grounds for disciplinary or grievance action. So, ... What is bullying?
• constant nit-picking, fault-finding and criticism of a trivial nature - the triviality, regularity and frequency betray bullying; often there is a grain of truth (but only a grain) in the criticism to fool you into believing the criticism has validity, which it does not; often, the criticism is based on distortion, misrepresentation or fabrication simultaneous with the criticism, a constant refusal to acknowledge you and your contributions and achievements or to recognise your existence and value constant attempts to undermine you and your position, status, worth, value and potential where you are in a group (eg at work), being singled out and treated differently; for instance, everyone else can get away with murder but the moment you put a foot wrong - however trivial - action is taken against you being isolated and separated from colleagues, excluded from what's going on, marginalized, overruled, ignored, sidelined, frozen out, sent to Coventry being belittled, demeaned and patronised, especially in front of others being humiliated, shouted at and threatened, often in front of others being overloaded with work, or having all your work taken away and replaced with either menial tasks (filing, photocopying, minute taking) or with no work at all finding that your work - and the credit for it - is stolen and plagiarised having your responsibility increased but your authority taken away having annual leave, sickness leave, and - especially - compassionate leave refused being denied training necessary for you to fulfil your duties having unrealistic goals set, which change as you approach them
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2 • • • • ditto deadlines which are changed at short notice - or no notice - and without you being informed until it's too late finding that everything you say and do is twisted, distorted and misrepresented being subjected to disciplinary procedures with verbal or written warnings imposed for trivial or fabricated reasons and without proper investigation being coerced into leaving through no fault of your own, constructive dismissal, early or illhealth retirement, etc
For further information on what bullying is, click here. For an answer to the question Why me?, click here. How do I recognise a bully? Most bullying is traceable to one person, male or female - bullying is not a gender issue. Bullies are often clever people (especially female bullies) but you can be clever too. Who does this describe in your life?
• Jekyll & Hyde nature - vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses; no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive nature - only the current target sees both sides is a convincing, compulsive liar and when called to account, will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment uses lots of charm and is always plausible and convincing when peers, superiors or others are present; the motive of the charm is deception and its purpose is to compensate for lack of empathy relies on mimicry to convince others that they are a "normal" human being but their words, writing and deeds are hollow, superficial and glib displays a great deal of certitude and self-assuredness to mask their insecurity excels at deception exhibits unusual inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters or sexual behaviour; underneath the charming exterior there are often suspicions or intimations of sexual harassment, sex discrimination or sexual abuse (sometimes racial prejudice as well) exhibits much controlling behaviour and is a control freak displays a compulsive need to criticise whilst simultaneously refusing to acknowledge, value and praise others when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of others, responds with impatience, irritability and aggression often has an overwhelming, unhealthy and narcissistic need to portray themselves as a wonderful, kind, caring and compassionate person, in contrast to their behaviour and treatment of others; the bully is oblivious to the discrepancy between how they like to be seen (and believe they are seen), and how they are actually seen has an overbearing belief in their qualities of leadership but cannot distinguish between leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, trust and integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness, aggression, distrust and deceitfulness) when called to account, immediately and aggressively denies everything, then counterattacks with distorted or fabricated criticisms and allegations; if this is insufficient, quickly feigns victimhood, often by bursting into tears (the purpose is to avoid answering the question and thus evade accountability by manipulating others through the use of guilt) is also ... aggressive, devious, manipulative, spiteful, vengeful, doesn't listen, can't sustain mature adult conversation, lacks a conscience, shows no remorse, is drawn to power, emotionally cold and flat, humourless, joyless, ungrateful, dysfunctional, disruptive, divisive,
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3 rigid and inflexible, selfish, insincere, insecure, immature and deeply inadequate, especially in interpersonal skills
I estimate one person in thirty has this behaviour profile. I describe them as having a disordered personality: an aggressive but intelligent individual who expresses their violence psychologically (constant criticism etc) rather than physically (assault). For the full profile, click here; to see and be able to recognise the four most common types of serial bully, click here. What does bullying do to my health? Bullying causes injury to health and makes you ill. How many of these symptoms do you have?
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • constant high levels of stress and anxiety frequent illness such as viral infections especially flu and glandular fever, colds, coughs, chest, ear, nose and throat infections (stress plays havoc with your immune system) aches and pains in the joints and muscles with no obvious cause; also back pain with no obvious cause and which won't go away or respond to treatment headaches and migraines tiredness, exhaustion, constant fatigue sleeplessness, nightmares, waking early, waking up more tired than when you went to bed flashbacks and replays, obsessiveness, can't get the bullying out of your mind irritable bowel syndrome skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, athlete's foot, ulcers, shingles, urticaria poor concentration, can't concentrate on anything for long bad or intermittently-functioning memory, forgetfulness, especially with trivial day-to-day things sweating, trembling, shaking, palpitations, panic attacks tearfulness, bursting into tears regularly and over trivial things uncharacteristic irritability and angry outbursts hypervigilance (feels like but is not paranoia), being constantly on edge hypersensitivity, fragility, isolation, withdrawal reactive depression, a feeling of woebegoneness, lethargy, hopelessness, anger, futility and more shattered self-confidence, low self-worth, low self-esteem, loss of self-love, etc
For the full set of symptoms of injury to health caused by prolonged negative stress (such as that caused by bullying, harassment, abuse etc) click here. For details of the trauma that results, click here. More information on identifying and overcoming bullying and its effects on health is in my book Bully in sight: how to predict, resist, challenge and combat workplace bullying; click here for book details and click here to order a copy online. Bully OnLine and the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line are funded by sales of Bully in sight and David Kinchin's book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury, and Neil Marr and Tim Field's book Bullycide: death at playtime, an expose of child suicide caused by bullying. Welcome to Bully OnLine, web site of the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line where Tim Field shares his unique insight into bullying and its effects on health and profits. Explore the site by clicking the coloured text or mauve buttons at the bottom of each page. If you have question, see the frequently asked questions page.
Types of bullying, bullying tactics, how targets are selected, the difference between bullying and harassment An answer to the question "Why me?"
On this page What is bullying? The twelve types of bullying | Forms that bullying takes Hierarchical bullying, peer bullying, upward bullying An answer to the question, Why me? How bullies select their targets | Events that trigger bullying Personal qualities of targets that bullies find irresistible The difference between bullying and harassment On another page Definitions of bullying What is mobbing?
Bullying: what is it?
What is bullying? Bullying is persistent unwelcome behaviour, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, faultfinding, also exclusion, isolation, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated, excessive monitoring, having verbal and written warnings imposed, and much more. In the workplace, bullying usually focuses on distorted or fabricated allegations of underperformance. Click here for definitions of workplace bullying. Why do people bully? The purpose of bullying is to hide inadequacy. Bullying has nothing to do with managing etc; good managers manage, bad managers bully. Management is managing; bullying is not managing. Therefore, anyone who chooses to bully is admitting their inadequacy, and the extent to which a person bullies is a measure of their inadequacy. Bullies project their inadequacy on to others: a) to avoid facing up to their inadequacy and doing something about it; b) to avoid accepting responsibility for their behaviour and the effect it has on others, and, c) to reduce their fear of being seen for what they are, namely a weak, inadequate and often incompetent individuals, and, d) to divert attention away from their inadequacy - in an insecure or badly-managed workplace, this is how inadequate, incompetent and aggressive employees keep their jobs. Bullying is an inefficient way of working, resulting in disenchantment, demoralisation, demotivation, disaffection, and alienation. Bullies run dysfunctional and inefficient organisations; staff turnover and sickness absence are high whilst morale, productivity and profitability are low. Prosperity is illusory and such organizations are a bad longterm investment. Projection and denial are hallmarks of the serial bully. Bullying is present behind all forms of harassment, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, persecution, conflict and violence. When the bullying has a focus (eg race or gender) it is expressed as racial prejudice or harassment, or sexual discrimination and harassment, and so on. When the bullying lacks a focus (or the bully is aware of the Sex Discrimination Act or the Race Relations Act), it comes out as pure bullying; this is an opportunity to understand the behaviours which underlie almost all reprehensible behavior. I believe bullying is the single most important social issue of today. Bullying... is a form of abuse, and bullies - and unenlightened employers - often go to great lengths to keep their targets quiet, using threats of disciplinary action, dismissal, and gagging clauses. What bullies fear most is exposure of their inadequacy and being called publicly to account for their behavior and its consequences. This makes sense when you remember that the purpose of bullying is to hide inadequacy, and people who bully to hide their inadequacy are often incompetent. A bully is a person who
• • has never learnt to accept responsibility for their behaviour wants to enjoy the benefits of living in the adult world, but who is unable and unwilling to accept the responsibilities that are a prerequisite for being part of the adult world.
5 • • • • abdicates and denies responsibility for their behaviour and its consequences (abdication and denial are common features of bullying) is unable and unwilling to recognise the effect of their behaviour on others does not want to know of any other way of behaving is unwilling to recognise that there could be better ways of behaving.
Bullying is obsessive and compulsive; the serial bully has to have someone to bully and appears to be unable to survive without a current target. Despite the facade that such people put up, bullies have low self-confidence and low self-esteem, and thus feel insecure. Low self-esteem is a factor highlighted by all studies of bullying. Because such people are inadequate and unable to fulfil the duties and obligations of their position (but have no hesitation in accepting salary), they fear being revealed. This fear of exposure often borders on paranoia. Bullies are seething with resentment, bitterness, hatred and anger, and often have wide-ranging prejudices as a vehicle for dumping their anger onto others. Bullies are driven by jealousy and envy. Rejection (which cannot be assuaged) is another powerful motivator of bullying. Bullies are people who have not learned the lesson of consequences, ie that if they behave well there are good consequences (reward), but if they behave badly there are bad consequences (restriction, sanction, punishment, etc). Since childhood, bullies have learnt that they can avoid the unpleasant consequences of bad behaviour through the instinctive response of denial, blame, and feigning victimhood. How to spot a bully in your workplace If you have a serial bully on the staff they will reveal themselves by their department showing excessive rates of
• • • • • • • • • • • • staff turnover sickness absence stress breakdowns deaths in service ill-health retirements early retirements uses of disciplinary procedures grievances initiated suspensions dismissals uses of private security firms to snoop on employees litigation including employment tribunals or legal action against employees
Types of bullying Pressure bullying or unwitting bullying is where the stress of the moment causes behaviour to deteriorate; the person becomes short-tempered, irritable and may shout or swear at others. Everybody does this from time to time, but when the pressure is removed, behaviour returns to normal, the person recognises the inappropriateness of their behaviour, makes amends, and may apologise, and - crucially - learns from the experience so that next time the situation arises they are better able to deal with it. This is "normal" behaviour and I do not include pressure bullying in my definition of workplace bullying. Organisational bullying is a combination of pressure bullying and corporate bullying, and occurs when an organisation struggles to adapt to changing markets, reduced income, cuts in budgets, imposed expectations, and other external pressures. Corporate bullying is where the employer abuses employees with impunity knowing that the law is weak and jobs are scarce, eg:
6 • • coercing employees to work 60/70/80 weeks on a regular basis then making life hell for (or dismissing) anyone who objects dismissing anyone who looks like having a stress breakdown as it's cheaper (in the UK) to pay the costs of unfair dismissal at Employment Tribunal (eg £50K maximum, but awards are usually paltry) than risk facing a personal injury claim for stress breakdown (eg £175K as in the John Walker case) introduces "absence management" to deny employees annual or sick leave to which they are genuinely entitled regularly snoops and spies on employees, eg by listening in to telephone conversations, using the mystery shopper, contacting customers behind employees backs and asking leading questions, conducting covert video surveillance (perhaps by fellow employees), sending personnel officers or private investigators to an employee's home to interrogate the employees whilst on sick leave, threatening employees with interrogation the moment they return from sick leave, etc. deems any employee suffering from stress as weak and inadequate whilst aggressively ignoring and denying the cause of stress (bad management and bullying) "encourages" employees (with promises of promotion and/or threats of disciplinary action) to fabricate complaints about their colleagues employees are "encouraged" to give up full-time permanent positions in favour of short-term contracts; anyone who resists has their life made hell
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Institutional bullying is similar to corporate bullying and arises when bullying becomes entrenched and accepted as part of the culture. People are moved, long-existing contracts are replaced with new short-term contracts on less favourable terms with the accompanying threat of "agree to this or else", workloads are increased, work schedules are changed, roles are changed, career progression paths are blocked or terminated, etc - and all of this is without consultation. Client bullying is where employees are bullied by those they serve, eg teachers are bullied (and often assaulted) by pupils and their parents, nurses are bullied by patients and their relatives, social workers are bullied by their clients, and shop/bank/building society staff are bullied by customers. Often the client is claiming their perceived right (eg to better service) in an abusive, derogatory and often physically violent manner. Client bullying can also be employees bullying their clients. Serial bullying is where the source of all dysfunction can be traced to one individual, who picks on one employee after another and destroys them. This is the most common type of bullying I come across; most of this web site is devoted to describing and defining the serial bully, who exhibits the behavioural characteristics of a socialised psychopath. Most people know at least one person in their life with the profile of the serial bully; most people do not recognise this person as a socialised psychopath, or sociopath. I estimate one person in thirty is either a physically-violent psychopath who commits criminal acts, or an antisocial whose behaviour is antisocial, or a sociopath who commits mostly non-arrestable offences. For an in-depth insight into serial bullying, click here. Secondary bullying is mostly unwitting bullying which people start exhibiting when there's a serial bully in the department. The pressure of trying to deal with a dysfunctional, divisive and aggressive serial bully causes everyone's behaviour to decline. Pair bullying is a serial bully with a colleague. Often one does the talking whilst the other watches and listens. Usually it's the quiet one you need to watch. Usually they are of opposite gender and frequently there's an affair going on. Gang bullying is a serial bully with colleagues. Gangs can occur anywhere, but flourish in corporate bullying climates. If the bully is an extrovert, they are likely to be leading from the front; they may also be a shouter and screamer, and thus easily identifiable (and recordable on tape and video-able). If the bully is an introvert, that person will be in the background initiating the mayhem but probably not taking an active part, and may thus be harder to identify. A common tactic of this type of bully is to tell everybody a different story - usually about what others are alleged to have said about that person - and encourage each person to think they are the only one with the correct story. Introvert bullies are the most dangerous bullies.
Half the people in the gang are happy for the opportunity to behave badly, they gain gratification from the feeling of power and control, and enjoy the patronage, protection and reward from the serial bully. The other half of the gang are coerced into joining in, usually through fear of being the next target if they don't. If anything backfires, one of these coercees will be the scapegoat and sacrificial lamb on whom enraged targets will be encouraged to vent their anger. The serial bully watches from a safe distance. Serial bullies gain a great deal of gratification from encouraging and watching others engage in conflict, especially those who might otherwise pool negative information about them. Gang bullying or group bullying is often called mobbing and usually involves scapegoating and victimisation. Vicarious bullying is where two parties are encouraged to engage in adversarial interaction or conflict. Similar to gang bullying, although the bully may or may not be directly connected with either of the two parties. One party becomes the bully's instrument of harassment and is deceived and manipulated into bullying the other party. An example of vicarious bullying is where the serial bully creates conflict between employer and employee, participating occasionally to stoke the conflict, but rarely taking an active part in the conflict themselves. Regulation bullying is where a serial bully forces their target to comply with rules, regulations, procedures or laws regardless of their appropriateness, applicability or necessity. Legal bullying - the bringing of a vexatious legal action to control and punish a person - is one of the nastiest forms of bullying. Residual bullying is the bullying of all kinds that continues after the serial bully has left. Like recruits like and like promotes like, therefore the serial bully bequeaths a dysfunctional environment to those who are left. This can last for years. Cyber bullying is the misuse of email systems or Internet forums etc for sending aggressive flame mails. Serial bullies have few communication skills (and often none), thus the impersonal nature of email makes it an ideal tool for causing conflict. Sometimes called cyberstalking. In environments where bullying is the norm, most people will eventually either become bullies or become targets. There are few bystanders, as most people will eventually be sucked in. It's about survival: you either adopt bullying tactics yourself and thus survive by not becoming a target, or you stand up against bullying and refuse to join in, in which case you are bullied, harassed, victimized and scapegoated until your health is so severely impaired that you have a stress breakdown (this is a psychiatric injury, not a mental illness - see health page for details on stress, or the PTSD page for details on psychiatric injury), take ill-health retirement, leave, find yourself unexpectedly selected for redundancy, or are unfairly dismissed. Hierarchical bullying, peer bullying, upward bullying The majority of cases of workplace bullying reported to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line and Bully OnLine involve an individual being bullied by their manager, and these account for around 75% of cases. Around a quarter of cases involve bullying and harassment by peers (often with the collusion of a manager either by proactive involvement or by the manager refusing to take action). A small number of cases (around 1-2%) involve the bullying of a manager by a subordinate. Serial bullies like to tap into hierarchical power, but they also generate their own power by simply choosing to bully with impunity and justifying or denying their behaviour with rationalisation, manipulation, deception or lying. In a case of bullying of a manager by a subordinate, it's my view that as bullying is a form of violence (at the psychological and emotional lever rather than the physical) it's the responsibility of the employer, not the individual manager, to deal with violence at work. What is bullying? People who are bullied find that they are:
• constantly criticised and subjected to destructive criticism (often euphemistically called constructive criticism, which is an oxymoron) - explanations and proof of achievement are ridiculed, overruled, dismissed or ignored forever subject to nit-picking and trivial fault-finding (the triviality is the giveaway) undermined, especially in front of others; false concerns are raised, or doubts are expressed over a person's performance or standard of work - however, the doubts lack substantive and quantifiable evidence, for they are only the bully's unreliable opinion and are for control, not performance enhancement
8 • • • • • • • • • • • • • overruled, ignored, sidelined, marginalised, ostracised isolated and excluded from what's happening (this makes people more vulnerable and easier to control and subjugate) singled out and treated differently (for example everyone else can have long lunch breaks but if they are one minute late it's a disciplinary offence) belittled, degraded, demeaned, ridiculed, patronised, subject to disparaging remarks regularly the target of offensive language, personal remarks, or inappropriate bad language the target of unwanted sexual behaviour threatened, shouted at and humiliated, especially in front of others taunted and teased where the intention is to embarrass and humiliate set unrealistic goals and deadlines which are unachievable or which are changed without notice or reason or whenever they get near achieving them denied information or knowledge necessary for undertaking work and achieving objectives starved of resources, sometimes whilst others often receive more than they need denied support by their manager and thus find themselves working in a management vacuum either overloaded with work (this keeps people busy [with no time to tackle bullying] and makes it harder to achieve targets) or have all their work taken away (which is sometimes replaced with inappropriate menial jobs, eg photocopying, filing, making coffee) have their responsibility increased but their authority removed have their work plagiarised, stolen and copied - the bully then presents their target's work (eg to senior management) as their own are given the silent treatment: the bully refuses to communicate and avoids eye contact (always an indicator of an abusive relationship); often instructions are received only via email, memos, or a succession of yellow stickies or post-it notes subject to excessive monitoring, supervision, micro-management, recording, snooping etc the subject of written complaints by other members of staff (most of whom have been coerced into fabricating allegations - the complaints are trivial, often bizarre ["He looked at me in a funny way"] and often bear striking similarity to each other, suggesting a common origin) forced to work long hours, often without remuneration and under threat of dismissal find requests for leave have unacceptable and unnecessary conditions attached, sometimes overturning previous approval. especially if the person has taken action to address bullying in the meantime denied annual leave, sickness leave, or - especially - compassionate leave when on leave, are harassed by calls at home or on holiday, often at unsocial hours receive unpleasant or threatening calls or are harassed with intimidating memos, notes or emails with no verbal communication, immediately prior to weekends and holidays (eg 4pm Friday or Christmas Eve - often these are hand-delivered) do not have a clear job description, or have one that is exceedingly long or vague; the bully often deliberately makes the person's role unclear are invited to "informal" meetings which turn out to be disciplinary hearings
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9 • are denied representation at meetings, often under threat of further disciplinary action; sometimes the bully abuses their position of power to exclude any representative who is competent to deal with bullying encouraged to feel guilty, and to believe they're always the one at fault subjected to unwarranted and unjustified verbal or written warnings facing unjustified disciplinary action on trivial or specious or false charges facing dismissal on fabricated charges or flimsy excuses, often using a trivial incident from months or years previously coerced into reluctant resignation, enforced redundancy, early or ill-health retirement denial of the right to earn your livelihood including preventing you getting another job, usually with a bad or misleading reference
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A favourite tactic of bullies which helps them evade detection is to undertake a "reorganisation" at regular intervals. This has several advantages:
• • • • • anyone whose face doesn't fit can be organised out through downsizing (redundancy) or transfer ditto anyone who challenges the reorganisation ditto, their job can be "regraded" or "redefined" to the person's disadvantage each reorganisation is a smokescreen for the bully's dysfunctional behaviour - everyone is so busy coping with the reorganisation (chaos) that the bully's behaviour goes unnoticed the bully can always claim to be reorganising in the name of "efficiency" and therefore be perceived by those above as a strong manager
However, there is never any cost-benefit justification to the reorganisation - no figures before and no figures after to prove the reorganisation has brought benefits.
There are many reasons how and why bullies target others, and the reasons are consistent between cases. There are many myths and stereotypes such as "victims are weak" which I deconstruct on my myths page. Bullying often repeats because the reasons that bullies target their victims don't change, hence this section also answers the questions "Why do I keep getting bullied" and "Why do bullies continue to bully me?". 1) How do bullies select their targets? The bully selects their target using the following criteria:
• bullies are predatory and opportunistic - you just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; this is always the main reason - investigation will reveal a string of predecessors, and you will have a string of successors being good at your job, often excelling being popular with people (colleagues, customers, clients, pupils, parents, patients, etc) more than anything else, the bully fears exposure of his/her inadequacy and incompetence; your presence, popularity and competence unknowingly and unwittingly fuel that fear being the expert and the person to whom others come for advice, either personal or professional (ie you get more attention than the bully) having a well-defined set of values which you are unwilling to compromise having a strong sense of integrity (bullies despise integrity, for they have none, and seem compelled to destroy anyone who has integrity) having at least one vulnerability that can be exploited being too old or too expensive (usually both)
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10 • • • refusing to join an established clique showing independence of thought or deed refusing to become a corporate clone and drone
Jealousy (of relationships and perceived exclusion therefrom) and envy (of talents, abilities, circumstances or possessions) are strong motivators of bullying. 2) Events that trigger bullying Bullying starts after one of these events:
• • • • the previous target leaves there's a reorganisation a new manager is appointed your performance unwittingly highlights, draws attention to, exposes or invites unfavourable comparison with the bully's lack of performance (the harder you work to address the bully's claims of underperformance, the more insecure and unstable the bully becomes) you may have unwittingly become the focus of attention whereas before the bully was the centre of attention (this often occurs with female bullies) - most bullies are emotionally immature and thus crave attention obvious displays of affection, respect or trust from co-workers refusing to obey an order which violates rules, regulations, procedures, or is illegal standing up for a colleague who is being bullied - this ensures you will be next; sometimes the bully drops their current target and turns their attention to you immediately blowing the whistle on incompetence, malpractice, fraud, illegality, breaches of procedure, breaches of health & safety regulations etc undertaking trade union duties suffering illness or injury, whether work related or not challenging the status quo, especially unwittingly gaining recognition for your achievements, eg winning an award or being publicly recognised gaining promotion
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3) Personal qualities that bullies find irresistible Targets of bullying usually have these qualities:
• • • • • • • • • • • popularity (this stimulates jealousy in the less-than-popular bully) competence (this stimulates envy in the less-than-competent bully) intelligence and intellect honesty and integrity (which bullies despise) you're trustworthy, trusting, conscientious, loyal and dependable a well-developed integrity which you're unwilling to compromise you're always willing to go that extra mile and expect others to do the same successful, tenacious, determined, courageous, having fortitude a sense of humour, including displays of quick-wittedness imaginative, creative, innovative idealistic, optimistic, always working for improvement and betterment of self, family, the employer, and the world
11 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • ability to master new skills ability to think long term and to see the bigger picture sensitivity (this is a constellation of values to be cherished including empathy, concern for others, respect, tolerance etc) slow to anger helpful, always willing to share knowledge and experience giving and selfless difficulty saying no diligent, industrious tolerant strong sense of honour irrepressible, wanting to tackle and correct injustice wherever you see it an inability to value oneself whilst attributing greater importance and validity to other people's opinions of oneself (eg through tests, exams, appraisals, manager's feedback, etc) low propensity to violence (ie you prefer to resolve conflict through dialogue rather than through violence or legal action) a strong forgiving streak (which the bully exploits and manipulates to dissuade you from taking grievance and legal action) a desire to always think well of others being incorruptible, having high moral standards which you are unwilling to compromise being unwilling to lower standards a strong well-defined set of values which you are unwilling to compromise or abandon high expectations of those in authority and a dislike of incompetent people in positions of power who abuse power a tendency to self-deprecation, indecisiveness, deference and approval seeking low assertiveness a need to feel valued quick to apologise when accused, even if not guilty (this is a useful technique for defusing an aggressive customer or potential road rage incident) perfectionism higher-than-average levels of dependency, naivety and guilt a strong sense of fair play and a desire to always be reasonable high coping skills under stress, especially when the injury to health becomes apparent a tendency to internalise anger rather than express it the target is selected using the criteria above, then bullied for months, perhaps years eventually, the target asserts their right not to be bullied, perhaps by filing a complaint with personnel personnel interview the bully, who uses their Jekyll and Hyde nature, compulsive lying, and charm to tell the opposite story (charm has a motive - deception)
The typical sequence of events is:
12 • • it's one word against another with no witnesses and no evidence, so personnel take the word of the senior employee - serial bullies excel at deception and evasion of accountability the personnel department are hoodwinked by the bully into getting rid of the target - serial bullies are adept at encouraging conflict between people who might otherwise pool negative information about them once the target is gone, there's a period of between 2-14 days, then a new target is selected and the process starts again (bullying is an obsessive compulsive behaviour and serial bullies seem unable to survive without a target on to whom they can project their inadequacy and incompetence whilst blaming them for the bully's own failings) even if the employer realises that they might have sided with the wrong person in the past, they are unlikely to admit that because to do so may incur liability if legal action is taken, employers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep targets quiet, usually by offering a small out-of-court settlement with a comprehensive gagging clause employers are often more frightened of the bully than the target and will go to enormous lengths to avoid having to deal with bully (promotion for the bully is the most common outcome)
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Contact us for strategies to counter the serial bully's tactics of deception or how to deal with a gagging clause. There are many myths, misperceptions and stereotypes that bullies and their supporters, apologists and deniers disingenuously use to hide the facts listed above and to further victimise those targeted; click here for insight to counter these tactics. What's the difference between bullying and harassment? Acts of harassment usually centre around unwanted, offensive and intrusive behaviour with a sexual, racial or physical component. Measures to identify and proscribe acts of harassment derive from the Sex Discrimination Act, the Race Relations Act and the law of assault. More recently, the Disability Discrimination Act (1996), the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) and the Protection from Harassment Act (1996) have also influenced attitudes towards harassment. Significantly, the Protection from Harassment Act accords emphasis for the first time on the target's perception of the harassment rather than the perpetrator's alleged intent. At present, if one is being bullied and is white, British, able-bodied and the same gender as the bully, one is not currently covered by discrimination law. Ironically, one is thus discriminated against by not qualifying under existing discrimination law. Whilst the DTI like to quote the Protection from Harassment Act as the way to deal with bullying at work, the Act is designed to deal with stalkers, not an incompetent manager criticising a subordinate in a work environment. Under the previous Conservative government, the DTI similarly quoted the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act as the way to deal with bullying. To my knowledge not a single case of workplace bullying has been resolved by either act - or is ever likely to be. Definitions of harassment and bullying vary and there is much overlap. The essential differences between harassment and workplace bullying are as follows: Harassment Workplace bullying
Has a strong physical component, eg contact and Almost exclusively psychological (eg criticism), touch in all its forms, intrusion into personal may become physical later, especially with male space and possessions, damage to possessions bullies, but almost never with female bullies including a person's work, etc Tends to focus on the individual because of what Anyone will do, especially if they are competent, they are (eg female, black, disabled, etc) popular and vulnerable Although bullies are deeply prejudiced, sex, race Harassment is usually linked to sex, race, and gender play little part; it's usually prejudice, discrimination, etc discrimination on the basis of competence Harassment may consist of a single incident or a Bullying is rarely a single incident and tends to
13 be an accumulation of many small incidents, each of which, when taken in isolation and out of context, seems trivial The person being bullied may not realise they are The person who is being harassed knows almost being bullied for weeks or months - until there's a straight away they are being harassed moment of enlightenment Everyone can recognise harassment, especially if there's an assault, indecent assault or sexual Few people recognise bullying assault Workplace bullying tends to fixate on trivial Harassment often reveals itself through use of criticisms and false allegations of recognised offensive vocabulary, eg ("bitch", underperformance; offensive words rarely "coon", etc) appear, although swear words may be used when there are no witnesses Phase 1 of bullying is control and subjugation; There's often an element of possession, eg as in when this fails, phase 2 is elimination of the stalking target The harassment almost always has a strong clear The focus is on competence (envy) and focus (eg sex, race, disability) popularity (jealousy) Often the harassment is for peer approval, Tends to be secret behind closed doors with no bravado, macho image etc witnesses Harassment takes place both in and out of work The bullying takes place mostly at work The target is seen as a threat who must first be The harasser often perceives their target as easy, controlled and subjugated, and if that doesn't albeit sometimes a challenge work, eliminated Bullying is for control of threat (of exposure of Harassment is often domination for superiority the bully's own inadequacy) The bully is driven by envy (of abilities) and The harasser often lacks self-discipline jealousy (of relationships) The harasser often has specific inadequacies (eg The bully is inadequate in all areas of sexual) interpersonal and behavioural skills few incidents or many incidents
Workplace bullying definitions
Definition of workplace bullying by Amicus-MSF trade union
"Persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress" MSF Union, 1994
Definition of workplace bullying by Tim Field
Those who can, do. Those who can't, bully. "Bullying is a compulsive need to displace aggression and is achieved by the expression of inadequacy (social, personal, interpersonal, behavioural, professional) by projection of that inadequacy onto others through control and subjugation (criticism, exclusion, isolation etc). Bullying is sustained by abdication of responsibility (denial, counter-accusation, pretence of victimhood) and perpetuated by a climate of fear, ignorance, indifference, silence, denial, disbelief, deception, evasion of accountability, tolerance and reward (eg promotion) for the bully." Tim Field, 1999
FAQ: Answers to frequently asked questions about workplace bullying
For answers to frequently asked questions about school bullying and child bullying click here
How can I find information quickly at Bully OnLine? Use the site search engine or check the site map or site index. What is bullying? Click here. What's the difference between bullying and mobbing? Click here. What's the difference between bullying and harassment? Click here. What's the difference between bullying and management? Those who can, do. Those who can't, bully. Good managers manage, bad managers bully. Bad managers reveal themselves by bullying. Click here for a list of differences between a manager and a bully. Bullying is just tough management, isn't it? Bullies prevent employees from fulfilling their duties, bullies are usually inadequate at their own job and survive only by plagiarising (stealing) other people's work, bullying is a breach of contract (a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence), bullying causes injury to health and PTSD , bullies incur vicarious liability for the employer, etc. Why did he/she pick on me? Because you were good at your job, popular with people, unwittingly invited unfavourable comparison with the bully's inadequacy simply by being competent, were in the wrong place at the wrong time, blew the whistle on something (perhaps unwittingly), were vulnerable in some way (eg need to pay the mortgage), and because bullying is an obsessive, compulsive and addictive behaviour the serial bully has to have someone to bully. Why me? Click here. How do bullies select their targets? >Click here. What are the triggers that cause bullying to start? Click here. What is it about me that causes bullies to pick on me? Because you have a lot of positive qualities of which the bully is envious. Click here. Why did I let it happen to me? See previous answers. Because you had little or no knowledge of bullying, no training in how to deal with it, those around you denied or ignored it, you didn't recognise the bully as a sociopath, the bully disempowered you, you were vulnerable, you're honest and unwilling to compromise your integrity, the law is weak, jobs are scarce so you were frightened to report it, personnel and management probably didn't help or took the side of the bully, etc. What did I do to deserve it? Nothing. See previous answers. It is NEVER the target's fault - it is always the bully who is responsible for their behaviour; however, bullies project their behaviour onto their target and claim their target is the one with the "negative attitude" who is "aggressive" etc. Treat each criticism or allegation as an admission by the bully of his or her own failings and inadequacy. A target of abuse simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and probably has plenty of predecessors and successors. So what can I do about it? Lots, although justice through the legal system is difficult at present. Read everything (books, this web site) and decide whether you want to a) leave, get another job with an employer who values your skills and become financially stable, b) take legal action, c) fight bullying on a wider scale, d) get a settlement and do something different (perhaps more useful and rewarding) with your life, e) follow another option, or f) a combination of these. It's a personal decision that only you can make.
My union says I don't have a case. Many people who contact me say their union is refusing to handle their case. The reasons vary, but the most common are that the union rep is colluding with management, or the union rep doesn't have support from higher up the union. There's more on this, including the political dimension on my Public Sector page. Whilst taking successful legal action is difficult - there being no law specifically against bullying - there are at least twenty areas of law that apply (these are listed on the legal page). Read up on case law and settlements, plus specific cases including the Long case. It's mainly a problem of knowledge, training and experience, so tell your union rep about Bully OnLine at Bully Online and point him/her to the pages on training and public seminars. I feel so ill, often I just want to kill myself. These feelings, which include reactive depression, are a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. You are NOT mentally ill, but psychiatrically injured - the cause is external, someone is responsible and liable. Being an injury, it will get better, although it can take a long time. One of the aims of my seminar Recovery and re-empowerment after bullying abusive life events is to cut recovery time in half. You need resolution and/or closure of your experience for the healing to get going. Your GP and other medical professionals may not understand your trauma, so see my PTSD page which includes a table of the differences between mental illness and psychiatric injury. I thought I was the only one this was happening to. Almost everyone who is abused thinks this. Abusers encourage it, for it disempowers and silences you. However, there are many people in your situation - with workplace bullying, perhaps half the workforce. The reason so few people report their abusers is for fear that "no-one will believe me". See the section on denial. They are usually correct - but things are changing. You can help the process of change. I never thought I would be a victim. You're not a victim, you're a target. The word "victim" allows some people to tap into and stimulate prejudices and preconceived notions about "victimhood", eg that it's all your fault. Some academic research has unfortunately perpetuated this and other myths. It is not your fault - bullies are abusive personalities and predatory, and the bully has deliberately and intentionally targeted you. It is the bully's pattern of behaviour (constant nitpicking criticisms, specious allegations etc) which reveals intent. Click here to see the reasons why people are targeted. I was bullied at school and now I've been bullied again at work. Is there something wrong with me? No. You've been targeted at work for the same reasons you were targeted at school, ie you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, you are a person of integrity (bullies despise people with integrity for it reminds them of what they don't have), etc etc. It is the bully's choice to bully. Bullies have a compulsive need to bully and will target anyone who is available. Click here to see the most common reasons why people are targeted. I was bullied months / years ago and although I enjoy my current job and my boss is supportive I still have this nagging feeling that I'm not good enough and that people think I'm a failure. Why is this and what can I do about it? This is common to all people who have suffered long-term abuse, particularly verbal abuse (at work or at home) which focuses on "you're not good enough". As adults, people gain most of the sense of value and self-worth through their work and their relationships, so when you're repeatedly told how useless and incompetent you are and before you've worked out you're not dealing with a decent human being but with a serial bully / nutcase / jerk / loser - the subconscious steadily soaks up this message until one becomes convinced that somehow it must be true. Logic alone is not enough to override it. If you're in an abusive relationship at home or work, get out of it. Find another job, even if it's a short-term voluntary job, where you can work with good people. If you've been in an abusive relationship, take some time alone, but keep contact with trustworthy, supportive friends or family. Reduce or eliminate contact with those who are abusive, dismissive, unsupportive and negative in their attitude to life. The main reason we suffer self-doubt is because of low self-esteem. Recovery can be effected by the constant daily repetition of affirmations like "I am worthy" and "I am competent" and "I am a valuable person" and "I like myself". The best way of measuring your self-esteem is to stand in front of a mirror, take a good look at the person you see and say out loud ten times to that person, "I like myself". The comfort or discomfort or level of self-belief you feel when you do this is a good indicator of your true level of self-esteem which, after a bullying experience, is likely to be low. Repeat this exercise several times a day for three weeks, after which time you'll have made significant inroads into restoring your self-esteem by replacing in your subconscious mind the bully's false negative statements with your own true positive beliefs. There's more in my new seminar, Recovery and reempowerment after bullying and abusive life events.
Why don't you just stand up for yourself? Because in almost every case when you assert your right not to be bullied, things get worse. The bully senses that their tactics of control and subjugation are not working and, worse, that you can see through his or her mask of deceit. The bully's paranoid fear of exposure (of their weakness, inadequacy and incompetence) goes exponential and the bully moves into phase two - elimination. For a list of reasons why people are prevented from asserting their right not to be bullied click here. It's similar to why victims of abuse can't and won't report the abuse. My bully has made unwarranted criticisms/false allegations about me. How do I turn this to my advantage and reflect it back on the bully? Record the criticism/allegation in a letter to the bully, eg "On [date] you made the following criticism/allegation [quote it exactly]. I now ask you to provide me, in writing, with substantive and quantifiable evidence to justify your criticism/allegation". Contact us for more detail on this defensive strategy. I love my job ... how can I avoid losing it? The truth is, you've lost your job the moment the serial bully selects you as their next target. The bully will do everything humanly possible to oust you from your job, although because of your inner strength, emotional maturity and integrity, this may take a year of two - by which time you will have sustained a severe psychiatric injury which may prevent you from working in your chosen field again. My HR people are insisting I use the grievance procedure, but the bully is my boss - what can I do? In the majority of cases, the grievance procedure is inappropriate for dealing with bullying. To see why click here. The UK government has amended employment legislation to force employees to follow the grievance procedure before they can bring an action at employment tribunal, which, in bullying cases, makes matter worse rather than better. People who claim they're being bullied are just trying to hide the fact they're not very good at their job, aren't they? In at least 95% of the cases of bullying reported to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line, the person has been picked on because they are good at their job and popular with people. Bullies are driven by jealousy (of relationships) and envy (of abilities). The target just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you have an employee who is genuinely underperforming, then: a) there will be substantive and quantifiable evidence that they are underperforming b) there is already a problem with that person's manager for i) causing and allowing that situation to develop, ii) not taking positive action before, c) bullying will always make a problem worse so any manager who thinks that bullying improves performance is revealing their inadequacy as a manager How do I tell the difference between someone who is really being bullied and someone who's claiming bullying to hide their poor performance? The person who is being bullied will have, or quickly be able to construct, a fat folder of evidence, often covering several months, maybe years. They will report a stream of bullying behaviours, especially nit-picking, faultfinding and constant criticism and allegations, all of which lack substantive and quantifiable evidence, for they are just the bully's opinion. It's the patterns, the regularity and the number of incidents which reveal bullying. The person who is making a spurious claim might produce half a dozen sheets of paper, if that. But you've got to bully people to get the job done, haven't you? Bullies are weak, inadequate people who lack people skills, lack empathy, lack interpersonal skills, lack leadership skills, lack motivational skills, lack judgement, lack foresight and hindsight, lack forward thinking skills, etc. Bullies bully to hide the fact they lack these skills. Serial bullies are compulsive liars with a Jekyll and Hyde nature who use charm and mimicry to deceive peers and superiors. Bullying results in demotivation, demoralisation, disenchantment, disaffection, disloyalty, ill-health, high sickness absence, high staff turnover, an us-and-them culture, low productivity, frequent mistakes, low morale, non-existent team spirit, poor customer service, no continuity of customer care, etc. And that's just for starters. Isn't there a fine line between admonishing people who are not performing and using strong management to get the job done? a) Bullying is a cause of underperformance, not the solution b) There are recognised ways of dealing with underperformance; bullying is not one of them c) Bullying makes underperformance worse, not better
d) Bullying prevents employees from fulfilling their duties e) "Underperforming" employees seem to follow the bully wherever s/he goes f) It is always the bully who is weak, inadequate, and underperforming g) Bullies are weak managers; bullying is designed to hide that weakness by giving the appearance of strength whilst diverting attention away from the bully Surely a manager has a right to deal with the underperformance of a subordinate? False allegations of underperformance are designed to divert attention away from the bully's own inadequacy and to create conflict between those who might share incriminating information about him/her. Isn't it always just a case of the employee and employer fighting each other? Almost always the employee and employer end up in an adversarial contest in which both are losers regardless of the outcome. However, the employee and employer should be on the same side fighting the bully. Bullies are adept at creating conflict between those who would otherwise pool incriminating information about them. Bullies also gain gratification (a perverse indulgence in that nice warm feeling we call satisfaction) from encouraging and then watching others engage in destructive conflict. Bullies are also adept at manipulation (especially of people's emotions), deception, and evasion of accountability. My Human Resources department refuse to take me seriously. Instead, they are doing everything they can to support the bully whilst getting rid of me. Why is this? From dealing with thousands of cases in which this happens - albeit a self-selecting audience which may not scale up nationally - I've identified the following reasons: 1) Human Resources (HR) people are not trained in dealing with bullying - it's not in their textbooks, not in their training, and their professional body in the UK (CIPD) has not given the issue the attention it needs. 2) The HR profession seems to attract a number of people who are not people-focused and thus not good at dealing with people problems. 3) HR is not there for employees. The role of HR is to keep the employer out of court. 4) The majority of HR people are female, and females seem particularly susceptible to charm, which is one of the bully's main weapons of deception. 5) By the time HR get to hear of the bullying they are faced with an articulate, plausible, convincing, charming "bully" and a gibbering wreck of a "target" who is traumatised and thus unconvincing, inarticulate, incoherent, obsessed, apparently paranoid, tearful, distressed and highly emotional. By this time the bully has already convinced HR that the target has a "mental health problem", is a liability to the organisation, and needs to be got rid of. 6) When it's one word against another with no witnesses, HR take the word of the senior employee (almost always the bully). 7) There's no law against bullying so there's no case to answer. 8) The employer doesn't have an anti-bullying policy so it's not a disciplinary issue. 9) The employer does have an anti-bullying policy but it's just words on paper 10) The bully is a tough dynamic manager who gets the job done and the high turnover of staff in the bully's department is because they're all wimps who can't meet the demanding standards of performance demanded by this exemplary manager. Yawn. 11) If HR recognise they have a bully, they're not going to admit it because to do so is tantamount to admitting liability for this - and previous - cases. 12) HR are not going to admit that they've made a mistake recruiting an incompetent individual who bullies to hide his or her inadequacies. 13) When push comes to shove, HR do what they are told to do by management, regardless of the rights and wrongs. 14) HR are sometimes an outsourced and contracterised profession with little influence. 15) The constant change, reorganisation, restructuring, downsizing, outsourcing, contracterisation etc mean that there is no continuity in treatment of staff and thus the bully is able to hide the fact that he or she has a history of conflict with employees. 16) Over the last few years employers have been burdened with numerous legislative changes (working time, data privacy, parental leave, etc) and have no desire, resources, time or energy to deal with issues for which there is no legal requirement. 17) Bullying cases are so long and complex (a situation the bully fosters) that most HR (and most people) don't have the time, energy or resources to unpick the case.
18) There are only a handful of people who are capable of providing HR with the training and insight to undertake a successful investigation. 19) Where HR want to investigate they are sometimes overruled. 20) HR (and management) are frightened of the serial bully too - and sometimes more frightened than the employees. 21) HR people get bullied too. You say that in over 90% of cases you deal with the employer supports the bully and gets rid of the target. Why is this? 1) In the majority of cases, the bullying you see is the tip of an iceberg of wrongdoing (contact us for details of what the serial bully is likely to be up to) and the employer is terrified of what's going to come out. 2) Like recruits like, like supports like, like protects like, like colludes with like. If you have a serial bully, it's likely s/he has friends in senior management. 3) Bullies are adept at exploiting the politics of organisations and playing political games for personal gain. 4) Bullies are adept at deception, especially the manipulation of HR's and management's perceptions of their target. 5) Employers are more scared of the serial bully than the employees are 6) Employers are frightened of the legal action by both sides 7) Employers are frightened of the bad publicity that accompanies bullying cases 8) Because there's no law on bullying, it's easy to get rid of targets (who by this time are facing financial ruin and loss of job and are too ill to take legal action) 9) Because the case law on psychiatric injury is poor (especially after the Hatton judgment) the employer knows that a target is very unlikely to succeed in legal action, especially as a personal injury case will take five years of hell to reach court. 10) The bigger employers, and especially those in the public sector, have a bottomless purse when it comes to engaging barristers to defend a case against a target 11) The majority of workers are not in a union and therefore have no support. 12) Of those workers that are in a union, many will be let down by their union. 13) Even if a worker is in a union, there's still no law against bullying so the union's solicitors will refuse to take on the case. 14) By the time HR gets to hear of a bullying case, the target is a gibbering wreck (from severe psychiatric injury) whilst the bully - usually in a position senior to the target, or with the support of a manager senior to the target remains charming and plausible. 15) Shooting the messenger is an instinctive reaction of those who abuse power. After nearly two years of bullying I've started a grievance procedure against my female manager. Now she's claiming I'm the one bullying and harassing her! What do I do? Bullies feign victimhood when outwitted - and very convincingly (this is hardly surprising given the amount of practice they've had). One way to handle this is for you, or preferably your legal representative, to assertively and fully state the following: a) the allegations of bullying and harassment have only appeared in response to being called to account for the way she has chosen to behave b) the allegations are therefore malicious c) the allegations are a projection of her own behaviour and an attempt to divert attention away from herself and her behaviour d) the allegations are an example of feigning victimhood in order to evade accountability and sanction; only bullies and harassers use this tactic, therefore the choice to make such allegations in these circumstances is tantamount to an admission of guilt and she should be made aware of this e) in most employers' harassment policies, making malicious allegations of bullying and harassment constitute a disciplinary offence f) she must substantiate the allegations in writing within 7 days by providing substantive and quantifiable evidence; if she fails to do this she must withdraw the allegations immediately and notify you in writing, otherwise she will be subject to legal action for harassment and defamation and the employer will incur her vicarious liability g) failure to withdraw the allegations will result in a full investigation of her past behaviour, including the precise circumstances under which she left her previous job I thought I had some good friends at work. Now that I've started to take action to deal with a bullying manager, everyone has deserted me and many have turned against me. Why is this?
It's common for workmates to desert you when you take action against a bully. To understand the reasons why, see my page on bystanders. Has bullying always been present in the workplace and has it got worse recently? Bullies have always been with us, and for the time being, always will. I think there are several reasons for the increase, including... 1) In the old days (eg pre 1970s) there were more opportunities for people to express their dysfunction and aggression by physical means. Levels of physical violence, eg murder, have been slowly declining for the last thousand years, probably as a result of the development of state-run legal systems. Over the last century in particular, society has grown more aware of the unacceptability of personal physical violence. (OK, I'm ignoring wars here.) 2) Opportunities for the expression of dysfunction and aggression through prejudice, eg harassment and discrimination on the grounds of race gender disability etc, have steadily been closed off by law. Harassers and discriminators don't stop harassing and discriminating simply because laws have been enacted, they just carry on regardless. However, the more clever harassers and discriminators modify their behaviour so they express their harassing and discriminating intentions in ways which are not yet proscribed by law - eg bullying. 3) Over the last 50 years there has been a great deal of effort to clone children into respectable adults by feeding them through an education system that is geared to academic exam results. This socialisation programme has resulted in producing more adults with civilised behaviour, ie people who don't resort to physical violence. Hence, we see more examples of "civilised aggression" in the workplace, ie the psychological violence of bullying rather than outright harassment, discrimination and physical violence. The top four groups of people who contact the Advice Line and Bully OnLine are teachers, nurses, social workers, and those in the charity / voluntary sector. Why is this? Bullies are attracted to vulnerability like moths to a light. The objectives of bullies are Power, Control, Domination and Subjugation. The caring professions present many opportunities for exercising power and control over vulnerable clients, and many opportunities for exercising power and control (eg using guilt) over vulnerable employees who are committed to their vulnerable clients and who will go to great lengths to protect their relationship with their vulnerable clients. When called upon to share or address the needs or concerns of others, serial bullies respond with impatience, irritability and aggression. Serial bullies in the caring professions can often be recognised by the fact that after joining, they set about putting as much distance between themselves and their clients, usually by getting themselves promoted up the management hierarchy. Another reason is that bullies crave attention and jobs in these sectors provide ample opportunity for showing the world what a wonderful, kind, caring, compassionate person they are. It's also often possible to walk into a senior position without having to work your way up the corporate hierarchy first. Bullies like to think of themselves as leaders (which they are not) and their attempts to seek attention are often combined with spurious claims of leadership capabilities. Other reasons include the diverse nature of healthcare and voluntary sectors, and the blurring of boundaries between healthcare, social services and voluntary organisations. Calls and enquiries from the charity / voluntary / not-for-profit sector have risen substantially over the last two years. Why is this? 1) The voluntary /charity / not-for-profit sector is large and diverse in types of organisations, from tiny charitable groups to nationally-recognised names. The management structures vary considerably, as does the management experience of those tasked with management responsibility. Some are run by management committees. Many people in positions of management in the voluntary sector have no experience of disciplinary and legal action or how to proceed with investigation or disciplinary action. 2) Over the last decade the boundaries between nursing, healthcare, social services and housing have been blurred with services contracted out to organisations, eg housing associations, who may be run on commercial lines as a not-for-profit enterprise. 3) Opportunities for bullies in the private and public sector are being closed off through the implementation of anti-bullying policies, but the voluntary sector lags behind and most organisations in this sector do not have antibullying policies. 4) People working in the voluntary sector are even more reluctant to take their employer to employment tribunal because who likes to take a charity to court? Bullies know this and ruthlessly exploit people's sense of reasonableness and decency to evade accountability and sanction. 5) The voluntary sector provides ample opportunities for bullies to leapfrog into a senior position regardless of
their management (in)experience. 6) As in the previous question, bullies are attracted to vulnerability like moths to a light. The objectives of bullies are Power, Control, Domination and Subjugation. The voluntary sector presents many opportunities for exercising power and control over vulnerable clients, and many opportunities for exercising power and control (via the use of guilt) over vulnerable employees who are committed to their vulnerable clients and who will go to great lengths to protect the relationship with their vulnerable clients. Serial bullies in the voluntary sector can often be recognised by the fact that after joining, they immediately set about putting as much distance between themselves and their clients, usually by getting themselves promoted up the management hierarchy. 7) Serial bullies are often narcissists and crave attention; jobs in the voluntary sector provide ample opportunity for showing the world what a wonderful, kind, caring, compassionate person they are. It's also often possible to walk into a senior position without having to work your way up the corporate hierarchy first. Bullies like to think of themselves as leaders (which they are not) and their attempts to seek attention are often combined with spurious claims of leadership capabilities. 8) The voluntary sector, especially high-profile organisations, offer plenty of scope and opportunity for former high-flying people from the public and private sectors whose careers have, how shall we say, suddenly made a crash landing. Do women bully as well as men? Better (or worse), in fact. Bullying is not a gender issue. From over 6000 cases from my Advice Line and web site, the reported bullies are split roughly 50/50, with a slight bias towards more female bullies - this is likely because of the high percentage of calls from the caring professions (teaching, nursing, social work, charity/voluntary/not-for-profit). About 75% of callers (targets) are female - not because more women get bullied than men, I think, but because in our society females are more likely to admit to being bullied, and are more likely to want to take action to do something about it. The main difference between male bullies and female bullies is that females are MUCH better at it than males. Much more devious, manipulative, subtle, and charming, often with a smile. Males are, on average, less subtle and there's often an undercurrent of physical aggression just below the surface. Females are almost never physically violent. Females will often manipulate a weak male into doing her bullying for her. After half a century of education that women are equal to men, we should expect to see as many violent females as males, just as we should expect to see as many caring males as females. In fact, this is what we see, but stereotypes, expectation and gender roles hinder our perception. If anyone doubts that females can be as violent as males I recommend the book "When she was bad: how women get away with murder, a controversial and explosive look at female aggression", Patricia Pearson, 1998, Virago Press, ISBN 1-86049-488-9. Scary. You claim that the Guru type of serial bully exhibits characteristics of autism - how dare you bash autistics! I have always said that people with currently recognised forms of autism are the targets of bullying, not the perpetrators. I do not believe identifying a small group of people who exhibit behavioural characteristics similar to autism bashes all autistics any more that identifying a small group of human beings who exhibit behavioural characteristics of psychopathy bashes all human beings. From more than a decade of research and experience I suggest that the Guru type of serial bully might be a hitherto unrecognised mild form of autism. Autism is a condition which has many variations and whilst the Guru type of serial bully is not an autistic according to the current definitions of autism, the Guru's behaviour has certain similarities which may or may not constitute autism. Irrespective of how it is classified, the similarities exist. I am just the messenger. My bully appears confident on the outside but I'm sure it's false. The bully's apparent self-esteem and self-confidence is actually arrogance, an unsustainable belief of invulnerability honed from the bully's willingness to act outside the bounds of society to ensure their survival. Well, it's always worked in the past. Narcissism is also common. Targets are people who can see through the arrogance to perceive the empty shell behind it - and bullies can sense who can see through them. The bully's paranoid fear of exposure goes exponential and their compulsive need to control is fuelled by jealousy and envy, for the bully "knows" they can never have the qualities of their target. Sensing their survival is at stake, the bullying is designed to control and then eliminate this perceived threat. Does the bully know what they are doing? Yes. Stanton E Samenow's book Inside the criminal mind is clear on this point. If the bully knows what they are doing, they are responsible and liable for their behaviour and the effects it has on other people. If the bully doesn't
know what they are doing, the bully shouldn't be in a position of management or responsibility and the provisions of the Mental Health Act for grounds of diminished responsibility should apply. For more on this, contact us. Can bullies be helped? People who are unwitting bullies can be helped by removal of pressure - then their behaviour improves. Sociopathic serial bullies cannot be helped at the moment. Work on psychopaths shows that the condition does not respond to treatment - in fact, treatment may make the condition worse. Their behaviour is as ingrained as a paedophile. Work with paedophiles suggests that it may take at least two years of counselling and therapy before the paedophile can begin to see their victim as a human being rather than an object for their gratification, although the recidivism (re-offence) rate is high. I suspect the same applies to serial bullies. As an adult, the serial bully has to want to change - which they emphatically do not. And who would pay for the counselling and therapy? Isn't the bully being bullied too? Maybe. Bullying is often hierarchical. Trace the bullying to its origin and you'll usually find a serial bully. Concentrate on this person. Remember, "I'm just obeying orders" is not an acceptable defence. Surely you can't legislate against bullying because it's so hard to define? The same arguments were raised prior to the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act. Bully OnLine defines bullying and the Dignity at Work Bill plugs the loophole in UK law whereby harassment requires a focus (eg race, gender or disability). I'm an employer, what can I do about the serial bully? Learn everything you can about bullying so you know what you're dealing with. Develop an anti-bullying policy so you have the legitimacy to deal with the bully in your organisation. What can I do to tackle bullying? Read Tim Field's book Bully in sight: how to predict, resist, challenge and combat workplace bullying. Click here to order a copy online. Click here for reader feedback. Who runs Bully OnLine, the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line, and Success Unlimited? Click here.
Overcoming stereotypes and false perceptions of adult bullying and workplace bullying
See also myths, misperceptions and stereotypes of child bullying and school bullying.
Myths and misperceptions about workplace bullying
A myriad of myths, misperceptions, falsehoods and legends surround the subject of bullying. Studies, surveys and some academic research over the last few years have tended to perpetuate false stereotypes, however, these are often the result of notoriously unreliable self-reporting tick-sheet surveys and are rarely based on experience of case work or involvement with cases. What some people call "bullying" is really tough dynamic management The purpose of bullying is to hide inadequacy. Good managers manage, bad managers bully. Bullies bully to hide their weakness and inadequacy, and to divert attention away from their incompetence. Many employers don't want to calculate the cost of low morale, poor productivity, poor customer service, high sickness absence, high staff turnover and frequent grievance and legal action that are a consequence of "tough dynamic management". Bullies don't bully, they're just being assertive People who bully are unable to distinguish between assertiveness and aggression and when challenged will speciously claim to be "assertive". Assertiveness, which is backed by integrity, recognises and respects peoples' boundaries and values, any request is polite and unconditional and there are no negative consequences if the person being asked says no. Bullies, who have no integrity, are aggressive, demanding, and regularly violate others' boundaries; aggression does not respect peoples' rights, and requests come with a negative consequence if the course of action demanded by the bully is declined. Victim I prefer the word "target". The word "victim" allows disingenuous people to tap into and stimulate other people's
misconceptions and prejudices of victimhood which include the inference that the person was somehow complicit in the abuse. "Target" identifies the choice of the bully to be a bully rather than the misfortune of the target to unwittingly become the latest casualty of the violence of a disordered, dysfunctional, aggressive bully. To understand how and why bullies select their targets, click here. Victims contribute to the bullying When held accountable, abusers, molesters, harassers, bullies and violent people abdicate and deny responsibility for their actions by blaming their victim. The "blame-the-victim" misperception is part of the same mindset that says that women who are raped were asking for it or giving off the wrong signals, that wives who experience domestic violence are deserving of it and colluding with it, and children who are sexually abused are partly responsible for the abuse perpetrated against them. Abusers, harassers, bullies and violent people seem possessed of an army of supporters, apologists, appeasers, acolytes, protectors and deniers, and appreciate all forms of support which mitigate their crime. But surely victims must do something to invite the bullying? Children who are abused by pedophiles do not invite the abuse, women who are raped do not invite the rape, black people do not invite harassment and discrimination because of their skin colour, gay people do not invite harassment and discrimination because of their sexual orientation, and targets of bullying do not invite abuse at work simply because they are available. The six most common reasons bullies select their targets are because of availability (wrong place, wrong time), competence (envy), popularity (jealousy), vulnerability (income and the need to pay the mortgage), emotional maturity and values, and integrity. Targets represent everything that bullies are not, and never will be. It takes two to tango Abusers choose to abuse, molesters choose to molest, rapists choose to rape, harassers choose to harass, bullies choose to bully. Bullying is behaviour, and behaviour is a choice, therefore bullying is a choice - a bad choice, but a choice. Abdication of responsibility for personal choice is a hallmark of bullies. Either a person knows what they are doing and is responsible for their behaviour and its consequences for others, or the person is unaware of what they are doing and therefore have diminished responsibility and are in need of psychiatric help. Bullying is in the same league as abuse, molestation, rape, paedophilia and harassment; sadly there are still some people who think that targets of these vile activities are partly responsible for the abuse perpetrated against them. Victims are weak and inadequate It is always the bully who is weak and inadequate. Bullies resort to labelling others as "weak" and "unstable" in order to appear "normal" in comparison. Normal people don't need to bully; only weak people need to bully to hide their weakness and inadequacy. Therefore anyone who is exhibiting bullying behaviours is revealing and admitting to being weak and inadequate. Victims are weak Targets of bullying have no interest in power or exercising power. They go to work to work and they are not interested in office politics or conflict. Targets of bullying have high moral values, a well-developed integrity, a vulnerability (eg need to pay the mortgage), a strong sense of fair play and reasonableness, a low propensity to violence, a reluctance to pursue grievance, disciplinary or legal action, a strong forgiving streak and a mature understanding of the need to resolve conflict with dialogue. Weak people disingenuously confuse these hallmarks of character with weakness. Targets of bullying will withstand daily abuse for months, often years, but the first time a bully gets a taste of their own medicine they immediately run whingeing to authority demanding protection. That's weakness. Victims are loners Targets of bullying are independent, self-reliant, self-motivated, have no need to form gangs or join cliques, have no need to impress, and have no interest in office politics. Victims are not team players Targets of bullying are not corporate clones and drones. They are independent, self-reliant, self-motivated, imaginative, innovative, and full of ideas. Bullies operate a divide and rule regime and work hard to isolate, exclude and disempower their target who they then falsely accuse of "not being a team player". Victims are isolated This is a correct observation; bullies isolate their targets in order to disempower them. It's a tactic of control used by all abusers.
Victims are sensitive / oversensitive Sensitivity comprises a constellation of values to be cherished and nurtured, including empathy, respect, tolerance, dignity, honour, consideration and gentility. Anyone who is not sensitive is insensitive. Targets have an instinctive ability to detect malicious intent which is often labelled by those who lack this ability as "being oversensitive". Bullies are callously insensitive and indifferent to the needs of others and when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of others respond with impatience, irritability and aggression. Victims are too weak to stand up for themselves Targets of bullying are high-performing employees who go to work to work. They do not go to work with the intention of indulging in conflict. Bullies select individuals who prefer to use dialogue to resolve conflict, who have a low propensity to violence, and who will go to great lengths to avoid conflict - in other words, someone who will constantly try to use negotiation rather than resorting to grievance and legal action. When a bully is held accountable, these qualities are disingenuously described by weak people as weakness. Why can't victims deal with bullying? They're grown-ups, aren't they? From working on and liaising with over 10,000 cases of workplace bullying I am constantly amazed at the resourcefulness, innovativeness, flexibility, determination and stamina shown by targets of abuse. The turning point in each case comes when the target finally realises they're not dealing with a normal human being like themselves, but with a dysfunctional, disordered individual who exploits a system which favours perpetrators who excel in deceiving HR and management. Victims are unstable and unhealthy It is bullies who are unstable and unhealthy. People who observe targets as unstable are recognising the destabilising effect of psychiatric injury although the observers have not understood psychiatric injury or the circumstances which result in psychiatric injury. Some researchers have observed destabilisation, hypervigilance etc and made the incorrect assumption that these are personality traits which existed prior to the bullying. False assumptions like this are bad science, disrespectful, insensitive and offensive. It's like seeing someone with a broken leg and making the assumption they must have been born with weak bones. Victims can't defend themselves Prolonged negative stress results in trauma which inhibits articulation. People who blame targets of bullying for not being able to express themselves in an articulate manner are revealing their lack of empathy and their lack of knowledge of trauma and its effects. Many bullies are serial bullies with disordered personalities (including subclinical psychopaths) who excel at manipulation, deception, compulsive lying and a host of antisocial behaviours. It is almost impossible to defend yourself against a determined psychopath - who comprise at least 1% of the population. Targets aren't really bullied / harassed - they're only in it for the money Seeking legal recourse is very expensive both financially and emotionally. Sensational "awards" that are published in the media are rare and when personal injury is involved, are based on (less than) what the person would have earned had they stayed in their job till retirement. A bullying case which ends up in a personal injury case typically consumes ten years of a person's life. Targets have a much harder time finding employment afterward (especially if they're over 40) - and even if they do find employment they end up working at a lower position with lower salary. In rare cases where the employer sacks a serial bully, the bully feigns victimhood and sues the employer for as much as they can get. Targets are only interested in compensation If a person appears motivated by compensation then it's likely to be not a target of bullying but a serial bully who is feigning victimhood having been called to account. Serial bullies are notoriously vindictive and when held accountable by an employer will instinctively launch a legal action to aggressively claim their rights - whilst denying everyone else their rights. Victims of bullying are always suing employers The target is placed in the position by the bully of having no option but to take their employer to tribunal or court. In the majority of cases, this is the first time the target has ever been involved in legal action, and their unfamiliarity with the legal system is a vulnerability that bullies and abusive employers exploit. You shouldn't sue for bullying because it prolongs victimhood Bullying is in the same league as domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape and paedophilia. Bullies at work are likely to be committing at least one of these offences outside work. Prosecuting the perpetrators and holding
accountable those who have failed in their duty of care is very different to "prolonging victimhood". Whilst there will always be a few people who abuse the law of tort for personal gain, it is disingenuous to confuse this small minority (who may themselves be bullies feigning victimhood) with the majority of genuine cases. "Victimhood" should not be used as a smokescreen for evasion of accountability. Targets are just whiners who can't get along with people Targets are targeted because they are competent and popular. Bullies are jealous of the easy and stable relationships that targets have with others. Jealousy and envy seem to be the conduits for the release of the seething inner anger, hatred and resentment that bullies harbour. Why do targets go after their employers too? In the workplace, the employer bears the vicarious liability caused by the bully's behaviour. Employers owe each employee a duty of care. Employment law is framed around the employee holding the employer responsible. Noone (unless they're a war correspondent or work for the MoD) signs a contract agreeing to work in a war zone. [Bullied workers suffer battle stress] If a target is truly bullied then why don't more employers side with the target? Employers eliminate the target because they (employers) have failed to fulfil their legal duty and provide their employees with a safe work environment. Employers will do anything to avoid accountability and having to pay damages. Many organisations, especially in the public sector, have a bottomless purse when it comes to defending legal action for negligence. The purpose of bullying is to hide incompetence and most bullying is hierarchical. The bullying that one sees or experiences is usually the tip of an iceberg of wrongdoing (contact us for details). Also, employers are more scared of serial bullies than they are of targets, therefore it's easier, cheaper and less risky to get rid of the target; by the time the employer gets to hear of the bullying case against them, the target is probably traumatised, suffering a severe psychiatric injury, facing loss of job and income, and may not have union or legal support; therefore the employer is much more likely to win their case against a target than against a resentful, determined and vindictive serial bully. Trade unions exist to protect their members Whilst trade unions have achieved much for workers over the years, the Number One complaint of people contacting the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line and Bully OnLine (and other support groups) is that their trade union is refusing to support them in their case of bullying. See bullying in the public sector for the reasons why. It's a personality clash A personality clash is where two people of equal rank or status or value or power don't see eye to eye. Bullying consists of a pattern of persistent, daily, trivial, nitpicking criticism, isolation, exclusion, undermining, discrediting, setting up to fail, etc on a target who the bully has disempowered and disenfranchised. HR departments frequently write off bullying as a "personality clash", much to the delight of the bully who is always trying to heap all the blame onto their target. There's a fine line between bullying and tough management I've never heard anyone say "there's a fine line between a normal relationship and sexual harassment" or "there's a fine line between marriage and domestic violence" or "there's a fine line between great sex and rape" or "there's a fine line between sex education and pedophilia". Bullying (by a serial bully) and managing have as much in common as Adolf Hitler and Mother Theresa. The objectives of the serial bully are power, control domination and subjugation, achieved largely through manipulation, deception and abuse of power; "management" is a convenient cover for the serial bully's disordered, dysfunctional and always destructive behaviour. You'll never be able to prove bullying The same argument was put forward before the introduction of laws on sexual harassment and race discrimination. The solution is education; you can only never prove what you don't understand. We mustn't bully the bully Targets of bullying withstand a verbal, emotional and psychological battering for months, often years. By contrast, the first time the bully gets a taste of their own medicine they run whingeing to authority demanding protection. When called to account for the way they choose to behave, bullies use a variety of strategies to evade accountability. Denial, counterattack and feigning victimhood are common. One tactic is to claim that "you mustn't bully the bully", a disingenuous and deceptive attempt to confuse bullying (a pattern of constant daily, trivial, nitpicking criticism, isolation, exclusion, undermining, etc over months or years) with accountability (holding the
bully responsible for their behaviour and its effect on others). Those in positions of authority and with responsibility for people management are notoriously vulnerable to this deception. You mustn't demonize the bully Your behaviour profiles are a character assassination of the bully The behaviour profiles are the result of long-term observation of the behaviour of serial bullies. I am only the messenger. As bullies have free choice over their behaviour (if not, they have diminished responsibility and need to be under the care of a psychiatrist) then serial bullies are choosing to demonize themselves or assassinate their own character by their choice of behaviour. Your behaviour profiles serve only to vilify bullies I observe bullies' behaviour and report it; I am only the messenger. Bullying is behaviour, behaviour is choice, therefore bullying is a choice. A rapist deserves to be called a rapist because of their choice to commit rape. A pedophile deserves to be called a pedophile because of their choice to commit acts of pedophilia. A bully deserves to be called a bully because of their choice to exhibit bullying behaviours. Normal people do not choose to bully. All a bully needs to do to no longer merit the label "bully" is to change their behaviour and stop bullying. It really is that simple. Bullies have high self-esteem Bullies exhibit arrogance, narcissism, plausibility, certitude, self-assuredness, selfishness, untouchability, a sense of invulnerability and an unerring belief in their rightness and infallibility. Bullies also excel at deception and evasion of accountability. Some people mistake these for high self-esteem, which they are not. People with high self-esteem manifest their high self-esteem in having only positive interactions with others. Bullies have only negative interactions with others; negative interactions are a hallmark of low self-esteem. Bullies are motivated by jealousy, envy and prejudice which are indicators of low self-esteem. Bullying is the antithesis of high self-esteem. People with high self-esteem have no need to bully. The notion that the workplace is full of psychotic bullies is preposterous Firstly, the number of bullies in any workplace is always small (sometimes only one) but their influence is disproportionately large and their negative behaviour can spread through the entire organisation like a cancer. Bullies excel at deception and manipulation and are adept at co-opting others in their defence. Secondly, bullies are not psychotic. A psychotic person is unable to differentiate between reality and delusion and is mentally ill. Bullies have a clear understanding of the difference between right and wrong but consciously choose to not conform to socially acceptable standards of behaviour. When held accountable, bullies consciously use deception to abdicate and deny personal responsibility for their actions and the consequences of their behaviour for others. Bullies are sane in every sense of the medico-legal definition of the word. Bullies are nice people really, they're just under a lot of pressure Abusers, violent partners, harassers, rapists, molesters and pedophiles are also nice people really, it's just that they're under a lot of pressure. Lack of knowledge of, refusal to recognise, and outright denial of the existence of the serial bully are the most common reasons for an unsatisfactory outcome for employees and employers. When a serial bully is present, many people join in with the bullying, either wittingly or unwittingly. Some of these minor bullies may be nice people under pressure, but they are not the source of the bullying. One needs to look further. There's no such thing as a "difficult person" Over 90% of Advice line cases involve a serial bully with a disordered personality who has a history of conflict (including manipulation, lying, deception etc) with everyone. In every case it is the lack of knowledge of, or the unwillingness to recognise, or the denial of the existence of the serial bully which is the most common reason for an unsatisfactory outcome for both the employee and employer. Bullying is more than just a serial bully The serial bully is present in over 90% of the 10,000+ cases reported to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line and Bully OnLine. Denial of the existence of the serial bully is the most common reason for an unsatisfactory outcome for both employees and employers. Serial bullies excel at deception and a surprising number of people are easily fooled by not having the emotional maturity, the experience and depth of perception to see through the deception and see behind the mask. If a serial bully is not present, it's probably not bullying you're dealing with. As the issue of bullying becomes more prominent, some people are jumping on the bandwagon and using the label "bullying" for any type of behaviour they see; in these cases it may be more appropriate to use terms such as "change management", "time management", "performance management", "organisational
development", etc. There may be some bullying behaviours present but they are not what is meant by "workplace bullying". Female bullies bully because they're under more pressure than men to succeed A female serial bully, like all serial bullies, bullies because she chooses to bully. Bullying is behaviour, and behaviour is choice. Whilst women may face more pressures and demands at senior levels, the most successful females are not bullies - they get there because of their integrity, ability to plan and organise, and achieve. Bullies are non-achievers. The view that women must become bullies to succeed is insulting and offensive to the majority of women who succeed on hard work, persistence and skill. Victims have problems with people in authority This is one of the tactics that bullies and abusive employers use. They claim that the target who is busy exposing incompetence, negligence etc has "a problem with authority". Some less-than-competent mental health professionals claim this too. The truth is that targets have an uncanny knack of spotting fakes, fraudsters and weak, inadequate and incompetent people abusing their position of power; said incompetents also have an uncanny knack of being able to spot who can see through them. Targets of bullying are accountability-focused so they must be ruthlessly controlled, and if this doesn't work, they must be eliminated by all means possible. Labelling whistleblowers and targets of bullying (who have often unwittingly blown the whistle on a number of antisocial activities) as mentally ill is a tactic often used by abusive employers to deny responsibility and evade accountability. [More | More] Victims are suffering from learned helplessness Only about 2% of people reporting their case to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line exhibit any symptoms of learned helplessness. Over 90% of cases involve a target who has exhausted all possible means of resolution but who has only just realised that they are dealing with an individual exhibiting a disordered personality with whom it is not possible to negotiate or mediate. The moral courage of targets is demonstrated by their ability to withstand abuse for months, and sometimes years, but still remain determined to resolve the conflict; by contrast, bullies run whingeing to authority demanding protection the first time they are faced with accountability. When people use the term "learned helplessness" they are often seeing the symptoms of trauma resulting from prolonged negative stress (which includes confusion, bewilderment and incoherency) but wrongly assuming that these symptoms were character traits present before the abuse, which they were not. There's no such thing as the serial bully Denial of the existence of the serial bully is the most common reason for an unsatisfactory outcome for employees and employers. The world is full of deniers. There are those who deny that the earth is round, those who deny the Holocaust, and those who deny the existence of the serial bully. Denial of the existence of the serial bully also serves to discredit the bully's accuser. Serial bullies always try to discredit anyone who can help others see through the bully's mask of normality. By some strange coincidence, those who most vehemently deny the existence of the serial bully are those whose own behaviour most closely matches the profile at serial.htm Victims who are bullied at school are more likely to be bullied at work The reason people get bullied at school and again work is because they retain the same qualities throughout life qualities which bullies despise and respond to with aggression. Victims were abused in childhood and have unresolved issues from this From dealing with over 10,000 cases, the number of targets of bullying who were abused as a child is similar to what you would expect to find in any random sample of the population. People are not bullied because of unresolved issues, they are bullied because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time, they have many personal qualities that bullies like to exploit, and an aggressive, dysfunctional, disordered person chose to exhibit sustained psychological and emotional violence towards them. This myth is mutually exclusive to the belief that "bullies bully because they were abused in childhood". Targets of bullying who experienced bullying or abuse in childhood are more likely to suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), social anxiety disorder, clinical depression, etc. This may be true in some cases but is not true in every case. A small percentage of cases show predisposition to retraumatisation because of unresolved trauma in childhood, but this is because there are few diagnostic facilities and even fewer treatment opportunities. PTSD is a psychiatric injury and predisposition to psychiatric injury is the same as predisposition to physical injury. If you break your leg it is because the force applied to your leg is greater than the structural integrity of the bone, not because you fell and banged your knee in the playground thirty years
ago. If you suffer a psychiatric injury as an adult it is because the severity and length of abuse is greater than humans are designed to withstand, not because of bullying at school or abuse in childhood. An interesting observation to come out of studying PTSD is that the one sector of the population that does not develop PTSD is psychopaths. The two problems with bullying are that a) bullies are rarely held to account and are often encouraged by being protected, supported and promoted, and b) we don't teach people how to stand up to dysfunctional disordered aggressors whose sole intent is violence (physical, psychological, emotional etc). I believe lessons in physical, psychological, emotional and verbal self-defence should be on the National Curriculum. You can't get PTSD from bullying Those who promote this view are out of touch with both reality and research. This view is also offensive to those who suffer PTSD as a result of bullying (and harassment, stalking, domestic violence, abuse, etc). See denial above. The late Professor Heinz Leymann established the link between bullying and psychiatric injury (PTSD) in the 1980s and his research and experience is available on his web site. The European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology (EJWOP), 1996, 5(2), devoted a whole issue to bullying and its effects, including PTSD. New research is also confirming what targets of abuse have always known: bullying causes PTSD. Bullies bully because they were abused as children Bullies do not bully because they were abused in childhood, although bullies are adept at claiming this as a way of mitigating their crime and diverting attention away from their failure to accept responsibility for their behaviour. Many adults and professionals are deceived by this specious excuse. A large percentage of the population are abused as children (perhaps as many as 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys), but only a small number choose to become bullies in adulthood. Most abused children do not become bullies. Therefore, whilst abuse in childhood may be a factor in bullying, it is not a cause, otherwise every child who was abused would become a bully. It is the choice of the bully to bully. A bad choice, but a choice nevertheless. This myth is mutually exclusive to the myth that "people become victims because they were abused in childhood". Bullies are being bullied Some minor bullies may be being bullied because of the enormous pressure they are under, however, all bullying has to start somewhere and most bullying starts with a serial bully who is the source of bullying. This individual's bullying behaviour can spread through an organisation like a cancer. Bullies should be included in support groups because they're victims too Serial bullies with any of the profiles at serial.htm are not victims as they are adults with a free choice over the way they behave. The caring and voluntary sectors are rife with serial bullies who find the endless supply of vulnerable clients and vulnerable workers irresistible. Many people in the caring professions have vulnerabilities (developed from suffering their own pain) which provide them with the high levels of empathy necessary for specialist client care; these vulnerabilities also mean that such people are ripe for control, manipulation and punishment which are favourite pursuits of the serial bully. If a serial bully infiltrates a support group, the group will divide, polarise, fracture and collapse within three acrimonious months. Bullies need help too The definition of an adult is a person who is capable of and willing to accept responsibility for their behaviour and the consequences of their behaviour for other people. Any adult who is unwilling or unable to accept this responsibility is exhibiting diminished responsibility and needs to be subject to the provisions of the Mental Health Act and be under the care of a psychiatrist. Bullying is behaviour, behaviour is a choice, therefore bullying is a choice. Many bullies are in positions of management or power and therefore do not require help - except in their specious attempts to deceive others and to evade accountability and sanction. Bullies rely on naivety, inexperience and people feeling sorry for them and will ruthlessly exploit decent people's urge to "help" and "forgive" them such people unwittingly swell the bully's army of supporters, enablers, apologists, appeasers, acolytes, protectors and deniers.
Asserting your right not to be bullied, fighting back, taking action "Why don't you stand up for yourself?" is an oft-asked question. We're adults, aren't we?
Why don't you stand up for yourself?
In most cases, the bullying follows a two-phase procedure. Phase one is control which is exercised through constant trivial daily nit-picking criticism etc. Eventually there's a defining moment when the target realises that the criticisms have no validity and that they constitute bullying; the target asserts their right not to be bullied, perhaps by initiating a grievance, and the bullying moves into phase two: elimination, which is achieved by dismissal on false charges, ill-health retirement, forced resignation, redundancy, or death from suicide or heart attack due to prolonged negative stress. The reasons people don't assert their right not to be bullied are complex as the following list shows (all the fears are justified):
• • • • • the target of bullying has been disempowered through isolation and exclusion and the manipulation of co-workers and management's perceptions the bully is constantly threatening and intimidating the target and co-workers there is a climate of dysfunction and fear in which people are frightened to assert their rights the target now has artificially high levels of shame, embarrassment, fear and guilt - all stimulated by the bully, for this is how all abusers control their victims the target feels bewildered and often still cannot believe that what is happening is happening; the target feels responsible in some way, as evidenced by the nagging thoughts "Why me?" and "Why did I let it happen to me?" (Click here for some answers) the target fears for loss of their job the target fears they will be unable to obtain a reference (this is especially true in the professions) and the bully never misses an opportunity to strike at their target, even after the target has left; being asked for a reference is an ideal opportunity to bad-mouth their target - if this is happening to you, contact us for ideas on how to counter this if you take your employer to an employment tribunal you're obviously a troublemaker and no employer will take the risk employing you - despite the fact that you did nothing wrong there is no law against bullying and the laws that do exist are difficult to apply to bullying real jobs are scarce and if you're over 40 and in a permanent full-time position the chances of obtaining another permanent full-time position are slim (the government likes to give the impression that there are under one million people unemployed in the UK but the figure quoted is the number of people who qualify for jobseekers allowance - the number of people aged between 18-65 without a job is between 4-6 million) by this time the target is suffering a severe psychiatric injury, is traumatised and unable to articulate their circumstances - whilst the bully remains glib and plausible trauma and fear combine to prevent the target from being able to find the right words to identify, unmask and call to account their tormentor (contact us for a list of phrases and strategies) when the symptoms of psychiatric injury start to appear the bully plays the mental health trap, claiming this person "has a mental health problem" (psychiatric injury has nothing to do with mental illness - click here to see the differences) the target has no knowledge of serial bullies, sociopaths, etc, and no experience of dealing with these characters the bully relies on compulsive lying, Jekyll & Hyde nature, deception, deviousness, evasiveness and charm (click here for details) and uses denial, counter-attack, projection and feigning victimhood to evade accountability (click here for details). Charm has a motive deception. the serial bully abuses power, exhibits amoral behaviour and lacks conscience and remorse there's a lot of ignorance and unenlightenedness about bullying the silence is deafening
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29 • • denial is everywhere disbelief is prevalent too - the target fears that no-one will believe them and even the target eventually questions their belief that this is happening, especially as the bully persistently and plausibly denies everything bullies are encouraged and rewarded, often by promotion cases that are settled are subject to gagging clauses employers network with each other, sometimes discussing cases and people at fraternal meetings in many cases unions are unhelpful; in some cases the union is part of the problem the target doesn't want to have "stress" on their health record the target doesn't want to get others into trouble and is reluctant to initiate a grievance against a fellow human being the target naively believes that the system is there to protect them and will work for them (it isn't and it doesn't) the target naively believes that their loyalty and good service record will stand them in good stead (it won't and the employer is likely to ignore and dismiss it) the target naively believes that Human Resources and personnel are there to protect employees (they're not, click here for the reasons why) grievance procedures are notoriously useless for dealing with bullying, as the manager, with whom the grievance is normally conducted, is often the bully - or is supporting the bully, either by colluding (active support), or by refusing and failing to deal with the bully (passive support) even if another manager handles the grievance, he or she is usually connected with the bully in some way bullying is a betrayal; the target trusted and depended on the integrity of another (eg manager) and that person betrayed them; the target fears and anticipates that when they report the bullying, they will be betrayed again (they often are) those in authority did nothing to prevent the bullying while it was happening, nor did they do anything subsequently; very often it is the person in the position of authority who is the bully; trust in authority is low, with justification bullying is a form of psychological rape because of its intrusive and violational nature the target felt and continues to feel guilty about what happened, having been encouraged by the bully to believe they were responsible the target may have been encouraged to withdraw from legal action by the bully feigning victimhood and playing on their target's forgiving chord and manipulating other people's sympathies bullying causes Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and any thought, memory or reminder of the bullying immediately results in the sufferer experiencing the following PTSD DSM-IV diagnostic criteria:
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B4. intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event B5. physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event as well as C1. efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma C2. efforts to avoid activities, places or people that arouse recollections of this trauma
C3. inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma D3. difficulty concentrating PTSD is a normal and natural emotional reaction to a deeply disturbing and shocking experience. It's possible half the population suffers PTSD to varying extents; mostly it is diagnosed as "stress" and "anxiety". Recovery from PTSD is described in David Kinchin's book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury, 2005 edition.
How bullies exploit vulnerability to target their victims Bullies are predators and choose their prey by homing in on vulnerability. Everyone has vulnerabilities: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • the need to pay the mortgage the need to support children through school and college being the sole breadwinner being single and not having anyone to support you on a regular basis living alone and having no-one to turn to at the end of each day because you care - about your work, about your clients, about your work colleagues, about your company or organisation, about your family, and about people having integrity which you are unwilling to compromise or sacrifice being scrupulously honest being reasonable and with a strong sense of fair play having a well-developed sense of guilt having caring responsibilities at home, eg an elderly relative having a child with special needs or who needs special care caring for a disabled partner or family member experiencing separation or divorce caring for a dying partner or relative undergoing bereavement suffering grief during the mourning phase following bereavement having a great deal of locked-up anger resulting from bullying, harassment, domestic violence, stalking, abuse etc being unable to change job, eg limited job opportunities, being a specialist belonging to an ethnic minority belonging to a minority group having a different sexual orientation having a different cultural background having a different religious belief suffering an illness, whether related to work or not suffering an injury, whether it be at work, as a result of work, or outside work
How people are vulnerable to bullying
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having a disability or perceived disability being female in a male environment being male in a female environment not having English as your first language, or not having the national language as your first language being too old, or too young
Onlookers, witnesses, eyewitnesses, spectators, turncoats, reprisals Why junior staff are afraid to speak out against senior colleagues "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it" (Martin Luther King) In most bullying situations, the target of bullying finds themself isolated and alone. Work colleagues, who may formerly have been friendly and supportive, melt away and the target is left feeling like a pariah and an outcast. There are many reasons why colleagues at work fail to come to the aid of a fellow worker being bullied. These include:
• the bully has gone round the department and warned everybody off, often using implied threats of reorganisation (redundancy), restructuring (redundancy) or even disciplinary action against anyone who helps the target the bully creates a climate of fear where everybody is afraid to speak out or take action fear of reprisal very few people, when put to the test, have the integrity and moral courage to stand up against bullying, harassment, corruption etc; the target is selected often because they do have this moral courage; most people will pass by on the other side, only targets have the integrity to be a good Samaritan in the presence of an aggressor, particularly a devious, manipulative, charming one, many people prefer to act more like sheep than humans many bystanders are only mediocre at their jobs and their sense of vulnerability through fear of being targeted is thus greater understanding of bullying is low and many people still hold outdated views such as "why don't you stand up for yourself?" [answer - because the moment you assert your right not to be bullied the bully moves into phase two of the bullying process which is elimination - click here for more] and "if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen" work colleagues often have no understanding or experience of bullying, manipulation, psychological violence, etc some bystanders are able to employ the "I didn't know what to do" excuse to abdicate and deny their responsibility; bystanders who use this excuse make no effort to find out you'll be surprised to realise how many work colleagues have brown noses which you hadn't noticed before or which you'd put down to sunburn some of your workmates will turn out to be turncoats denial is everywhere in environments where the bullying is entrenched, it's regarded as "normal" behaviour work mates think that if they keep their heads down, their mouths shut and pretend nothing is happening then it won't happen to them [wrong - their turn will come eventually]
Bystanders and bullying
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32 • • • • work colleagues have their own share of problems and they're not going to risk losing their job for someone else your workmates are not people you have chosen to be with and they may not be friends they just happen to be there work is an institution, not a family or community; your co-workers have no legal obligation towards you bullying goes on over a long period of time, the target eventually becomes obsessive about the bullying, work colleagues start to experience compassion fatigue and turn off; if the bullying continues, colleagues may become aggressive and actively join in with the mobbing, victimising and scapegoating as the pack mentality takes over unlike assault and harassment, bullying is subtle and comprises hundreds, perhaps thousands, of incidents which out of context and in isolation are trivial - thus bystanders can't see the full picture bullies exert power and control by a combination of selectively withholding information and spreading disinformation, therefore everyone has a distorted picture - of only what the bully wants them to see bullying often goes on behind closed doors so no-one sees it or recognises it bullying may be carried out in front of people who are unable to recognise the tactics of bullying, especially the use of guilt and sarcasm the bully goes to great lengths to undermine their target and portray them as a poor performer - work colleagues are encouraged to regard the target as a threat to the organisation the bully is a smooth, slimy, sycophantic individual who excels at deception using a combination of compulsive lying, Jekyll and Hyde nature, manipulation, mimicry of normal behaviour, self-assuredness and charm bullies, especially female bullies, are masters of manipulation, and are fond of manipulating people through their emotions (eg guilt); bullies see any form of vulnerability (eg the need to pay the mortgage) as an opportunity for manipulation and exploitation your colleagues at work have vulnerabilities too bullies are adept at manipulating peoples' perceptions with intent to engender a negative view of the target in the minds of work colleagues, management and personnel - this is achieved through undermining, including the creation of doubts and suspicions and the sharing of false concerns bullies poison the atmosphere and actively poison people's minds against the target when close to being outwitted and exposed, the bully feigns victimhood and turns the focus on themselves - another example of manipulating people through their emotion of guilt, eg sympathy, feeling sorry most bystanders are hoodwinked by the bully's ruses for abdicating responsibility and evading accountability, eg "that's all in the past, let's focus on the future", "what's in the past is no longer relevant", "you need to make a fresh start", and "forgive and forget, you've got to move on", etc. the bully encourages and manipulates bystanders to lie, act dishonourably and dishonestly, withhold information and spread misinformation the bully manipulates bystanders to punish the target for alleged infractions, ie the bystanders become instruments of harassment the bully is often able to bewitch one especially emotionally needy bystander into being their easily controlled spokesperson / advocate / supporter / denier
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33 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • the bully often forms an alliance with a colleague who has the same behaviour profile, thus increasing the levels of threat, fear and dysfunction the bully is able to charm and manipulate a number of bystanders to act as supporters, assistants, reinforcers, appeasers, deniers, apologists and minimisers in an environment where aggression is dominant, good people become disempowered and disenfranchised many people do not have the emotional intelligence or behavioural maturity to understand bullying, let alone deal with it when there's conflict in the air, most people want to be on the winning side, or the side they think will survive some people gain gratification (a perverse feeling of satisfaction) from seeing others in distress and thus become complicit in the bullying a few sad people think that bullying is funny some observers regard behavioural responses that are reasonable and civilised as a sign of weakness rather than maturity many people lack critical thinking skills and analytical abilities and thus cannot see through the facade or the bully's mask of deceit apathy is rampant many employers are interested only in creating a workforce of corporate clones and drones so this is what employees are programmed to be the bully grooms bystanders, and the target, to believe the target deserves the treatment they are receiving when the target of bullying is off sick, the bully labels them as having a "mental health problem" and forbids staff to contact the person the bystanders see only the Dr Jekyll side of the bully, but only the target sees the Mr/Ms Hyde side; Dr Jekyll is sweet and charming, Mr/Ms Hyde is evil; Mr/Ms Hyde is the real person, Dr Jekyll is an act many workplaces undergo reorganisation every six months (or more) therefore there's never sufficient time for employees to gain an accurate picture of the bully
It's easy to see the parallels between the actions and inactions of workplace colleagues and how Hitler was able to co-opt so many of the German people into supporting him - those with the moral integrity to refuse were arrested, tortured and shot. Hitler was not the first dictator to eliminate anyone who objected. Rome created a great empire, not by having meetings, but by killing all those who opposed them. In the workplace, those who decline to support the bully are isolated, victimised, scapegoated, have undue constraints and excessive workloads imposed, and are then subjected to disciplinary proceedings on trumped-up charges as a prelude to losing their job (as well as their career, livelihood and health). Bystanders can make a significant difference in the workplace (and in bullying situations in school); bullies are cowards and if they sense that someone other than their target is going to expose them, they may slink away with their tail between their legs. However, bullies are extremely vindictive and will do everything in their power to destroy anyone who can see through their mask of deceit. In very rare cases you may receive information from a bystander who wants to help but is afraid to do so publicly for fear of retribution - and fear of becoming the next target. Fear of a bullying boss, or fear of someone in higher authority who can wreck your career, is a common reason for people refusing to speak out. Disaster and death can result. An article by Olivia Barker in USA Today on 8 December 1999 titled "4 studies aim to reduce, resolve medical mistakes" reports the USA Institute of Medicine's finding that 98,000 people die each year from medical mistakes caused by cultural and systemic problems. In many cases a junior member of staff saw the error being committed but was too afraid to speak up. Bullying by consultants is rife in health services, many of whom fit the Guru profile. [Examples: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5]
Unwillingness by co-pilots and engineers on the flight deck to speak out against the erroneous and potentially fatal actions of the pilot were a factor in several major air disasters including the BEA Trident which crashed in Staines, London on Sunday 18 June 1972 and in the world's worst airplane disaster at Los Rodeos airport in the Canary Islands on Sunday 27 March 1977. In the former, the abnormal heart condition of Captain Key and his autocratic overbearing manner (it is thought these two are connected) led to a series of errors during takeoff from London Heathrow which the flight crew were unable or unwilling to highlight or correct. In the latter, two jumbo jets (KLM Boeing 747 PH-BUF and Pan American Boeing 747, N736PA) collided on the runway after KLM's most senior pilot Captain Jacob van Zanten commenced takeoff without proper clearance from air traffic control. Fog, confusing radio communication, Captain van Zanten's impatience to get airborne (and get home before he exceeded his duty time) plus the reluctance of the co-pilot and flight engineer to question and especially overrule the Captain, contributed to 583 deaths. Pilot training was subsequently altered with the introduction of CLR (Cockpit Leadership Resource) or Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) whereby the flight deck crew work as a team rather than an autocratic hierarchy. Today the main issue in the airline industry (and elsewhere) is bullying from non-operational managers whose priority - and sometimes sole concern - is to achieve profits for their company. The views and needs of pilots whose concerns are over safety or legal constraints - are ignored, downplayed or overruled. When profits and safety collide - especially in the transport industry - it's profits which may gain the upper hand, especially in times of an economic downturn. The safety system may, in this way, become eroded. Pilots who raise legitimate issues are therefore likely to find themselves fighting the company they work for, and being threatened with dismissal for "bringing the company into disrepute". [Example]
group bullying, group mobbing, pack behaviour, mutually assured destruction, gratification On another page What is bullying? An answer to the question Why me? How bullies select their targets | Events that trigger bullying The difference between bullying and harassment Personal qualities of targets that bullies find irresistible Answers to frequently asked questions about bullying Common myths and misperceptions of bullying explained Definitions of bullying
The difference between bullying and mobbing
What is mobbing?
What is mobbing? The word bullying is used to describe a repeated pattern of negative intrusive violational behaviour against one or more targets and comprises constant trivial nit-picking criticism, refusal to value and acknowledge, undermining, discrediting and a host of other behaviours which are defined on my page What is bullying? The word mobbing is preferred to bullying in continental Europe and in those situations where a target is selected and bullied (mobbed) by a group of people rather than by one individual. However, every group has a ringleader. If this ringleader is an extrovert it will be obvious who is coercing group members into mobbing the selected target. If the ringleader is an introvert type, he or she is likely to be in the background coercing and manipulating group members into mobbing the selected target; introvert ringleaders are much more dangerous than extrovert ringleaders. In a mobbing situation, the ringleader incites supporters, cohorts, copycats and unenlightened, inexperienced, immature or emotionally needy individuals with poor values to engage in adversarial interaction with the selected target. The ringleader, or chief bully, gains gratification from encouraging others to engage in adversarial interaction with the target. Many people use the word "mobbing" to describe this pack attack by many on one individual. Once mobbing is underway the chief bully foments the mobbing into mutually assured destruction, from which the chief bully gains intense gratification - this is a feature of people with psychopathic personality. One aspect of psychopathic bullies is that they home in on Wannabe types - non-psychopathic lesser bullies - and then empower these individuals to gain the positions of power and authority they crave. Once installed, the Wannabe's lack of competence makes them dependent on the chief psychopath, which means they become
unwitting but willing compliant puppets. They also make perfect corporate clones and drones. A characteristic of the Wannabe is that as well as lacking all the competencies necessary for their position, they also lack the intellect to understand the nature and manner of their compliant subservience. Throughout the mobbing experience, the target is deceived into fighting, blaming and trying to hold accountable the minor bullies of the mobbing group rather than the chief bully. The main reason a psychopathic chief bully gets away with his (or her) behaviour repeatedly is that no-one wants to believe that s/he could be the monster s/he is. This is also the reason that many pedophiles and wife-batterers evade accountability and sanction for years, often decades. They appear so charming and plausible to naive, unenlightened and inexperienced people - usually those who haven't experienced bullying themselves. Psychopathic chief bullies are very likely to have everyone in human resources and management in their pocket, who are then manipulated into further mobbing, victimising and persecuting the target. The golden rule when tackling a mobbing situation is, I believe, to identify and focus exclusively on the chief bully, and concentrate on holding this ringleader accountable. Expect an immediate increase in mobbing activities, and a rapidly-expanding web of deceit to be concocted against you. Alternatively, the best solution may be to make a positive decision to leave and refuse to allow these people to continue to ruin your career, your health and your life. In the unlikely event that the psychopathic chief leader is exposed and then leaves, the dysfunction, aggression and negative feelings fostered by him or her are likely to linger for years. Links Heinz Leymann's The Mobbing Encyclopedia Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, Davenport, Schwartz, and Elliott, Civil Society Publishing, July 1999, ISBN 0967180309.
including sexual harassment, sex discrimination, racial harassment, racial discrimination What is harassment? Harassment is any form of unwanted and unwelcome behaviour which may range from mildly unpleasant remarks to physical violence. Harassment is termed sexual harassment if the unwanted behaviours are linked to your gender or sexual orientation. The EU definition of sexual harassment is "unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of men and women at work". Racial harassment is when the behaviours are linked to your skin colour, race, cultural background, etc. In countries with sectarian tradition (eg as in Ireland) the term sectarian harassment is often used if the behaviours are linked to your religious beliefs or perceived religious origin or inclination. If the harassment is physical, the criminal law of assault may be appropriate. If the harassment comprises regular following, watching, repeated unsolicited contact or gifts, etc, the term stalking may be appropriate. Discrimination is when you are treated differently (eg less favourably) because of your gender, race or disability. The differences between harassment and bullying are summarised on the page on bullying. Briefly, harassment tends to have a strong physical component and is usually linked to gender, race, disability or physical violence; bullying tends to be a large number of incidents (individually trivial) over a long period comprising constant unjustified and unsubstantiated criticism. To see quickly if you're being bullied click here. Areas of UK law that apply to harassment The principal areas of UK law relating to harassment comprise:
• • • Sex Discrimination Act 1975: discrimination on the grounds of sex by dismissing an employee or submitting them to "any other detriment" Race Relations Act 1976: ditto on racial grounds Disability Discrimination Act 1995: ditto on grounds of disability
Bullying, harassment and discrimination
36 • • Protection from Harassment Act 1996: harassment and stalking Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994: intentional harassment for causing another person harassment, alarm or distress by using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour Criminal law of assault
Bullying is the common denominator of harassment, discrimination, abuse, violence etc, so see other relevant laws on the legal page and case law page. The source of most bullying and harassment can usually be traced to one individual. Most people know one person in their life with this profile - who is it in your life? Bullying and harassment (at work, in society, at school and at home) is a major cause of injury to health, both physical and mental. To see how prolonged negative stress (such as that caused by bullying and harassment) causes injury to health, click here. Over time, bullying and harassment result in trauma, which is a psychiatric injury, the collective symptoms of which often constitute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Click here for details; the page also tell you the difference between mental illness and psychiatric injury - important for re-empowerment and legal action. Links Sexual harassment Internet resources
Why grievance procedures are inappropriate for dealing with bullying In 2000 there were 130,000 applications to employment tribunal in the UK; in other words, every year in the UK, 1 in 215 jobs ends in a tribunal. This suggests of something fundamentally wrong with workplace Britain. Instead of finding out why so many employees find themselves placed in the position of having to consider employment tribunal every year, the UK Labour government's solution (sic) is to make it harder for employees to get to employment tribunal. This latest spin-doctoring follows a number of attempts by the government to paper over the cracks by suppressing the effects of a problem rather than identifying and dealing with the cause. A new employment bill will make it mandatory for employees to follow the grievance procedure, and will empower tribunals to penalise employees who haven't followed their employer's grievance procedure. Grievance procedures are inappropriate and ineffective in dealing with bullying a for a variety of reasons:
• bullying is equivalent to rape (it's psychological and emotional rape because of its intrusive and violational nature) and grievance procedures force the victim of this rape to have to relive the trauma repeatedly - this could be a breach of Article 3 of the Human Rights Act: no one shall be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment the person who normally handles the grievance is usually the bully, or a friend of the bully if the bully is a co-worker, the manager who would handle the grievance has already failed as a manager for allowing the bullying to occur and for failing to deal with the bullying before it got to the grievance stage the bullying manager has lots of friends in HR and management and will blacken the target's reputation before grievance procedures begin most bullies will successfully lie, cheat and deceive their way through grievance the bully will make sure the grievance lasts as long a possible (eg a year or more) the bully will deny the target access to records, sometimes rifling the target's desk and stealing notes the bully will ban the target from having contact with fellow employees the bully will threaten fellow workers into withdrawing support for the target
Grievance procedures and bullying
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37 • the bully and the employer will limit representation to a union representative (many reps are untrained, unsupported, and some are part of the problem) or co-worker (all of whom are too frightened to stand up for a fellow worker) plus all the reasons listed at standup.htm
The acid test of any legislation is "would it have worked in previous cases?" When you read through the case histories at Bully OnLine you'll realise that it didn't work or wouldn't have worked in many of those cases.
How to recognise a bullying manager in your organisation Can you recognise a bully in the ranks? Use this table to spot the serial bully in your organisation. How much damage is this employee doing to your business, your productivity, your profitability?
Manager Leader Decisive Has a good appreciation of short, medium and long term needs, goals and strategy Accepts responsibility Shares credit Acknowledges failings Bully Bully, coward Random, impulsive Rigidly short term, often no more than 24 hours
The difference between bullying and management
Abdicates responsibility Plagiarises, takes all the credit Denies failings, always blames others Has a learning blindness, cannot apply Learns from experience and applies knowledge gained from experience knowledge gained from experience to except how to be more devious, improve business, communication, manipulative, and how to better evade language and interpersonal skills accountability Consistent Inconsistent, random, impulsive Inconsistent, always critical, singles Fair, treats all equally people out, shows favouritism Respectful and considerate Disrespectful and inconsiderate Seeks and retains people more Favours weaker employees, recruits knowledgeable and experienced than henchmen and toadying types self Unable to value, constantly devalues Values others others Includes and excludes people Includes everyone selectively Leads by example Dominates, sets a poor example Economical, uses distortion and Truthful fabrication Confident Insecure, arrogant Behaviourally mature Behaviourally immature Emotionally mature, high EQ Emotionally immature, very low EQ (emotional intelligence) (emotional intelligence) Good interpersonal skills Poor interpersonal skills Good etiquette Poor etiquette Balanced objectivity Exclusive self-interest Cares about staff, the business, etc Cares only about self Respects clients Is contemptuous of clients
38 Gets on well with people at all levels and from all backgrounds Assertive Delegates Builds team spirit Uses influencing skills Motivates Listens, guides, instructs Has high expectations (that staff will do well) Shares fairly Identifies only with clones of himself or herself Aggressive Dumps Divisive, uses manipulation and threat Alienates, divides, creates fear and uncertainty Demotivates Tells Has low expectations of everybody
Controls and subjugates Withholds information, releases Shares information freely selectively, uses information as a weapon Always strives for clarity Revels in confusion, divide and rule etc Allows and trusts people to get on with Constantly interfering, dictating and the job controlling Only addresses genuine performance Makes false claims about alleged issues and then focuses on underperformance and focuses on the performance and behaviour person, not behaviour or performance Focused on the future Obsessed with the past Respected Loathed Sets a good example Sets a bad example Has good moral code and moral Amoral behaviour, no integrity integrity Has honesty and integrity Exhibits hypocrisy and duplicity Frequently imposes verbal warnings Rarely uses the disciplinary procedures and written warning without justification
The serial bully
How to spot signs and symptoms of serial bullies, sociopaths and psychopaths including the sociopathic behaviour of the industrial psychopath and the corporate psychopath
Types of serial bully: The Attention-Seeker, The Wannabe, The Guru and The Sociopath
"All cruelty springs from weakness." (Seneca, 4BC-AD65) "Most organisations have a serial bully. It never ceases to amaze me how one person's divisive, disordered, dysfunctional behaviour can permeate the entire organisation like a cancer." Tim Field "The truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it, ignorance my deride it, but in the end, there it is." Winston Churchill "Lack of knowledge of, or unwillingness to recognise, or outright denial of the existence of the serial bully is the most common reason for an unsatisfactory outcome of a bullying case for both the employee and employer" Tim Field I estimate one person in thirty, male or female, is a serial bully. Who does the following profile describe in your life? The serial bully:
39 • • is a convincing, practised liar and when called to account, will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment has a Jekyll and Hyde nature - is vile, vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses; no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive nature - only the current target of the serial bully's aggression sees both sides; whilst the Jekyll side is described as "charming" and convincing enough to deceive personnel, management and a tribunal, the Hyde side is frequently described as "evil"; Hyde is the real person, Jekyll is an act excels at deception and should never be underestimated in their capacity to deceive uses excessive charm and is always plausible and convincing when peers, superiors or others are present (charm can be used to deceive as well as to cover for lack of empathy) is glib, shallow and superficial with plenty of fine words and lots of form - but there's no substance is possessed of an exceptional verbal facility and will outmanoeuvre most people in verbal interaction, especially at times of conflict is often described as smooth, slippery, slimy, ingratiating, fawning, toadying, obsequious, sycophantic relies on mimicry, repetition and regurgitation to convince others that he or she is both a "normal" human being and a tough dynamic manager, as in extolling the virtues of the latest management fads and pouring forth the accompanying jargon is unusually skilled in being able to anticipate what people want to hear and then saying it plausibly cannot be trusted or relied upon fails to fulfil commitments is emotionally retarded with an arrested level of emotional development; whilst language and intellect may appear to be that of an adult, the bully displays the emotional age of a five-year-old is emotionally immature and emotionally untrustworthy exhibits unusual and inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters, sexual behaviour and bodily functions; underneath the charming exterior there are often suspicions or hints of sex discrimination and sexual harassment, perhaps also sexual dysfunction, sexual inadequacy, sexual perversion, sexual violence or sexual abuse in a relationship, is incapable of initiating or sustaining intimacy holds deep prejudices (eg against the opposite gender, people of a different sexual orientation, other cultures and religious beliefs, foreigners, etc - prejudiced people are unvaryingly unimaginative) but goes to great lengths to keep this prejudicial aspect of their personality secret is self-opinionated and displays arrogance, audacity, a superior sense of entitlement and sense of invulnerability and untouchability has a deep-seated contempt of clients in contrast to his or her professed compassion is a control freak and has a compulsive need to control everyone and everything you say, do, think and believe; for example, will launch an immediate personal attack attempting to restrict what you are permitted to say if you start talking knowledgeably about psychopathic personality or antisocial personality disorder in their presence - but aggressively maintains the right to talk (usually unknowledgeably) about anything they choose; serial bullies despise anyone who enables others to see through their deception and their mask of sanity
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40 • • • • • • • • • displays a compulsive need to criticise whilst simultaneously refusing to value, praise and acknowledge others, their achievements, or their existence shows a lack of joined-up thinking with conversation that doesn't flow and arguments that don't hold water flits from topic to topic so that you come away feeling you've never had a proper conversation refuses to be specific and never gives a straight answer is evasive and has a Houdini-like ability to escape accountability undermines and destroys anyone who the bully perceives to be an adversary, a potential threat, or who can see through the bully's mask is adept at creating conflict between those who would otherwise collate incriminating information about them is quick to discredit and neutralise anyone who can talk knowledgeably about antisocial or sociopathic behaviors may pursue a vindictive vendetta against anyone who dares to held them accountable, perhaps using others' resources and contemptuous of the damage caused to other people and organisations in pursuance of the vendetta is also quick to belittle, undermine, denigrate and discredit anyone who calls, attempts to call, or might call the bully to account gains gratification from denying people what they are entitled to is highly manipulative, especially of people's perceptions and emotions (eg guilt) poisons peoples' minds by manipulating their perceptions when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of others, responds with impatience, irritability and aggression is arrogant, haughty, high-handed, and a know-all often has an overwhelming, unhealthy and narcissistic attention-seeking need to portray themselves as a wonderful, kind, caring and compassionate person, in contrast to their behaviour and treatment of others; the bully sees nothing wrong with their behavior and chooses to remain oblivious to the discrepancy between how they like to be seen and how they are seen by others is spiritually dead although may loudly profess some religious belief or affiliation is mean-spirited, officious, and often unbelievably petty is mean, stingy, and financially untrustworthy is greedy, selfish, a parasite and an emotional vampire is always a taker and never a giver is convinced of their superiority and has an overbearing belief in their qualities of leadership but cannot distinguish between leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, co-operation, trust, integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness, aggression, manipulation, distrust, deceitfulness) often fraudulently claims qualifications, experience, titles, entitlements or affiliations which are ambiguous, misleading, or bogus often misses the semantic meaning of language, misinterprets what is said, sometimes wrongly thinking that comments of a satirical, ironic or general negative nature apply to him or herself knows the words but not the song
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41 • • is constantly imposing on others a false reality made up of distortion and fabrication sometimes displays a seemingly limitless demonic energy especially when engaged in attention-seeking activities or evasion of accountability and is often a committeeaholic or apparent workaholic
Responsibility The serial bully appears to lack insight into his or her behaviour and seems to be oblivious to the crassness and inappropriateness thereof; however, it is more likely that the bully knows what they are doing but elects to switch off the moral and ethical considerations by which normal people are bound. If the bully knows what they are doing, they are responsible for their behaviour and thus liable for its consequences to other people. If the bully doesn't know what they are doing, they should be suspended from duty on the grounds of diminished responsibility and the provisions of the Mental Health Act should apply.
On this page The can of worms behind every case Introduction to the serial bully | Detailed profile of the serial bully Types of serial bully: The Attention-Seeker, The Wannabe, The Sociopath and The Guru Denial - avoiding acceptance of responsibility Sexual assault and denial in the Paul Hickson case Projection | Affairs | Validity of testimony | Other web pages On another page Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) | Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD) | Borderline Personality Disorder Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy | Attention seeking How, where and why bullies target their victims
The focus of this page is the serial bully in the workplace, however, the profile is relevant to most types of abusers, including:
• • • • • • • • • • • • • adult bullies in the workplace abusive and violent partners and family members abusers of those in care bullying neighbours, landlords, authorities, etc con artists and swindlers cult leaders child bullies who are going to grow up (sic) to be adult bullies racial and sexual harassers sexual abusers and paedophiles stalkers arsonists rapists and those who commit acts of sexual violence violent offenders including organized serial killers (ie those not suffering paranoid schizophrenia etc)
Anecdotal evidence indicates that the serial bully in the workplace is also a serial bully at home and in the community. The common objective of these offenders is power, control, domination and subjugation. What varies is the means by which these are pursued, ie the way in which violence is expressed. Most of the offenders in the list above commit criminal or arrestable offences; the serial bully commits mostly non-arrestable offences, for example:
42 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • incompetence maladministration neglect of duty dereliction of duty misappropriation of budgets financial irregularities and fiddling the books fiddling expenses falsifying time sheets pilfering stealing, diverting, skimming, or "losing" clients' money and investments embezzlement fraud deception malpractice misrepresentation conspiracy (eg to obstruct or pervert the course of justice) using the employer's resources to run their own business on the side moonlighting for employer's clients or competitors leaking information to people who should not be in possession of that information awarding contracts to family and friends failure to fulfil obligations breaches of health and safety regulations breaches of rules and regulations breaches of codes of conduct improper use of fraternal allegiances indiscretions impropriety inappropriate sexual conduct being the target of previous grievance and disciplinary action being the target of previous legal action (unfair dismissal, harassment, personal injury, etc) fraudulent qualifications and misleading or bogus claims of professional affiliation (check the bully's CV carefully) [More] collusion corruption being sacked or asked to leave their previous job(s) recruitment through nepotism or favouritism rather than ability extra-marital affairs - see below at home: poor credit rating, verbal abuse, domestic abuse, neglect, abandonment
Most cases of bullying involve a serial bully - one person to whom all the dysfunction can be traced. The serial bully has done this before, is doing it now - and will do it again. Investigation will reveal a string of predecessors who have either left unexpectedly or in suspicious circumstances, have taken early or ill-health retirement, have been unfairly dismissed, have been involved in disciplinary or legal action, or have had stress breakdowns. Serial bullies exploit the recent frenzy of downsizing and reorganisation to hinder recognition of the pattern of previous cases. The serial bully in the workplace is often found in a job which is a position of power, has a high administrative or procedural content but little or no creative requirement, and which provides opportunities for demonstrating a "caring" or "leadership" nature. Introduction to the serial bully Embittered by an abusive upbringing, seething with resentment, irritated by others' failure to fulfil his or her superior sense of entitlement, and fuelled by anger resulting from rejection, the serial bully displays an obsessive, compulsive and self-gratifying urge to displace their uncontrolled aggression onto others whilst exhibiting an apparent lack of insight into their behavior and its effect on people around them. Jealousy and envy motivate the bully to identify a competent and popular individual who is then controlled and subjugated through projection of the bully's own inadequacy and incompetence. When the target asserts their right not to be bullied, a paranoid fear of exposure compels the bully to perceive that person as a threat and hence neutralise and dispose of them as quickly as possible. Once a person has been eliminated there's an interval of between 2 days and 2 weeks before the bully chooses another target and the cycle starts again. Detailed profile of the serial bully The serial bully also:
• is selfish and acts out of self-interest, self-aggrandisement and self-preservation at all times; everything can be traced back to the self - even the seemingly innocuous "How are you today?" translates to "Is there any comeback on me as to how you're feeling today?" is insensitive, often callously indifferent to the needs of others, and especially when others are experiencing difficulty (vulnerability is a major stimulant to the serial bully) is incapable of reciprocity, ie unable and unwilling to reciprocate any positive gesture sees anyone attempting to be conciliatory as a sucker to be exploited uses criticism, humiliation, etc in the guise of addressing shortfalls in performance - in reality, these are for control and subjugation, not for performance enhancement appears to be intelligent but often performs poorly in academic or professional roles, despite appearances; the intelligence is focused exclusively on deviousness, cunning, scheming, manipulation, evasiveness, deceptiveness, quick-wittedness, craftiness, self-centredness, etc may be passive aggressive, blowing hot and cold, superficially cooperative but motivated by retribution, stubborn, uncoachable, use their intelligence to excuse and justify their behaviour, and they detest anyone more competent than themselves - which is most people is unable to maintain confidentiality, often breaching it with misrepresentation, distortion and fabrication distorts, twists, concocts and fabricates criticisms and allegations, and abuses the disciplinary procedures - again, for control and subjugation, not for performance enhancement uses gossip, back-stabbing or spreads rumours to undermine, discredit and isolate is untrustworthy and unable to trust others - this partly explains the compulsion for excessive monitoring is drawn to positions of power and abuses that power alters the employer's procedures to make it difficult or impossible for others to hold the bully accountable using those procedures
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44 • • is autocratic and dictatorial, often using phrases like "you shouldn't..." or "you ought to..." may appear superficially competent and professional at their job, but behind the facade is inadequate, inept, poor at their job, often incompetent; survives only by plagiarising other people's work, and being carried by those they bully wraps himself or herself in a flag or tradition and usurps others' objectives, thereby nurturing compliance, reverence, deference, endorsement and obeisance; however, such veneration and allegiance is divisive, being a corruption for personal power which exhibits itself through the establishment of a clique, coterie, cabal, faction, or gang is a divisive and disruptive influence, their departments are dysfunctional and inefficient, and their behavior prevents staff from performing their duties is unusually susceptible to minor slights or perceived slights and bears grudges which may be acted on years later when the transgressor can be denied promotion or downsized in the bully's "reorganisation" gains gratification from provoking people into emotional or irrational responses but is quick to claim provocation by others when challenged has a short-term focus and often cannot think or plan ahead more than 24 hours appears to have a short, selective memory and often cannot or will not remember what they said, did, or committed to more than 24 hours ago - but is always able to remember your faults, often from years ago the serial bully seems to live in a bubble of the present and when challenged will spontaneously make things up; the bully genuinely seems to believe the fabrication; from a psychiatric viewpoint this could be called confabulation; from a moral viewpoint, it's called lying is often like a child who has never grown up exhibits immature behaviour and poor manners has poor communication skills, poor interpersonal skills, poor social skills often misses social cues has poor language skills, and uses almost exclusively negative language with few or no positive words; is often limited to parroting fad phrases and regurgitating the latest management jargon has poorly-defined moral and ethical boundaries acts out of gratification and self-interest only, often using and hiding behind the employer extrovert bullies tend to be shouters and screamers, are highly visible, and bully from the front extrovert bullies can be charismatic and seem to be able to bewitch people into following and supporting them introvert bullies - the most dangerous types - tend to sit in the background and recruit others to do the bullying for them - when dealing with this type of bullying, identify the arch-bully in the background and focus single-mindedly on that person - the others will melt away is a killjoy, a wet blanket, is unreceptive and finds fault with or pours scorn on other people's ideas and suggestions, but may regurgitate them later claiming to be the originator often has a hatred of a sector of society, eg ethnic minorities, disabled people, etc often has a hatred of certain professional groups, eg psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counsellors, therapists is unimaginative and lacks the skills of creativity and innovation
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45 • • • rarely has any ideas of his or her own; tends to regurgitate what others (especially superiors) say rather than use own thinking is a plagiarist, steals other people's work - and the credit for it has a writing style that is disjointed, lacks flow and consistency, tends to make contradictory statements, and has the feel of a young teenager trying to write like a grown-up (apologies to teenagers) often uses false praise or praise which is inappropriate to the circumstances; this is partly to make the bully feel good, partly for the benefit of witnesses, partly poor judgement, partly immaturity, and partly for control and subjugation to throw their target off guard is unable and unwilling to value others and their contributions and achievements; is often scornful shows discrepancy in valuing tasks, deliberately devaluing the work and achievements of others; when the bully does a certain job, it's onerous, difficult and the bully needs lots of recognition; when their target does the same job it's trivial, of little or no value, not worth mentioning is ungrateful and rarely (if ever) says "thank you" or "well done" (except, perhaps, if impressionable witnesses are present) is frequently sarcastic, especially in contexts where sarcasm is inappropriate and unprofessional is unable to assess the importance of events and tasks, often making an unnecessary fuss over trivia whilst ignoring important or urgent things exhibits duplicity and hypocrisy, eg says one thing one day and denies it the next often has an overwhelming (and unhealthy) need to feel recognised and wanted is fastidious, often has an unhealthy obsession with cleanliness or orderliness is insincere and false has never learnt the skills of and has little concept of empathy; may use charm and mimicry to compensate attempts at empathy are superficial, amateur, often inappropriate or inappropriately high, and based on mimicry rather than genuine concern - and are for the purpose of making the bully look and feel good, especially in front of witnesses when required to show empathy, eg someone is in distress or needs help, responds either with impatience and aggression (if no-one else is present), or with a fulsome and effusive attempt at empathy (if witnesses are present) is unwilling to apologise for mistakes, except occasionally when witnesses are present, then the apology is fulsome, artificial, and inappropriate - but sufficiently convincing for peers and superiors is quick to blame others is uncharacteristically fulsome and effusive, especially in front of witnesses - but hollow and insincere is devious and manipulative (especially female bullies) is spiteful and vengeful (ditto) uses aggression almost exclusively but claims to be assertive (assertiveness is about recognising and respecting the rights of oneself and others) has unpredictable mood swings, blows hot and cold, often suddenly and without warning
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46 • • • • • • • is inconsistent in their judgement, often overruling, ignoring or denying what they said previously is inflexible and unable to evaluate options and alternatives is unforgiving and often seizes on and exploits others' mistakes or perceived mistakes is financially irresponsible and often has a bad credit rating has a cavalier attitude to Health and Safety is quick to anger and often has an unpredictable temper can be unpredictably and disarmingly pleasant, especially when you are unmasking them in front others - this plays on people's sympathies and is a use of guilt for manipulation and control is often humourless and emotionally flat; attempts at humour are often shallow and superficial is insecure and sees others as a threat; the threat seems to comprise a fear of exposure of inadequacy, and often borders on paranoia; the individual may have a paranoid personality is uncommunicative and uncooperative, and is evasive when asked for information (eg by subordinates) for communication, often relies excessively or exclusively on memos, emails, yellow stickies, or third parties and other strategies for avoiding face-to-face contact has no listening skills, ignores and overrules you; it can be like talking to a brick wall displays inappropriate and hostile body language makes inappropriate eye contact, either too little (or none at all) or too much (staring) often reported as having an evil stare, sometimes with eyes that appear black rather than coloured is unable to sustain a mature adult conversation (you may only realise this in retrospect) sees people as objects (in the same way that child sex abusers and rapists see their targets as objects for their gratification) often displays interpersonal behavior that is ill-advised, especially with a sexual overtone, eg invasion of intimate zone, gestures or comments which include inappropriate sexual references or innuendo, being inappropriately intimate with clients, being too friendly too soon, etc is incapable of intimacy lacks a conscience and shows no remorse displays excessive and rigid adherence to procedures, rules, regulations etc, usually as a cover for lack of creativity; their work is largely bureaucratic in nature and obedience of orders from above is a priority finds ritual important and comforting, and frequently indulges in ritual and ritualistic activity often forms or joins lots of committees to look busy and important but never achieves anything of significance or value when called upon to exercise judgement, relies on and insists on rigid adherence to procedures and rules (this is an abdication of responsibility and an admission of inability to manage) gains gratification from bullying people by imposing rules, regulations, laws etc and insisting on adherence thereto, regardless of their relevance or efficacy often exhibits a psychopathic personality, the main features of which are:
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47 • • • • • an unwillingness to conform to the rules of society: thinks that rules, regulations, procedures and the law do not apply to them - but insists that others adhere rigidly an inability to tolerate minor frustrations a tendency to act impulsively, recklessly and randomly an inability to form stable relationships (the bully's private life is usually a mess) an inability or unwillingness to learn from past experience, however unpleasant - this "learning blindness" is a key feature of the serial bully and differentiates the serial bully from the unwitting bully; this inability to learn seems to be concentrated in the area of interpersonal, social, communication and behavioural skills; closer inspection suggests that the bully does learn from experience, but only how be more secretive and how to be more skilled at evading accountability
Other adjectives to describe the serial bully include cunning, conniving, scheming, calculating, cruel, sadistic, ruthless, treacherous, premeditated, exploitative, pernicious, malevolent, obnoxious, opportunist, unconcerned, etc. The lack of interpersonal, social, and empathic skills are reminiscent of autism; the serial bully relies almost entirely on rules, procedures, aggression, denial and mimicry to hide their lack of people skills. Psychopaths and sociopaths are often excellent actors and mimics. Most people with this profile are incompetent at their job and the bullying is intended to hide this incompetence. However, a few recent cases suggest that some serial bullies (especially the quiet ones):
• are good at carrying out rule-based or procedurally-oriented jobs which require no free thinking or imagination; these people fall down when required to step outside this role, eg dealing with people (especially males) excel in one area of work (usually scientific in nature) and may be regarded as the leading authority in their field but are lacking in almost every other respect, especially in interpersonal skills (this is reminiscent of savant syndrome); they also tend to be physically aggressive and may have a reputation for sexual harassment
New! Serial bully types
Attention-Seeker | Wannabe | Guru | Sociopath
The profile above covers the most commonly-reported behaviours of serial bullies. From casework I've been able to identify four primary types of serial bully: The Attention-Seeker Motivation: to be the centre of attention Mindset: control freak, manipulation, narcissism Malice: medium to high; when held accountable, very high
• • • • • • • • • emotionally immature selectively friendly - is sickly sweet to some people, rude and offhand to others, and ignores the rest is cold and aggressive towards anyone who sees them for what they really are or exposes their strategies for gaining attention overfriendly with their new target, especially in the initial stages of a new working relationship overhelpful, ditto overgenerous, ditto manipulative of people's perceptions, but in an amateur and childish manner manipulative with guilt, ditto sycophantic, fawning, toadying
48 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • uses flattery to keep a person in authority on side everything is a drama, usually a poor-me drama prefers not to solve problems in own life so that they can be used and re-used for gaining sympathy and attention capitalises on issues and uses them as a soapbox for gaining attention exploits others' suffering and grief as a vehicle for gaining attention misappropriates others' statements, eg anything which can be misconstrued as politically incorrect, for control and attention-seeking excusitis, makes excuses for everything shows a lot of indignation, especially when challenged lots of self-pity often as miserable as sin, apart from carefully constructed moments of charm when in the act of deceiving demanding of others easily provoked feigns victimhood when held accountable, usually by bursting into tears or claiming they're the one being bullied and harassed presents as a false victim when outwitted may feign exclusion, isolation or persecution malicious constantly tries and will do almost anything to be in the spotlight includes Munchausen Syndrome the focus of their life is to be the centre of attention
The Wannabe Motivation: craves respect for being competent and professional despite lacking in competence and professionalism Mindset: deceptive Malice: low to medium; when held accountable, medium to high
• • • • • similar to the attention-seeker is one of life's chronic underperformers and is best described as ineffectual in everything craves undeserved respect and attention and will go to considerable lengths to acquire them hangs around the fringes of a profession not professionally qualified but claims they are a professional because they sit next to a professional or work alongside or near or in the midst of professionals, or provide services to professionals lacks the ability, competence and professionalism to be a qualified professional wants so much to be seen as competent professional person but is unable and unwilling to put in the work to achieve this is unable and unwilling to apply knowledge gained from experience but instead devotes time and effort to improving skills of deception, manipulation, false claim, denial and projection may have been rejected by their chosen profession for lack of competence
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49 • • • • • • is spiteful towards and despises anyone who is qualified in the profession from which the bully has been excluded by virtue of lack of competence is likely to be vilifying the profession they want to belong to or which they're claiming to be part of or which they are claiming to represent displays a deep-seated envy and jealousy of the professionals that he or she works alongside or claims to serve harbours a bitter resentment, grudge, distaste and contempt for the professionals that he or she works alongside or claims to serve is likely to be criticising, condemning, disadvantaging and causing detriment to the professionals he or she works alongside or claims to serve may seek positions of power over the professionals he or she works alongside or claims to serve, perhaps to facilitate a compulsion to criticise, condemn, disadvantage and cause detriment is irresistibly drawn to organisations, roles and positions which offer the wannabe power and control over the professionals s/he despises (eg inspection regimes, approval roles, regulatory bodies, ticksheet compliance schemes, political correctness police, trade union official, etc) - and is often described as a talentless jobsworth when in a position of power associates with and makes alliances with or surrounds him or herself with clones, drones, minions, fellow wannabes, sycophants and brown-nosers instinctively objects to any suggestion of change, reform, improvement, progress or evolution, but has no viable or positive alternatives of their own opposes every idea, suggestion, opinion, contribution or reform on principle but has no original, positive, constructive ideas or contributions of his or her own is likely to plagiarise and steal others' ideas which are then put forward as their own may place undue emphasis or reliance on an old, minor or irrelevant qualification to bolster their claim of belonging to or deserving to belong to a profession may claim ambiguous or misleading or bogus or fraudulent qualifications, associations and experience displays a superior sense of entitlement because they associate with or serve higher performers emotionally immature controlling easily provoked when challenged is adept at rewriting history to portray themselves as competent, professional and successful, regardless of multiple witnesses and overwhelming evidence to the contrary quickly and loudly feigns victimhood when exposed and held accountable, often repeatedly and loudly accusing the person holding them accountable of being a bully when held accountable makes conflicting and contradictory threats and demands (eg demands apology but orders the other person not to communicate with them) when held accountable makes lots of loud but empty threats (eg of legal action such as libel, slander, defamation etc) only carries out threats of legal action when in the presence of a superior serial bully, especially a sociopath type
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50 • may indulge their jealousy and envy of professionals or those they claim to serve by pursuing vindictive vendettas, sometimes with the help of a superior serial bully, especially a sociopath type is easily manipulated and controlled by a superior serial bully female wannabes may be arch bullies (some people might call them puppetmasters or queen bees) may surround herself with drones of the opposite sex may exploit some perceived vulnerability in self to ensure drone loyalty gives the appearance of loyalty to drones but will discard them when they've served their purpose is likely to have affairs to gain power, status or position
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The Guru Motivation: task focused Mindset: confusion, inability to understand how others think and feel Malice: zero to low; when held accountable, low to medium (it's often the absence of malice that identifies a guru type of serial bully) but could be medium to high if narcissistic or psychopathic traits are present
• • • • • • • • • • • • often successful in their narrow field of expertise regarded as an expert valued by the employer because s/he brings in the money, status etc ruthlessly pursues objectives regardless of the cost ruthless determination to succeed can be successful over the medium term in their field task focused zero people skills control freak mainly but not exclusively male often has a favourite who receives extra attention but who is expected to reciprocate with sycophancy favours, protects and promotes non-threatening sycophants whilst marginalizing and hindering the advancement of those with higher levels of competence, especially in people skills apt to betray those formerly favoured, especially when the favoured person starts to show independence of thought or action, or starts to receive more attention or become more popular than their mentor a male Guru in a position of power may exhibit inappropriate sexual conduct gauche, aggressive and unpleasant but not evil may not be overtly attention-seeking but dislikes those around them getting more attention than they're getting, or getting attention which doesn't include the bully selfish, self-centred, self-opinionated, dogmatic and thoughtless and with a tendency to pontificate apt to throw temper tantrums when things don't go well or can't get their own way emotionally immature, perhaps emotionless, sometimes cold and frigid convincingly intellectualises feelings to compensate for emotional immaturity
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51 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • intelligent (often highly) but lacks common sense is happy to lie to suit own purposes can have a rigid routine does not accept responsibility for their own behavior blames others for own inadequacies refuses to recognise that they could have any shortcomings of their own does not live in the present usually extremely neat (for example, desk is always clear) organized (sometimes overly) tempts fate but always gets away with it has stereotypical ideas about gender roles (though this may not be expressed consciously) makes assumptions about others' thoughts does not follow social rules, for example may display bad table manners in public appears unable and unwilling to engage in and sustain small talk seems unaware of the nature and purpose of rapport seems to exhibit some symptoms similar to autism, although autistic people tend to be shy, introspective and lack manipulative skills and are usually the targets of bullying, not the perpetrators (it's unknown whether there might be a common cause or whether the similarities are just a superficial coincidence) [more on autism] appears unable to read people and their thoughts and especially feelings when held accountable exhibits genuine confusion as to why their behaviour is inappropriate in cases where malice is low or absent the person my be regarded as somewhat avuncular or mildly jovial or charismatic in nature likes the appearance of normalcy but rejects responsibilities of relationships is unable to comprehend or meet the emotional needs of others often puts work and duty above everything, including relationships makes power plays, for example leaves the room when someone is speaking, or pretends not to hear and constantly asking a person to repeat what they just said, etc doesn't share information about self (thoughts, insights, etc) and is not open to receiving this type of information from others (allegedly knows it all already) secretive possessive of objects and sometimes people may view people as objects (this enables controlling behaviour of other people) thinks of self as superior and above the law / rules / regulations etc (these only apply to other people) uses denial as a defence mechanism there are likely to be problems with succession
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The Socialised Psychopath or Sociopath Also known as the corporate psychopath, workplace psychopath, industrial psychopath and administrative psychopath.
Motivation: power, gratification, personal gain, survival Mindset: manipulation, deception, evil Malice: high to very high; when held accountable, off the scale
• • • • • • • Jekyll & Hyde personality always charming and beguilingly plausible, especially to those who are capable of protecting or enhancing the sociopath's position excels at deception (this must never be underestimated, but always is) excels at evasion of accountability is extremely and successfully manipulative of people's perceptions and emotions (eg guilt and anger) silver-tongued, has an extreme verbal facility and can outwit anybody (including a top barrister) in verbal conflict will often engineer himself or herself into a position of authority as gatekeeper of the organisation and thus the person through whom all information must flow, and the person to whom all requests for services must be referred - which he or she then takes delight in denying is adept at offering weak and inadequate people the positions of power, control, security, influence or respect that they crave but who lack the necessary competencies to achieve such people are unaware that their consequent dependence on the sociopath makes them permanent manipulatees, pawns and expendable agents of harassment identifies those essential to the sociopath's survival and manipulates their perceptions them by making them feel special and thus obligated to reciprocate with support and protection manipulates others into making fools of themselves in situations where they cannot back down or from which they cannot withdraw - these people become increasingly susceptible to further manipulation and are then trapped as pawns in the sociopath's game is likely to be surrounded by people who, having been subjected to control, manipulation and punishment by the sociopath, look wretched and who start to exhibit behaviour best described as disordered, dysfunctional, sullen, aggressive, defensive, hostile, retaliatory, counterproductive or cult-like and for whom disbelief, disavowal and denial are instinctive responses creates an environment where levels of denial are so great that those involved are oblivious of the foolishness and self-evident absurdity of their denials when presented with the facts, with the result that non-involved observers are led to question whether such levels of denial merit psychiatric intervention is contemptuous of disrepute to their organisation and of collateral damage and of the destructive consequences for all direct and indirect parties is always surrounded by and leaves behind a trail of dysfunctional organisations, destroyed businesses, ruined careers, stress breakdowns and unexplained suicides despite a trail of devastation to individuals, organisations, families and communities, the actions of a socialised psychopath may go undetected or unrecognised for years a history of conducting frivolous, vexatious and malicious legal actions, especially (but not exclusively) against anyone who can recognise the sociopath for what he is only after the sociopath is exposed and relieved of position, or they move on, can the full depth of their destructive behaviour be fathomed and the consequences calculated is skilled at identifying, undermining, discrediting, neutralising and destroying anyone who can see through the sociopath's mask of sanity
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53 • at all times restricts the actions and rights of others (especially those holding the sociopath accountable) whilst aggressively protecting his or her right to do anything without being hampered by social norms or legal requirements pursues endless vindictive vendettas against anyone perceived as a threat or who attempts, knowingly or unknowingly, to identify or reveal or expose the sociopath, or who makes efforts to hold the sociopath accountable is adept at appropriating rules, regulations, procedures and law to manipulate, control and punish accusers regardless of relevance, logic, facts or consequences persists in and pursues vindictive vendettas using self-evidently false evidence or information, even after this is brought to the attention of the sociopath will often manipulate minor bullies of the Wannabe type (who on their own might or would not merit the label 'serial bully') into acting as agents of harassment and as unwitting or unwilling conductors of vendettas is adept at placing people in situations where the sociopath can tap into each person's instinctive urge to retaliate in order to use them as his or her instruments or agents of harassment gains gratification from provoking others into engaging in adversarial conflict once conflict has been initiated, the sociopath gains increased gratification by exploiting human beings' instinctive need to retaliate - this is achieved by encouraging and escalating peoples' adversarial conflicts into mutually assured destruction revels in the gratification gained from seeing or causing other people's distress when faced with accountability or unwelcome attention which might lead to others discerning the sociopath's true nature, responds with repeated and escalating attempts to control, manipulate and punish is adept at reflecting all accusations and attempts at accountability back onto their accusers is adept at creating conflict between those who would otherwise pool negative information about the sociopath has no limits on his or her vindictiveness the need to control, manipulate and punish develops into an obsession with many of the hallmarks of an addiction is skilled at mimicry and can plausibly and spontaneously regurgitate all the latest management jargon exhibits minimal professional skill level and competency exploits his or her intelligence to excel at talentless mediocrity is always identifying the behaviours and strategies to which other people respond with the desired effect is able to anticipate and credibly say what people want to hear is easily able to win people over before betraying them or deceiving them or ripping them off easily manipulates and bewitches an immature or naive or vulnerable or emotionally needy person to be their spokesperson or agent of aggression exploits anyone who has a vulnerability is pushy and extremely persuasive is sexually inadequate and sexually abusive is likely to protect anyone accused of or suspected of sexual abuse of pedophile activity, and will frustrate or obstruct investigations into that person
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54 • • • • maybe associating with, or actively involved in, abuse or pedophile activity has no emotions, no emotional processing capability and no ability to understand other's emotions is incapable of understanding, initiating or sustaining intimacy the male sociopath has often convinced a string of women to feel they are in love with him and despite being treated abominably they blindly continue to be loyal to him and minister willingly to his every demand may start projects with apparent enthusiasm and energy but quickly loses interest frequently takes unnecessary and uncalculated risks but takes no account of consequences is reckless and untrustworthy with money is likely to be illegally diverting or siphoning off significant sums of money to his or her own budget, project, account or cause is unreliable and untrustworthy in every facet of life is likely to be leaking confidential information or secrets to third parties is likely to have committed or be committing criminal or near-criminal offences, eg fraud, embezzlement, deception is likely to have committed or be committing breaches of harassment and discrimination law, employment law, contract law, etc disregards rules, regulations, Health and Safety requirements, professional standards, codes of conduct and legal requirements, etc cannot comprehend the deeper semantic meaning of language and is thus unable to understand or appreciate metaphor, hyperbole, irony, satire etc (these elicit either zero response or a hostile response) likes, seeks, enjoys and relies on procedure, ritual and ritualistic practices through arrogant overconfidence takes increasingly risky chances and eventually overplays their hand or makes a mistake which leads to the sociopath revealing him or herself exhibits parasitical behaviour, takes everything and gives nothing grabs headline credit for minimal, flukey or other peoples' success whilst surviving off the backs of manipulatees who are exclusively blamed for all failures rarely blinks, may have stary scary eyes that cut right through you, or may avoid eye contact completely is callous, cold and calculating is devious, clever and cunning is ruthless in the extreme regards people as objects and playthings to be discarded when surplus to requirements displays zero empathy completely without conscience, remorse and guilt malicious and evil
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Power over people The serial bully is able to exert a hold over people for a variety of reasons. Targets are disempowered such that they become dependent on the bully to allow them to get through each day without their life being made hell.
The serial bully is often able to bewitch an emotionally needy colleague into supporting them; this person then becomes the bully's spokesperson and advocate. How people can be so easily and repeatedly taken in by the bully's glib charm, Jekyll and Hyde nature, and constant lying is a mystery. Psychopaths are especially adept at conning people in this manner. Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) The serial bully exhibits behaviours similar to or congruent with the diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) The serial bully exhibits behaviours similar to or congruent with the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD) The serial bully exhibits behaviours similar to or congruent with the diagnostic criteria for Paranoid Personality Disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder Some visitors to Bully OnLine have suggested that the bullies in their lives exhibit characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder. Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder See http://www.toad.net/~arcturus/dd/ddhome.htm Personality Disorders There's more on Personality Disorders at http://www.toad.net/~arcturus/dd/ourdesk.htm Avoiding acceptance of responsibility - denial, counterattack and feigning victimhood The serial bully is an adult on the outside but a child on the inside; he or she is like a child who has never grown up. One suspects that the bully is emotionally retarded and has a level of emotional development equivalent to a five-year-old, or less. The bully wants to enjoy the benefits of living in the adult world, but is unable and unwilling to accept the responsibilities that go with enjoying the benefits of the adult world. In short, the bully has never learnt to accept responsibility for their behaviour. When called to account for the way they have chosen to behave, the bully instinctively exhibits this recognisable behavioural response: a) Denial: the bully denies everything. Variations include Trivialization ("This is so trivial it's not worth talking about...") and the Fresh Start tactic ("I don't know why you're so intent on dwelling on the past" and "Look, what's past is past, I'll overlook your behaviour and we'll start afresh") - this is an abdication of responsibility by the bully and an attempt to divert and distract attention by using false conciliation. Imagine if this line of defence were available to all criminals ("Look I know I've just murdered 12 people but that's all in the past, we can't change the past, let's put it behind us, concentrate on the future so we can all get on with our lives" - this would do wonders for prison overcrowding). b) Retaliation: the bully counterattacks. The bully quickly and seamlessly follows the denial with an aggressive counter-attack of counter-criticism or counter-allegation, often based on distortion or fabrication. Lying, deception, duplicity, hypocrisy and blame are the hallmarks of this stage. The purpose is to avoid answering the question and thus avoid accepting responsibility for their behaviour. Often the target is tempted - or coerced - into giving another long explanation to prove the bully's allegation false; by the time the explanation is complete, everybody has forgotten the original question. Both a) and b) are delivered with aggression in the guise of assertiveness; in fact there is no assertiveness (which is about recognising and respecting the rights of oneself and others) at all. Note that explanation - of the original question - is conspicuous by its absence. c) Feigning victimhood: in the unlikely event of denial and counter-attack being insufficient, the bully feigns victimhood or feigns persecution by manipulating people through their emotions, especially guilt. This commonly takes the form of bursting into tears, which most people cannot handle. Variations include indulgent
self-pity, feigning indignation, pretending to be "devastated", claiming they're the one being bullied or harassed, claiming to be "deeply offended", melodrama, martyrdom ("If it wasn't for me...") and a poor-me drama ("You don't know how hard it is for me ... blah blah blah ..." and "I'm the one who always has to...", "You think you're having a hard time ...", "I'm the one being bullied..."). Other tactics include manipulating people's perceptions to portray themselves as the injured party and the target as the villain of the piece. Or presenting as a false victim. Sometimes the bully will suddenly claim to be suffering "stress" and go off on long-term sick leave, although noone can quite establish why. Alleged ill-health can also be a useful vehicle for gaining attention and sympathy. For suggestions on how to counter this see the advice on the FAQ page. By using this response, the bully is able to avoid answering the question and thus avoid accepting responsibility for what they have said or done. It is a pattern of behaviour learnt by about the age of 3; most children learn or are taught to grow out of this, but some are not and by adulthood, this avoidance technique has been practised to perfection. A further advantage of the denial/counter-attack/feigning victimhood strategy is that it acts as a provocation. The target, who may have taken months to reach this stage, sees their tormentor getting away with it and is provoked into an angry and emotional outburst after which the bully says simply "There, I told you s/he was like that". Anger is one of the mechanisms by which bullies (and all abusers) control their targets. By tapping in to and obtaining an inappropriate release of pent-up anger the bully plays their master stroke and casts their victim as villain. When called to account for the way they have chosen to behave, mature adults do not respond by bursting into tears. If you're dealing with a serial bully who has just exhibited this avoidance tactic, sit passively and draw attention to the pattern of behaviour they've just exhibited, and then the purpose of the tactic. Then ask for an answer to the question. Bullies also rely on the denial of others and the fact that when their target reports the abuse they will be disbelieved ("are your sure this is really going on?", "I find it hard to believe - are you sure you're not imagining it?"). Frequently targets are asked why they didn't report the abuse before, and they will usually reply "because I didn't think anyone would believe me." Sadly they are often right in this assessment. Because of the Jekyll & Hyde nature, compulsive lying, and plausibility, no-one can - or wants - to believe it. Click here for a detailed explanation of the target's reluctance to report abuse. Denial features in most cases of sexual assault, as in the case of Paul Hickson, the UK Olympic swimming coach who sexually assaulted and raped teenage girls in his care over a period of 20 years or more. When his victims were asked why they didn't report the abuse, most replied "Because I didn't think anyone would believe me". Abusers confidently, indeed arrogantly, rely on this belief, often aggressively inculcating (instilling) the belief ("No-one will ever believe you") just after the sexual assault when their victim is in a distressed state. Targets of bullying in the workplace often come up against the same attitudes by management when they report a bullying colleague. In a workplace environment, the bully usually recruits one or two colleagues (sometimes one is a sleeping partner - see Affairs below) who will back up the bully's denial when called to account. Reflection Serial bullies harbour a particular hatred of anyone who can articulate their behaviour profile, either verbally or in writing - as on this page - in a manner which helps other people see through their deception and their mask of deceit. The usual instinctive response is to launch a bitter personal attack on the person's credentials, lack of qualifications, and right to talk about personality disorders, psychopathic personality etc, whilst preserving their right to talk about anything they choose - all the while adding nothing to the debate themselves. Serial bullies hate to see themselves and their behaviour reflected as if they are looking into a mirror. Projection Bullies project their inadequacies, shortcomings, behaviours etc on to other people to avoid facing up to their inadequacy and doing something about it (learning about oneself can be painful), and to distract and divert attention away from themselves and their inadequacies. Projection is achieved through blame, criticism and allegation; once you realise this, every criticism, allegation etc that the bully makes about their target is actually an admission or revelation about themselves. This knowledge can be used to perceive the bully's own misdemeanours; for instance, when the allegations are of financial or sexual impropriety, it is likely that the bully has committed these acts; when the bully makes an allegation of abuse (such allegations tend to be vague and non-
specific), it is likely to be the bully who has committed the abuse. When the bully makes allegations of, say, "cowardice" or "negative attitude" it is the bully who is a coward or has a negative attitude. In these circumstances, the bully has to understand that if specious and insubstantive allegations are made, the bully will also be investigated. When the symptoms of psychiatric injury become apparent to others, most bullies will play the Mental Health Trap, claiming their target is "mentally ill" or "mentally unstable" or has a "mental health problem". It is more likely that this allegation is a projection of the bully's own mental health problems. If this trap is being used on you, assert "projection" as a defence against disciplinary action or as part of your legal proceedings. It is a key identifying feature of a person with a personality disorder or psychopathic personality that, when called to account, they will accuse the person who is unmasking them of being the one with the personality disorder or psychopathic personality from which they (the bully) suffer. Affairs Of over 10,000 cases of bullying reported to Bully OnLine and the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line, in at least half the cases, the bully is having an affair with another member of staff. The affair has little to do with friendship, and a lot to do with strategic alliance in pursuit of power, control, domination and subjugation. In a further quarter of cases, there's often a suspected affair, and in the remaining quarter, there is often a relationship with another member of staff based not so much on sexual attraction but on a mutual admiration for the way each other behaves. If the bully is a female in a junior position, she finds a weak male in a senior position (this is usually not difficult) for example the President, Chief Executive, any Senior Executive, Finance Director, Personnel Director, or Departmental Director, etc - then gains patronage, protection and reward (eg promotion) by traditional methods. Once promotion is gained, the female calculates who can give her the next promotion; if the first male cannot, he is ditched and another adopted. The males are unlikely to admit this is happening or has happened. If the bully is a male in a senior position, he is often sleeping with a secretary or office administrator, as this is where he gets his information and where he spreads his disinformation. Sometimes the female junior can be identified by her reward, eg being the only person allowed to hold the keys of the stock cupboard (everyone has to grovel to her if they want a new pen), or being put in charge of the office in the bully's absence when there are others who are senior to her who would make more appropriate deputies. Most serial bullies have unhappy and unsatisfactory private lives which are characterised by a string of broken relationships. If you are the current target of a serial bully and taking legal action, a little digging into the bully's past, including their personal life, will usually unearth some unsavoury facts that the bully would prefer not to be made public. In some cases, serial bullies have been found to have criminal convictions for fraud, or to have been compelled to attend therapy or counselling for their habit of compulsive lying, or they might have a record of domestic violence. Under normal circumstances making these facts part of the proceedings might be considered unethical; however, if you're the target of a serial bully, the circumstances are not normal. Validity of testimony Because of the serial bully's Jekyll and Hyde nature, compulsive lying, charm and plausibility, the validity of this person's testimony cannot be relied on in disciplinary proceedings, appeal hearings, and under oath at tribunal and in court. Emphasise this when taking action. Mediation with this type of individual is inappropriate. Serial bullies regard mediation (and arbitration, conciliation, negotiation etc) as appeasement, which they ruthlessly exploit; it allows them to give the impression in public that they are negotiating and being conciliatory, whilst in private they continue the bullying. The lesson of the twentieth century is that you do not appease aggressors. The disordered thinking processes of the criminal / antisocial mind are succinctly described in Stanton E Samenow's book Straight talk about criminals. For example: "Certain people who I term non-arrestable criminals behave criminally towards others , but they are sufficiently fearful [and knowledgeable of the law - TF] so that they do not commit major crimes. We all know them: individuals who shamelessly use others to gain advantage for themselves. Having little empathy, they singlemindedly pursue their objectives and have little remorse for the injuries they inflict. If others take them to task, they become indignant and self-righteous and blame circumstances. Such people share much in common with the
person who makes crime a way of life. Although they may not have broken the law, they nonetheless victimize others." (Chapter 8, The criminal mind exists independent of particular laws, culture or customs) In Samenow's 1984 book Inside the criminal mind he uses this description: "Some criminals are smooth rather than contentious, ingratiating rather than surly, devious rather than intimidating. They pretend to be interested in what others say. Appearing to invite suggestions, they inwardly dismiss each idea without considering its merits. They seem to take criticism in stride but ignore it and spitefully make mental note of who the critic was. They misuse authority and betray trust but are not blatant about doing so. With the criminal at the helm, employee morale deteriorates. His method of operation sooner or later discourages others from proposing innovative ideas and developing creative solutions." (Chapter 6, Work and the criminal) I recommend both Samenow's books. Other web pages of interest Robert D Hare is a world-leading authority on psychopathic behaviour and author of The Hare PCL-R Psychopathy Checklist Revised. See http://www.hare.org/ and his articles: Psychopaths: New Trends in Research and Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder: A Case of Diagnostic Confusion The B-Scan 360 - identifying dysfunctional behaviour in managers and potential managers: http://www.bscan.com/ Industrial Psychopaths can thrive in business: not all psychopaths end up in prison. Many are found in management positions, according to Dr Paul Babiak speaking at the annual meeting of the American Neuropsychiatric Association. Treatment for psychopaths is likely to make them worse by Robert Hare, PhD. Channel 4 Equinox Science of crime examines psychopaths. Dealing with manipulative people: an excerpt from the book In Sheep's Clothing By George K Simon. Tribal Elders has links to sites on narcissism and psychopathy. New! Beware the sociopath: no heart, no conscience, no remorse: how to spot a sociopathic love fraud con artist www.bullyeq.com explores the relationships between bullying, abuse, mobbing, psychopathy and emotional intelligence in various contexts. Case histories of people who are dealing with or have dealt with a serial bully. Discussion forum on psychopaths Personality Disorders PSYCHOPATH is a learning, resource and support group PSYCHOPATH links Articles Are you married to a psychopath? Robert Matthews writes in The Sunday Telegraph, 10 May 1997 Go-getting managers revealed as psychopaths, Robert Matthews writes in The Sunday Telegraph, 10 May 1997 How to spot the socialised psycho, Robert Matthews tells you how to recognise a psychopath, Sunday Telegraph, 10 May 1997 Yes, I live with a psychopath, Robert Matthews writes more about psychopaths following a flood of letters in response to his previous article. Sunday Telegraph, 12 July 1997. Psycho bosses on the loose: are you in their line of fire? Hilary Freeman writes about psychopathic bosses in the Rise section for graduate of The Guardian, 10 March 2001.
Chief executives should be screened to weed out psychopaths, says Robert Hare Snakes in suits and how to spot them, an article on psychopaths in corporations in The Times Serotonin and dopamine levels may be important in psychopathic behaviour Daily Mail article Is that a psycho sitting next to you at work? Kate Hilpern in The Guardian reveals the socialised psychopath as charming and plausible, but they hide a dark secret. Michael Steinberger in the New York Times looks at corporate psychopaths thrive on constant downsizing and relentless merging. Working with Monsters - dealing with the workplace psychopath: John Clarke discusses his book Working with Monsters: How to identify and protect yourself from the workplace psychopath on ABC Brisbane. Is your boss a psychopath? Probably, if we are to believe the results of a new scientific study, says the Guardian's Oliver James. Snakes in suits: transcript of Australian Radio National program about corporate psychopaths with Robert Hare and Paul Babiak: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/bbing/stories/s1265568.htm Psychopaths or Psychopathic Students in Criminal Justice: A Problem for the Profession of Criminal Justice by Russell Eisenman. Of Criminals And CEOs: the difference between bold, creative visionaries and deluded psychopaths is not as big as it used to be, Tara Pepper writes in Newsweek. University of Southern California study shows brains of pathological liars differ from normal people. Books Without conscience, the disturbing world of psychopaths among us, Robert D Hare, The Guilford Press, 1999, ISBN 1-57230-451-0. The mask of sanity, Hervey Cleckley, C V Mosby Publishing, Fifth Edition, 1976. The standard work on psychopathy which describes at length the damage a psychopath causes to the family unit and to society. New! Toxic Coworkers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job: Working with the narcissists, borderlines, sociopaths, schizoids, and others, Alan A Cavaiola PhD and Neil J Lavender PhD, New Harbinger Publications; 1st edition, 2000
Antisocial Personality Disorder
APD and the serial bully I estimate that around 1 person in 30 (approximately 2 million) in the UK exhibits the profile of the serial bully whose behaviour is congruent with many of the diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder. Some serial bullies meet sufficient clinical criteria to merit the label psychopath. Although mental health professionals are not all in agreement, the emphasis of antisocial personality disorder is, as the name implies, on the antisocial acts committed by the individual. Psychopaths, on the other hand, are diagnosed more according to personality traits, eg lack of remorse, lack of guilt, lack of conscience, etc. Whilst many psychopaths meet the diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder, not all do; similarly, not all people with antisocial personality disorder meet the criteria for a psychopath. I use the term psychopath for an individual with many of the characteristics of Antisocial Personality Disorder who is dysfunctional and violent and who expresses their violence physically (eg assault, damage to property, etc); I use the term sociopath (socialised psychopath) for an individual with many of the characteristics of Antisocial Personality Disorder who expresses their violence psychologically (eg constant criticism, sidelining, exclusion, undermining etc). Psychopathic APD people are usually, but not exclusively, associated with low socio-economic status and urban settings and tend to be of lower intelligence. Sociopaths are usually highly intelligent, have higher socio-economic status and often come from "normal", "nice", "middle-class" families.
When diagnosing a Personality Disorder, it is usual to find that the characteristics of the disorder are not regarded as problematic by the person themselves. This fits well with the serial bully's apparent lack of insight into their behaviour and the effect of their behaviour on others. However, this apparent lack of insight is more selective than it appears. The estimate of 3% for males and 1% for females amongst the general population comes from the Prevalence for Antisocial Personality Disorder in DSM-IV, the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. However, most of the research on Antisocial Personality Disorder has been undertaken with people who are physically violent, as these people have come to the attention of the authorities (police, welfare agencies, doctors, psychiatrists, etc) through their recognised (physically) antisocial behaviour. They have committed criminal, arrestable offences. I believe relatively little research has been undertaken with people who are psychologically violent but rarely physically violent; these people tend to commit non-criminal, non-arrestable offences. People who are physically violent tend to have low self-esteem, low intelligence and low self-discipline; people who are psychologically violent tend to have low self-esteem, high self-discipline and high intelligence. I suspect that around 2-3% of both males and females are psychologically violent - in addition to the DSM-IV estimate of 3% (males) and 1% (females) for physically violent people. Until recently, psychologically violent people in the workplace were regarded as tough managers or difficult characters or (by subordinates) as a pain in the butt. These attitudes are changing as the dysfunction, inefficiency, cost, and severe psychiatric injury these people's behaviour causes is revealed (click to see effects of bullying on health, the psychiatric injury PTSD, and the cost of bullying to industry and taxpayers). Listed below are the diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder which I believe to be relevant to the serial bully. Links to related personality disorders follow. The information is provided not to diagnose, but to aid the recognition and understanding of aggressive and dysfunctional behaviour. An individual may exhibit traits of more than one personality disorder. Bear in mind that psychiatrists themselves are not unanimous on the existence, content, and diagnosis of personality disorders. The DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder include: A. A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since the age of 15 years as indicated by at least three of: 1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest; 2. deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure; 3. impulsivity or failure to plan ahead; 4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults; 5. reckless disregard for the safety of self or others; 6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behaviour or honour financial obligations; 7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalising having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another. B. The individual is at least 18 years of age. C. There is evidence of Conduct Disorder with onset before age 15 years. D. The occurrence of antisocial behaviour is not exclusively during the course of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode. Physical violence is currently a prerequisite. However... A. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that people who are bullies as adults were bullies at school; this is where they learnt to bully, and learnt they could get away with it. A1. The serial bully is unable and unwilling to act within the bounds of society, whilst insisting everyone else does. In the UK, there is a legal precedent (since March 1997, the case of a school-age girl in Wakefield) that bullying - verbal intimidation with no physical contact - constitutes common assault and is therefore now a criminal offence. Most of the offences committed by the serial bully are non-criminal and therefore non-arrestable; click here for a list.
A2. The serial bully is a practised liar with a Jekyll and Hyde nature who gains gratification from bullying others. The serial bully will select and bully any person whom he or she believes is a threat to them (the threat is of exposure of the bully's inadequacy) and whose exposure would threaten the bully's job, promotion prospects and standing within the hierarchy. A3. The serial bully acts randomly and impulsively, and chooses to not be able to remember what they said, did or committed to more than 24 hours ago; the serial bully cannot think or plan ahead more than 24 hours and consequently lives forever in the present. A4. The serial bully regularly shows impatience and irritability, especially when questioned or called to account, and then becomes aggressive; a psychological assault usually follows. See denial. A5. The serial bully has a cavalier attitude to Health and Safety; when the target's symptoms reach the stage that other people begin to ask questions, the bully plays the mental health trap to abdicate and deny responsibility for their behaviour. A6. The serial bully rarely stays in one position long and there is no loyalty to anyone except him or herself. Misappropriation of budgets is common to most cases involving a serial bully. The serial bully often has a poor credit rating. A7. The serial bully shows no remorse, for he or she gives the appearance of not having a conscience. In truth, the conscience is selectively switched off. The serial bully always blames others as a means of avoiding accepting responsibility for their behaviour and the effect it has on others. B. The serial bully in the workplace is always over 18. C. Adult serial bullies were invariably bullies at school. D. The bully is usually in a position of responsibility and therefore not exhibiting schizophrenia or manic behaviour; if they were, they would be relieved of their responsibility, especially for managing staff. Diagnosis of such an individual is a challenge; how do you deal with a person who is a compulsive liar with a Jekyll and Hyde nature, is charming and glib, excels at deception and evasion of accountability, especially when that person's superiors behave in a similar manner, give him or her glowing reports, and deny everything? Personality Disorders related to Antisocial Personality Disorder The serial bully, narcissistic personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, borderline personality disorder. Other web pages of interest Robert D Hare is a world-leading authority on psychopathic behaviour and author of The Hare PCL-R Psychopathy Checklist Revised. See http://www.hare.org/ and his articles: Psychopaths: New Trends in Research and Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder: A Case of Diagnostic Confusion Industrial Psychopaths can thrive in business: not all psychopaths end up in prison. Many are found in management positions, according to Dr Paul Babiak speaking at the annual meeting of the American Neuropsychiatric Association. Treatment for psychopaths is likely to make them worse by Robert Hare, PhD.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissists, NPD and the serial bully "One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people." (Unknown)
On this page Narcissistic Personality Disorder | DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder Related personality disorders | Links to narcissism and narcissistic personality disoder sites On another page Attention seeking behaviour Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP) The serial bully
The serial bully displays behaviour congruent with many of the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Characterised by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity and self-importance, need for admiration, and lack of empathy, people with narcissistic personality disorder overestimate their abilities and inflate their accomplishments, often appearing boastful and pretentious, whilst correspondingly underestimating and devaluing the achievements and accomplishments of others. Often the narcissist will fraudulently claim to have qualifications or experience or affiliations or associations which they don't have or aren't entitled to. Belief in superiority, inflating their self-esteem to match that of senior or important people with whom they associate or identify, insisting on having the "top" professionals or being affiliated with the "best" institutions, but criticising the same people who disappoint them are also common features of narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissists react angrily to criticism and when rejected, the narcissist will often denounce the profession which has rejected them (usually for lack of competence or misdeed) but simultaneously and paradoxically represent themselves as belonging to the profession they are vilifying. Fragile self-esteem, a need for constant attention and admiration, fishing for compliments (often with great charm), an expectation of superior entitlement, expecting others to defer to them, and a lack of sensitivity especially when others do not react in the expected manner, are also hallmarks of the disorder. Greed, expecting to receive before and above the needs of others, overworking those around them, and forming romantic (sic) or sexual relationships for the purpose of advancing their purpose or career, abusing special privileges and squandering extra resources also feature. People with narcissistic personality disorder also have difficulty recognizing the needs and feelings of others, and are dismissive, contemptuous and impatient when others share or discuss their concerns or problems. They are also oblivious to the hurtfulness of their behaviour or remarks, show an emotional coldness and a lack of reciprocal interest, exhibit envy (especially when others are accorded recognition), have an arrogant, disdainful and patronizing attitude, and are quick to blame and criticise others when their needs and expectations are not met. The DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder are: A. A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, lack of empathy, as indicated by at least five of: 1. a grandiose sense of self-importance 2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love 3. believes that he or she is "special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions) 4. requires excessive admiration 5. has a sense of entitlement, ie unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations 6. is interpersonally exploitative, ie takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends 7. lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others 8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her 9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes Personality disorders related to Narcissistic Personality Disorder The serial bully, antisocial personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, attention seeking behaviour. The page on bullying in the family may be of interest. Links to sites on narcissism Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited has a comprehensive web site devoted to narcissism at http://samvak.tripod.com NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER is a learning, resource and support group NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER links
Anthony M Benis ScD MD has a site devoted to narcissism at http://narcissism.homestead.com George and Mae McAuley write about Working with the narcissistic personality in the telecomsanalyst. Of Criminals And CEOs: the difference between bold, creative visionaries and deluded psychopaths is not as big as it used to be, Tara Pepper writes in Newsweek. Tribal elders at http://tribalelders.tripod.com has links to narcissism and psychopathy The Impact of Narcissism on Leadership and Sustainability See the pages on narcissism at http://www.healthyplace.com/communities/personality_disorders/narcissism/index.html Mental Health Net Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms at http://mentalhelp.net/disorders/sx36.htm Mental Health Net Narcissistic Personality Disorder Treatment at http://mentalhelp.net/disorders/sx36t.htm Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) by Joanna Ashmun at http://www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/npd/ Narcissistic Personality Disorder Diagnosis at http://www.mentalhealth.com/dx/fdx-pe07.html A primer on narcissism at http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php/type/doc/id/419 Narcissistic Personality Disorder Webliography: http://www.suite101.com/files/topics/6514/files/NPDWebliography.zip Links to Therapist Directories, Psychological Tests, Narcissistic Personality Disorders Resources, Support Groups, and Tutorials: http://www.suite101.com/links.cfm/npd Toddlertime narcissism pages at http://www.toddlertime.com/narcissist_personality_disorder_.htm Mental Health Sanctuary Narcissistic Personality Disorder at http://www.mhsanctuary.com/narcissistic/index.htm Dual Diagnosis (Substance Abuse) and Narcissism at http://www.toad.net/~arcturus/dd/narc.htm Mental Health Matters - Narcissistic Personality Disorder at http://www.mental-healthmatters.com/articles/sv001.php?artID=75 Narcissistic Abuse Study List http://samvak.tripod.com/narclist.html and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/narcissisticabuse/ Narcissistic Personality Disorder Diagnosis http://www.mentalhealth.com/dx/fdx-pe07.html Narcissistic Personality Disorder Discussion and Support Group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Narcissistic_Personality_Disorder/ N-Courage Health Network http://www.n-courage.net/ Online Courses - Pathological Narcissism - Beginner, Intermediate and advanced Levels http://www.learn.com/education/samvak Open Directory - Narcissistic Personality Disorder http://dmoz.org/Health/Mental_Health/Disorders/Personality/Narcissistic PTypes Personality Disorders - Narcissistic http://www.geocities.com/ptypes/narcissisticpd.html Narcissistic Personality Disorder Suite101 site http://www.suite101.com/welcome.cfm/npd - discussions, journal entries and links regarding the Narcissistic Personality Disorder and relationships with abusive narcissists. The full archives of the Narcissistic Abuse Study List http://groups.yahoo.com/group/narcissisticabuse/messages/ Pathological Narcissism FAQs http://samvak.tripod.com/faq1.html - dozens of frequently asked questions regarding Pathological Narcissism, relationships with abusive narcissists, and the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited http://samvak.tripod.com/msla.html - a book-length psychodynamic study of pathological narcissism, relationships with abusive narcissists, and the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, using a new vocabulary. The Narcissism Revisited and the Narcissistic Abuse Study Lists http://samvak.tripod.com/narclist.html The Narcissistic Abuse Discussion and Study List page http://samvak.tripod.com/archive01.html
HealthyPlace Narcissistic Personality Disorder Community http://www.healthyplace.com/communities/personality_disorders/narcissism/index.html Narcisssistic PD and abuse by narcissists - FAQs, essays,links, and book excerpts: http://malignantselflove.tripod.com Ask Sam Vaknin - Narcissistic Personality Disorder http://samvak.tripod.com/indexqa.htm - Q&A regarding the Narcissistic Personality Disorder and relationships with abusive narcissists
Paranoid Personality Disorder
and the serial bully The serial bully's fear of exposure is reminiscent of Paranoid Personality Disorder, a pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent. An inability to trust, doubts about others' loyalty, distortion and fabrication, misinterpretation, and bearing grudges unnecessarily are hallmarks of the disorder. Pathological jealousy, instinctive aggressive counter-attack, the need to control others, and the gathering of trivial or circumstantial "evidence" to support their jealous beliefs also feature. The DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for Paranoid Personality Disorder are: A. A pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent as indicated by at least four of: 1. suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming or deceiving him or her 2. is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates 3. is unwilling to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the information will be used maliciously against him or her 4. reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events 5. persistently bears grudges, ie is unforgiving of (perceived) insults, injuries or slights 6. perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick to react angrily or to counter-attack 7. has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding the fidelity of spouse or sexual partner B. Does not occur exclusively during a course of schizophrenia, mood disorder, etc In many cases, the serial bully appears to select targets in the order of the serial bully's perception of danger of exposure of inadequacy. Personality disorders related to Paranoid Personality Disorder The serial bully, antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder
Paranoid Personality Disorder
and the serial bully The serial bully's fear of exposure is reminiscent of Paranoid Personality Disorder, a pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent. An inability to trust, doubts about others' loyalty, distortion and fabrication, misinterpretation, and bearing grudges unnecessarily are hallmarks of the disorder. Pathological jealousy, instinctive aggressive counter-attack, the need to control others, and the gathering of trivial or circumstantial "evidence" to support their jealous beliefs also feature. The DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for Paranoid Personality Disorder are: A. A pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent as indicated by at least four of: 1. suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming or deceiving him or her 2. is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates 3. is unwilling to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the information will be used maliciously against him or her 4. reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events
5. persistently bears grudges, ie is unforgiving of (perceived) insults, injuries or slights 6. perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick to react angrily or to counter-attack 7. has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding the fidelity of spouse or sexual partner B. Does not occur exclusively during a course of schizophrenia, mood disorder, etc In many cases, the serial bully appears to select targets in the order of the serial bully's perception of danger of exposure of inadequacy. Personality disorders related to Paranoid Personality Disorder The serial bully, antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
and the serial bully Some visitors to Bully OnLine have suggested that the bullies in their lives exhibit characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder. It seems to me that in some cases Borderline Personality Disorder could be the manifestation in adulthood of a psychiatric injury caused by childhood abuse which may have been intentional or unintentional. In people whose behaviour profile is inclined towards that of a target the disorder seems to manifest in varying degrees as a sense of heightened fragility. In people whose behaviour profile is inclined towards that of a bully the disorder seems to manifest as aggression towards others as described on this web site.
The main symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder are: 1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. 2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation (called "splitting"). 3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self. 4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (eg spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). 5. Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behaviour. 6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days). 7. Chronic feelings of emptiness. 8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights). 9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
If you believe Borderline Personality Disorder may be relevant, see http://www.bpdresources.com/ See also First Steps and Borderline UK. A support group for family and friends of Borderline Personality Disorder sufferers is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BPDcarers Personality disorders related to Borderline Personality Disorder The serial bully, antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, attention-seeking personality disorders, Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy.
Drama queens, saviours, rescuers, feigners and attention-seekers
Attention-seeking personality disorders, victim syndrome, insecurity and centre of attention behaviour
On this page The need for attention | Attention seeking methods Attention seeking and narcissism
The need for attention Human beings are social creatures and need social interaction, feedback, and validation of their worth. The emotionally mature person doesn't need to go hunting for these; they gain it naturally from their daily life, especially from their work and from stable relationships. Daniel Goleman calls emotional maturity emotional intelligence, or EQ; he believes, and I agree, that EQ is a much better indicator of a person's character and value than intelligence quotient, or IQ. The emotionally immature person, however, has low levels of self-esteem and self-confidence and consequently feels insecure; to counter these feelings of insecurity they will spend a large proportion of their lives creating situations in which they become the centre of attention. It may be that the need for attention is inversely proportional to emotional maturity, therefore anyone indulging in attention-seeking behaviours is telling you how emotionally immature they are. Attention-seeking behaviour is surprisingly common. Being the centre of attention alleviates feelings of insecurity and inadequacy but the relief is temporary as the underlying problem remains unaddressed: low self-confidence and low self-esteem, and consequent low levels of self-worth and self-love. Insecure and emotionally immature people often exhibit bullying behaviours, especially manipulation and deception. These are necessary in order to obtain attention which would not otherwise be forthcoming. Bullies and harassers have the emotional age of a young child and will exhibit temper tantrums, deceit, lying and manipulation to avoid exposure of their true nature and to evade accountability and sanction. This page lists some of the most common tactics bullies and manipulators employ to gain attention for themselves. An attention-seeker may exhibit several of the methods listed below. Attention seeking methods Attention-seeking is particularly noticeable with females so I've used the pronoun "she". Males also exhibit attention-seeking behaviour. Attention seekers commonly exploit the suffering of others to gain attention for themselves. Or they may exploit their own suffering, or alleged suffering. In extreme forms, such as in Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, the attention-seeker will deliberately cause suffering to others as a means of gaining attention. The sufferer: this might include feigning or exaggerating illness, playing on an injury, or perhaps causing or inviting injury, in extreme cases going as far as losing a limb. Severe cases may meet the diagnostic criteria for Munchausen Syndrome (also know as Factitious Disorder). The illness or injury becomes a vehicle for gaining sympathy and thus attention. The attention-seeker excels in manipulating people through their emotions, especially that of guilt. It's very difficult not to feel sorry for someone who relates a plausible tale of suffering in a sob story or "poor me" drama. The saviour: in attention-seeking personality disorders like Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP, also known as Factitious Disorder By Proxy) the person, usually female, creates opportunities to be centre of attention by intentionally causing harm to others and then being their saviour, by saving their life, and by being such a caring, compassionate person. Few people realise the injury was deliberate. The MSBP mother or nurse may kill several babies before suspicions are aroused. When not in saviour mode, the saviour may be resentful, perhaps even contemptuous, of the person or persons she is saving. The rescuer: particularly common in family situations, she's the one who will dash in and "rescue" people whenever the moment is opportune - to herself, that is. She then gains gratification from basking in the glory of her humanitarian actions. She will prey on any person suffering misfortune, infirmity, illness, injury, or anyone who has a vulnerability. The act of rescue and thus the opportunities for gaining attention can be enhanced if others are excluded from the act of rescue; this helps create a dependency relationship between the rescuer and rescued which can be exploited for further acts of rescue (and attention) later. When not in rescue mode, the rescuer may be resentful, perhaps even contemptuous, of the person she is rescuing. The organiser: she may present herself as the one in charge, the one organising everything, the one who is reliable and dependable, the one people can always turn to. However, the objective is not to help people (this is only a means to an end) but to always be the centre of attention.
The manipulator: she may exploit family relationships, manipulating others with guilt and distorting perceptions; although she may not harm people physically, she causes everyone to suffer emotional injury. Vulnerable family members are favourite targets. A common attention-seeking ploy is to claim she is being persecuted, victimised, excluded, isolated or ignored by another family member or group, perhaps insisting she is the target of a campaign of exclusion or harassment. The mind-poisoner: adept at poisoning peoples' minds by manipulating their perceptions of others, especially against the current target. The drama queen: every incident or opportunity, no matter how insignificant, is exploited, exaggerated and if necessary distorted to become an event of dramatic proportions. Everything is elevated to crisis proportions. Histrionics may be present where the person feels she is not the centre of attention but should be. Inappropriate flirtatious behaviour may also be present. The busy bee: this individual is the busiest person in the world if her constant retelling of her life is to be believed. Everyday events which are regarded as normal by normal people take on epic proportions as everyone is invited to simultaneously admire and commiserate with this oh-so-busy person who never has a moment to herself, never has time to sit down, etc. She's never too busy, though, to tell you how busy she is. The feigner: when called to account and outwitted, the person instinctively uses the denial - counterattack feigning victimhood strategy to manipulate everyone present, especially bystanders and those in authority. The most effective method of feigning victimhood is to burst into tears, for most people's instinct is to feel sorry for them, to put their arm round them or offer them a tissue. There's little more plausible than real tears, although as actresses know, it's possible to turn these on at will. Feigners are adept at using crocodile tears. From years of practice, attention-seekers often give an Oscar-winning performance in this respect. Feigning victimhood is a favourite tactic of bullies and harassers to evade accountability and sanction. When accused of bullying and harassment, the person immediately turns on the water works and claims they are the one being bullied or harassed - even though there's been no prior mention of being bullied or harassed. It's the fact that this claim appears only after and in response to having been called to account that is revealing. Mature adults do not burst into tears when held accountable for their actions. The false confessor: this person confesses to crimes they haven't committed in order to gain attention from the police and the media. In some cases people have confessed to being serial killers, even though they cannot provide any substantive evidence of their crimes. Often they will confess to crimes which have just been reported in the media. Some individuals are know to the police as serial confessors. The false confessor is different from a person who make a false confession and admits to a crime of which they are accused because of emotional pressure and inappropriate interrogation tactics. The abused: a person claims they are the victim of abuse, sexual abuse, rape etc as a way of gaining attention for themselves. Crimes like abuse and rape are difficult to prove at the best of times and their incidence is so common that it is easy to make a plausible claim as a way of gaining attention. The online victim: this person uses Internet chat rooms and forums to allege that they've been the victim of rape, violence, harassment, abuse etc. The alleged crime is never reported to the authorities, for obvious reasons. The facelessness and anonymity of the Internet suits this type of attention seeker. [More] The victim: she may intentionally create acts of harassment against herself, eg send herself hate mail or damage her own possessions in an attempt to incriminate a fellow employee, a family member, neighbour, etc. Scheming, cunning, devious, deceptive and manipulative, she will identify her "harasser" and produce circumstantial evidence in support of her claim. She will revel in the attention she gains and use her glib charm to plausibly dismiss any suggestion that she herself may be responsible. However, a background check may reveal that this is not the first time she has had this happen to her. In many cases the attention-seeker is a serial bully whose behaviour contains many of the characteristics listed under the profile of a serial bully, especially the Attention-Seeker. The page on Narcissistic Personality Disorder may also be enlightening, as may be the page on bullies in the family. Feigning victimhood is common to serial bullies and this aspect comes to the fore in most cases once the bully has been held accountable and he or she cannot escape or rely on their support network. The tactic of denial followed by immediate counterattack followed by feigning victimhood is described on the serial bully page. Attention seeking and narcissism
Like most personality disorders, narcissism occurs to different degrees in different people and reveals itself in many ways. Many business leaders exhibit narcissism, although when present in excess, the short-term benefits are outweighed by long-term unsustainability which can, and often does, lead to disaster. The need for attention is paramount to the person with narcissistic personality disorder, and he or she will do anything to obtain that attention. Over the last two years, the fastest growing sector for calls to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line has been from the charity / voluntary / not-for-profit sector. In most (although not all) cases, the identified serial bully is a female whose objective is to demonstrate to the world what a wonderful, kind, caring, compassionate person she is. Bold pronouncements, a prominent position, gushing empathy, sitting on many committees for good causes, etc all feature regularly. However, staff turnover is high and morale low amongst those doing the work and interacting with clients. In each case, the relief of other people's suffering changes from an objective and instead becomes a vehicle for gaining attention for oneself. In some situations, more money is spent on dealing with the consequences of the serial bully's behaviour (investigations, grievance procedures, legal action, staff turnover, sickness absence etc) than is spent on clients. See case histories #1 and #3 and #10 for typical examples, also a news item on Children in Scotland. Links Lynne Forrest's article The Faces of Victim about the drama triangle (persecutor, rescuer, victim) makes excellent reading.
The Three Faces of Victim
An Overview of the Drama Triangle
By Lynne Forrest Revised 2008
Whether we know it, or not, most of us react to life as victims. Whenever we refuse to take responsibility for ourselves, we are unconsciously choosing to react as victim. This inevitably creates feelings of anger, fear, guilt or inadequacy and leaves us feeling betrayed, or taken advantage of by others. Victim-hood can be defined by the three positions beautifully outlined in a diagram developed by a well respected psychiatrist, and teacher of Transactional Analysis, named Stephen Karpman. He calls it the “drama triangle”, I will refer to it as the victim triangle. Having discovered this resource some thirty years ago, it has become one of the more important tools in my personal and professional life. The more I teach and apply the victim triangle to relationship the deeper my appreciation grows for this simple, powerfully accurate instrument. I’ve sometimes referred to the victim triangle as a "shame generator" because through it we unconsciously re-enact painful life themes that create shame. This has the effect of reinforcing old, painful beliefs that keep us stuck in a limited version of reality. I believe that every dysfunctional interaction, in relationship with other or self, takes place on the victim triangle. But until we become conscious of these dynamics, we cannot transform them. And unless we transform them, we cannot move forward on our journey towards re-claiming emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. The three roles on the victim triangle are Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim. Karpman placed these three roles on an inverted triangle and described them as being the three aspects, or faces of victim. No matter
where we may start out on the triangle, victim is where we end up, therefore no matter what role we’re in on the triangle, we’re in victimhood. If we’re on the triangle we’re living as victims, plain and simple!
Each person has a primary or most familiar role - what I call their “starting gate” position. This is the place from which we generally enter, or “get hooked” onto, the triangle. We first learn our starting gate position in our family of origin. Although we each have a role with which we most identify, once we’re on the triangle, we automatically rotate through all the positions, going completely around the triangle, sometimes in a matter of minutes, or even seconds, many times every day. Starting gate Rescuers (SGR) see themselves as “helpers” and “caretakers”. They need someone to rescue (victim) in order to feel vital and important. It's difficult for SGR’s to recognize themselves as ever being in a victim position - they’re the ones with the answers after all. Starting Gate Persecutors (SGP), on the other hand, identify themselves primarily as victims. They are usually in complete denial about their blaming tactics. When it is pointed out to them, they argue that attack is warranted and necessary for self protection. These two - the Rescuer and the Persecutor - are the two opposite extremes of Victim. But again, regardless of where we start out on the triangle, all roles eventually end up in victim. It's inevitable. You may notice that both the Persecutor and Rescuer are on the upper end of the triangle. These roles assume a “one-up” position over others, meaning they relate as though they are better, stronger, smarter, or more-together than the victim. Sooner or later the victim, who is in the one-down position at the bottom of the triangle, develops a metaphorical "crick in the neck" from always looking up. Feeling “looked down upon” or “worth- less than” the others, the Victim builds resentment and sooner or later, retaliation follows. A natural progression from victim to persecutor follows. This generally moves the persecutor or rescuer into victim. Reminiscent of a not-so-musical game of musical chairs, all players sooner or later rotate positions. Here's an example: Dad comes home from work to find mom and Junior engaged in battle. "Clean up your room or else," mom threatens. Dad immediately comes to the rescue. "Mom," he might say, "give the boy a break. He’s been at school all day". Any one of several possibilities might follow. Perhaps Mom, feeling victimized by Dad, will turn her wrath on him. In that case, dad is moved from Rescuer to Victim. They, then might do a few quick trips around the triangle with Junior on the sidelines. Or maybe Junior joins Dad in a persecutory "Let's gang up on mom" approach, or then again, maybe Junior will turn on Dad, rescuing Mom, with, "Mind your own business, Dad. I don't need your help!" So it goes, with endless variation, but nonetheless, pinging from corner to corner on the triangle. For many families, it's the only way they know to interact. Our starting-gate position on the victim triangle is not only where we most often enter the triangle, it is also the role through which we actually define ourselves. It becomes a strong part of our identity. Each
starting-gate position has its own particular way of seeing and reacting to the world. We all have unconscious core beliefs acquired in childhood, derived from our interpretation of early family encounters. These become “life themes” that predispose us towards the unconscious selection of a particular starting gate position on the triangle. Sally’s mother was an invalid who was addicted to prescription drugs. From Sally’s earliest memory she reported feeling ultimately responsible for her mother. Instead of getting appropriate care from a parent who was concerned for her well being, she became the “little parent” of a mother who played the part of a helpless child. This childhood scenario set Sally up with a “life script” that predisposed her towards becoming a Starting Gate Rescuer (SGR). Care-taking others became her primary way of relating to others. SGR’s, like Sally have an unconscious core belief that might go something like this; “My needs are not important ... I am only valued for what I can do for others”. Of course, believing these ideas requires that she have someone in her life she can rescue (a victim). How else will someone like Sally get to feel valuable and worthwhile? Sally would never admit to being a victim because in her mind she is the one who must have the answers. Nonetheless, she does, in fact, rotate through victim on the triangle on a regular basis. A SGR in the victim role becomes a martyr, complaining loudly, "After all I've done for you ... this is the thanks I get!" Starting Gate Persecutors (SGP's), on the other hand, do see themselves as victims in need of protection. This is how they can so easily justify their vengeful behavior ... “They asked for it and they got what they deserved", That’s the way they see it. Their core belief might go something like this; “The world is dangerous, people can’t be trusted so I need to get them before they hurt me.” This attitude sets them up to think that they must strike out in order to defend against inevitable attack. Whereas a SGR may move into the role of persecutor by withdrawing their care-taking, (“That’s it - I’m not doing anything else for you!”) a SGP rescues in a way that is almost as painful as when they persecute. Bob is a doctor who often justified hurting others. Attack is his primary way of dealing with inconvenience, frustration or pain. Once, for instance, he mentioned running into a patient of his on the golf course. Our dialogue went something like this; “Lynne, can you believe that patient had the nerve to ask me to treat his bad knee, right then and there, on my only day off?" “Yeah”, I replied, “some people just don’t have appropriate boundaries. How did you handle it?” "Oh, I took him to my office for a treatment, all right,” he chuckled, “and I gave him a steroid shot he’ll never forget! In other words Bob rescued his inconsiderate patient but in a way that “punished” him for daring to be so bold. To Bob, his action seemed rational, even justified. His patient had infringed on his free time, therefore, he believed, his patient deserved the rough treatment he got. This is a prime example of SGP thinking. Bob didn’t realize that he could have just said no to his patients request for treatment. He did not have to feel victimized by, nor did he need to rescue his patient. Setting boundaries never occurred to Bob as an option. In his mind he had been treated unjustly and therefore he had the right, even the obligation, to get even.
Victims also have core beliefs that set them up for their starting gate position on the triangle. Starting Gate Victim’s (SGV's) believe they cannot take care of themselves. They see themselves as consistently unable to handle life. They even rescue from a one-down position, saying things to their potential rescuer like "You're the only one who can help me.” These are words that any SGR longs to hear! Starting gate positions are generally set-up in childhood. For instance, if a parent does not ask their children to take age-appropriate responsibility for themselves, they may grow up either to become adults who feel inadequate at taking care of themselves (starting gate victim) or become resentful adults who blame others when they don’t get care-taken. (a persecutor role). Either way, they are set up for a lifetime on the victim triangle. There are many variations, and each case needs to be individually considered. We not only act out these triangular distortions in our everyday relations with others, but we also play out the victim triangle internally. We move around the triangle as rapidly inside our own minds as we do out in the world. We ensnare ourselves on the triangle with dishonest and dysfunctional internal dialogue. For example, we may come down hard on ourselves for not completing a project. Perhaps we lambast ourselves as being lazy, inadequate or defective (P), causing us to spiral into feelings of anger and self-worthlessness. Inwardly, we cower to this persecutory voice, fearing it may be right (V). Finally when we can’t bear it anymore, we take ourselves off the hook by justifying, minimizing or indulging in some form of escape. This is how we rescue ourselves. This could go on for minutes, hours or days. Sometimes we rescue ourselves and others by denying what we know - sort of like; "If I look the other way and pretend not to notice, it will go away". Denial or inner drama of any kind perpetuates a vicious cycle of shame and self loathing. Moving around the triangle keeps the self-disparaging messages running.The victim triangle becomes our very own shame-making machine. It’s up to us to learn how to turn this noisy mental machine off. We can’t get off the triangle until we recognize we’re on it. Once we make it conscious, we observe our interactions with others as a way to identify our own starting gate position. What hooks us? From where do I enter the triangle once I’ve been hooked? We begin to train our Internal Observer to notice, without judgment, our conversations with loved ones, especially those more “sticky” moments (where we walk on eggshells). It’s helpful to learn what the costs and trade-offs are for each of the three roles. Each role has its own language, beliefs and behavior - it’s beneficial to know them. This helps us to identify when we’re on the triangle. Studying the roles also promotes a quicker recognition of when we’re being baited to play. With all that in mind, let's examine each role more carefully. Rescuer The Rescuer might be described as a shadow aspect of the mother principle. Instead of an appropriate expression of support and nurturing, the Rescuer tends to “smother”, control and manipulate others “for their own good”, of course. Theirs is a misguided understanding of what it is to encourage, empower and protect. A Starting Gate Rescuer is the classic, co-dependent. The SGR tends be enabling, overly protective - the one who wants to "fix it". Rescuing is an addiction that comes from an unconscious need to feel valued. There’s no better way to feel important than to be a savior! Taking care of others may be the Rescuers best game plan for getting to feel worthwhile. SGR’s usually grow up in families where their dependency needs are not acknowledged. It’s a
psychological fact that we treat ourselves the way we were treated as children. The budding Rescuer grows up in an environment where their needs are negated and so tend to treat themselves with the same degree of negligence that they experienced as children. Without permission to take care of themselves, their needs go underground and they turn instead to taking care of others. A SGR often gains great satisfaction by identifying with their care-taking role. They are generally proud of what “helpers” and “fixers” they are. Often they are socially acclaimed, even rewarded, for what can be seen as “selfless acts" of caring. They believe in their goodness as chief caretakers and see themselves as heroes. Behind it all is a magical belief that, said out loud, might sound like, “If I take care of them long enough, then, sooner or later, they will take care of me too.” But, as we’ve already learned, this rarely happens. When we rescue the needy, we can’t expect anything back. They can’t even take care of themselves much less be there for us! Often the resulting disappointment sends the SGR spiraling into depression. They fail to see that they, themselves are heading straight for victim through their enabling and disabling responses. Having denied the ill-begotten consequences of rescuing, these “do-gooders” find it very hard to hear themselves referred to as a victim even while they complain about how mistreated they are! Martyr is what a SGR turns into once they’ve moved into the victim position on the triangle. Betrayal, feeling used and hopeless are trademark feelings of the victim phase of a Rescuer's dance around the triangle. Common phrases for the martyred SGR are; "After all I've done for you, this is the thanks I get?" or "No matter how much I do, it's never enough"; or, "If you loved me, you wouldn’t treat me like this!" A SGR’s greatest fear is that they will end up alone. They believe that their total value comes from how much they do for others. It’s difficult for them to see their worth beyond what they have to offer in the way of “stuff” or “service”. SGR’s unconsciously encourage dependency because they believe, “If you need me, you won’t leave me”. They scramble to make themselves indispensable in order to avoid abandonment. SGR’s are oblivious to the crippling dependency they foster. They are unaware of the disabling messages they send through their enabling interaction with others. The more they rescue, the less self responsibility is taken by the ones they care-take ... The less responsibility their charges takes, the more they rescue ... it’s a downward spiral that often ends in disaster. A SGR mother of two out-of-control, teenage sons described it well. She said, “I thought my role as a good mother was to make sure my sons toed the line - I thought I was supposed to make sure they did the right thing. Because I believed that I was responsible for the choices they made, I told them what to do and constantly attempted to control their behavior.” Should she be surprised then that her sons blame everyone around them for the painful consequences they experience as a result of their own poor choices? Like her, they have learned to think that their behavior is her responsibility, not their own. Her incessant and futile attempts to control them causes constant battle between them, making it easy for the boys to blame their mother for the problems created by their own irresponsibility. Out of her own need to be seen as a “good mom”, this codependent mother unwittingly taught her sons to see themselves as hapless victims whose unhappiness was always somebody else’s fault. There’s a good possibility that at least one of these boys will become a Starting Gate Persecutor. Certainly the set up is in place for that to happen.
This mother, as is often the case, was convinced that her sons were incapable of making good choices. She had a long list of evidence to back up her concerns. This accumulated evidence justified her “obligation” to control her sons choices. But because they were teenagers, she could no longer force their compliance like she could when they were younger. Inevitably she would end up feeling helpless, inadequate and like a failure as a mother (victim position). She would either give in to their demands or “persecute” them for not obeying. Either way, she (and they) felt bad. Then would come the guilt or remorse which would motivate her to try to “fix it” once again. And she finds herself back in her original Starting Gate Rescuer position for the cycle to start anew. We met Sally earlier, who grew up seeing her mother as helpless and ineffectual. From an early age, she felt a huge responsibility to take care of her frail, drug dependent parent. Her own well-being depended on it! As the years went by, however, she could scarcely contain the inner rage she felt towards her mother for being so needy and weak. As a SGR, she would do all she could to bolster her mother, only to come away again and again, feeling defeated (victim) because nothing she tried worked. Inevitably the resentment would take over, leading her to resort to treating her mother with scorn (persecutor). This became her primary interactive pattern, not only with her mother, but in her other relationships as well. By the time we met, she was emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted from having spent her life taking care of one sick and dependent person after another. It becomes the job of the Rescuer to keep the other propped up - "for their own good", of course. Having a Victim is essential in order for the SGR to maintain the illusion of being one-up and needless. This means then, that there will always be at least one person in every SGR’s life who is troubled, sick, fragile, inept and therefore dependent upon them. If the SGR’s primary victim starts taking responsibility for themselves, the Rescuer will either have to find a new victim or address their own shadow needs. Regardless of the circumstances of the one a SGR feels compelled to rescue - no matter how “badly” the victim may need help, rescuing can lead only one place - victim. If you are a primary Rescuer, this does not mean you cannot be loving, generous and kind. It is certainly possible to be helpful and supportive without being a Rescuer. There is a distinct difference between being truly helpful and rescuing. Authentic helpers act without expectations for reciprocation. They empower rather than disable those they serve. What they do will be done to encourage self-responsibility, rather than promote dependency. True Supporters believe that the other can handle their own business. They believe that everyone has the right to make mistakes and learn through sometimes hard consequences. They trust the other has what it takes to see themselves through times of difficulty without they, as Rescuers, needing to “save” them. Starting Gate Rescuers, on the other hand, don’t take responsibility for themselves. Instead, they do for others in an attempt to get validation or feel important or as a way to foster dependency. Victim is just round the bend. Persecutor Like the other roles, the Starting Gate Persecutor is shame based. This role is most often taken on by someone who received overt mental and/or physical abuse during their childhood. As a result they are often secretly seething inside from a shame based wrath that ends up running their lives. SGPs, for survival sake, repress deep-seated feelings of worthlessness; they hide their pain behind a facade of indignant wrath and uncaring detachment. They may choose to emulate their primary childhood abuser(s), preferring to identify with those they see as having power and strength - rather than become the “picked on loser” at the bottom of life’s pile. SGP’s tend to adopt an attitude that says; “The world is hard and mean ... only the ruthless survive. I’ll be one of those”. In other words, they become perpetrators. They “protect” themselves using authoritarian, controlling and downright punishing methods.
In the same way that the SGR is the shadow mother principle, the SGP is the “shadow father principle”. A healthy father's job is to protect and provide for his family. Rather than providing nurturing direction, the SGP attempts to "reform" and discipline those around him using manipulation and brute force. The SGP overcomes feelings of helplessness and shame by over-powering others. Domination becomes their most prevalent style of interaction. This means they must always be right! Their methods include bullying, preaching, threatening, blaming, lecturing, interrogating and outright attack. They believe in getting even, very often through aggressive acts. Just like the Rescuer needs someone to fix, the Persecutor needs someone to blame. SGP’s deny their vulnerability in the same way Rescuers deny their needs. Their greatest fear is powerlessness. Because they judge and deny their own inadequacy, fear and vulnerability, they will need some place else to project these disowned feelings. In other words, they need a victim. They need someone they perceive as weak to prove to themselves that their own destructively painful story about the world is true. Both Rescuers and Persecutors unconsciously “need” a Victim in order to sustain their idea of who they are and what the world is like. SGP’s also tend to compensate for inner feelings of worthlessness by putting on grandiose airs. Grandiosity inevitably comes from shame. It is a compensation and cover-up for deep inferiority. Superiority is the attempt to swing hard to the other side of "less than" in order to come across as "better than". It is most difficult for someone in Persecutor to take responsibility for the way they hurt others. In their mind, others deserve what they get. These warring individuals tend to see themselves as having to constantly fight for survival. Theirs is a constant struggle to protect themselves in what they perceive as a hostile world. Joseph was from a prominent, wealthy family. His parents divorced and his father was angry, remote and used his money to control others. His mother was an alcoholic who brought home men who abused her and Joseph throughout his pre-adolescent and adolescent years. He, early on, learned that his only chance for survival was to fight. Joseph plowed through life with his head down the way a bull rages across a bullfighters pen. He constructed his life so that there was always an enemy that had to be fought. On the outside, Joseph exhibited a swash-buckling, “I don’t give a damn” persona - he was ever ready to gamble or take careless risks with his health. But on the inside, he was bitter and unhappy. He shared with me how exhausted he felt from a belief that he needed to maintain constant vigilance; he felt a desperate need to keep a watchful eye out for those who wanted to hurt him or his loved ones. Joseph was constantly involved in court battles and even out and out, physical brawls. He was always having to get himself out of one “scrape” after another. To his way of thinking these occurrences were always somebody else’s fault. He could not resist what he felt was justifiable retaliation. “I can’t let them get away with it!” was his most common response. Joseph saw himself as someone who did not get the protection he deserved. This belief justified taking matters into his own hands. At least that’s how he saw it. He trusted no-one. Not even his parents had been reliable, so who could he depend on? This attitude prompted him to be in constant defense mode. He had to be ready for the next attack! Joseph is an example of a classic Starting Gate Persecutor. It is easy to think that Persecutors are “bad” people. They are not. They are simply wounded individuals who see the world as dangerous. This requires that they be ever ready to strike back. They live in constant defensive reaction.
It is always difficult for SGP’s to perceive themselves as persecutors. It is much easier to justify the necessity for persecution (thereby identifying with victim) than to own the oppressor role. The SGP cycle looks something like: "I was just trying to help (rescuer), and they turned on me (victim), so I had to defend myself by striking back (persecutor).” It can feel very threatening for someone stuck in Persecutor consciousness to get really honest with themselves. To do so feels like blaming themselves, which only intensifies their internal condemnation. SGP’s need to have a situation or person they can blame so they can stay angry. Anger, for a SGP, can act as a fuel within the psyche to energize them. It may be the only way they have of dealing with chronic depression. SGPs often need a jolt of rage the same way other people depend on a shot of caffeine. It jump-starts their day and provides them with the energy needed to keep them on their feet. Just as with the other roles, self-accountability is the only way off the victim grid for the SGP. There has to be some kind of breakthrough for them to own their part. Unfortunately, because of their great reluctance to do so, it may have to come in the form of crisis. Ironically, a main exit way off the triangle is through the persecutor position. This does not mean we become persecutors. It does mean however, that once we decide to get off the triangle, there most likely will be those who see us as persecutors. (”How can you do this to me?”) Once we decide to take selfresponsibility and tell our truth, those still on the triangle are likely to accuse us of victimizing them. "How dare you refuse to take care of me," a Victim might cry. Or "What do you mean you don't need my help?" a primary enabler storms when their victim decides to become accountable. In other words, to escape the victim grid, we must be willing to be perceived as the "bad guy." This doesn't make it so, but we must be willing to sit with the discomfort of being perceived as such. Victim The role of Starting Gate Victim is also a shadow aspect. It is the wounded shadow of our inner child; that part of us that is innocent, vulnerable AND needy. This child-self does need support on occasion that’s natural. It’s only when we become convinced that we can’t take care of ourselves, that we move into Victim. Believing that we are frail, powerless or defective keeps us needing rescue. This relegates us to a lifetime of crippling dependency on our primary relationships. A SGV has accepted a definition of themselves that says they are intrinsically damaged and incapable. SGV’s project an attitude of being weak, fragile or not smart enough; basically, “I can’t do it by myself." Their greatest fear is that they won’t make it. That anxiety forces them to be always on the lookout for someone stronger or more capable to take care of them. SGV’s deny both their problem solving abilities and their potential for self-generated power. Instead they tend to see themselves as inept at handling life. Feeling done in by, at the mercy of, mistreated, intrinsically defective or “wrong”, they see themselves as broken and unfixable. This doesn't prevent them from feeling highly resentful towards those on who they depend. As much as they insist on being taken care of by their primary rescuers ... they nonetheless do not appreciate being reminded of their inadequacy. The very thing a Rescuer seeks (validation and appreciation) is the thing Victims most resent giving because it is a reminder to them of their own deficiencies. Instead they resent the help that is given. SGV’s eventually get tired of being in the one-down position and begin to find ways to feel equal. Unfortunately this usually involves some form of “getting even”. For a SGV, a move to persecutor on the triangle usually means sabotaging the efforts made to rescue them, often through passive-aggressive behavior. For example, they are skilled at playing a game called,"Yes, but ...." It works like this…
The SGV’s rescuer offers a helpful suggestion to some complaint or problem voiced by the Victim. The SGV immediately turns the suggestion on its ear with a response like; "Yes, but that won't work because ...”. The SGV then proceeds to “yes, but” any and all suggestions, as the Rescuer tries, in vain, to come up with a solution. The SGV is determined to prove that their problem is unsolvable, thus stumping the Rescuer, leaving them to feel as impotent as the SGV innately feels. They may also resort to the persecutor role as a way to blame or manipulate others into taking care of them. Convinced of their intrinsic incompetence, SGV’s live in a perpetual shame spiral, often leading to self abuse. Abuse of drugs, alcohol and food, as well as gambling and out of control spending are just a few of the self defeating behaviors practiced by SGV’s. SGV’s walk around much like the Charlie Brown character, Pig-Pen in his whirlwind of dust, except Victims live in a vortex of shame of their own making. This cloud of defectiveness becomes their total identity. Linda was the second-born in her family. Almost from birth, she had problems. Linda was a child who was forever in trouble of one sort or another. She struggled academically, was perpetually disruptive and often sick. It came as no surprise to anyone when she got into drugs as a teenager. Her mother, Stella, was a die-hard Rescuer. Convinced of Linda’s ineptitude and thinking she was being helpful, Stella bailed Linda out every time she got into trouble. By constantly alleviating the natural consequences of Linda’s choices, Stella's earnest enabling deprived Linda of the opportunity to learn from her mistakes. As a result, Linda came to see herself as increasingly incompetent and grew more dependent on others. Her mother's well-intentioned rescuing sent a crippling message that promoted a life long Victim stance for Linda. Since SGV’s are often the identified problem in their family, it's natural for them to seek outside professional help first. Often they are dragged to their first counseling session by distressed family members. SGV’s tend to be ever on the look out for yet another Rescuer, and SGR’s abound among helping professionals. In this case, the professional may find themselves inadvertently hooked on the triangle with a practiced, and very convincing, victim. This means the real issue never gets addressed. Those in primary Victim roles must learn to assume responsibility for themselves and initiate self-care, rather than look outside themselves for a savior. They must challenge the ingrained belief that they can't take care of themselves if they are to escape the triangle. Instead of seeing themselves as powerless, they must acknowledge their problem solving as well as their leadership capabilities. For it is true that no matter who may try to “save us”, as a SGV’s - no matter how much money they give or how sincere our intentions to “do better” may be, playing the part of victim always leads to only one place - straight back to Victim. It’s an endless cycle of feeling defeated and worthless. There is no escape except to take total responsibility for our own feelings, thoughts and reactions. Starting Gate Beliefs Each starting gate position has a “script” made to order for their particular dance around the triangle. These “scripts” consist of a particular set of beliefs through which the world and ourselves are seen. The Rescuer Story Rescuers believe that their needs are unimportant and irrelevant. This means that the only way they can legitimately connect with others, feel valued and have their needs met is through the back door of caretaking. Rescuers chastise themselves when they aren't care-taking others. Their starting gate story is; "If I take care of others well enough and long enough, then I will be fulfilled. It’s the only way to be loved." Unfortunately, Rescuers are involved with life-time Victims who have no idea of how to be there for
them. This reinforces the SG Rescuer’s story that says they shouldn’t be needy, which then produces more shame and deeper denial surrounding their own needs. The Victim Story Guilt and shame are the driving forces for the perpetuation of the Triangle. Guilt is often used by Victims in an effort to manipulate their Rescuers into taking care of them: "If you don't do it, who will?” The Victims’ story says they can’t make it on their own and they prove it to themselves over and over on the triangle. They believe that they are innately defective and incapable and so spend their lives on the lookout for someone to “save” them. Though this is what they feel they must have, i.e., a savior, they are simultaneously angry at their rescuers because they feel put down by and looked down on by their caretakers. The Persecutor Story Persecutors who believe the world is dangerous, use fear and intimidation as tools for keeping others in their place. What they don’t see is how their methods for providing “safety” end up proving to them that life is indeed as dangerous as they believe it to be. Their story says that they are innocent bystanders in a dangerous world where others are always out to hurt them. It’s survival of the fittest and their only chance is to strike first. This story keeps them in perpetual defense/offense modus operandi. Shadows of Victim-hood Placing the three positions on a straight line with Victim in the middle, is a way of demonstrating that Persecutor and Rescuer are simply the two extremes, or shadow aspects, of victim-hood. Persecutor ------ VICTIM ------ Rescuer All three roles are distorted expressions of positive powers that we, as humans possess, but deny or repress when living on the triangle. Identifying what our starting gate position is on the triangle can help us recognize the aspects of ourselves we deny. For instance, when we see ourselves primarily as mediators and caretakers, we deny our own power by setting inappropriate boundaries. We occupy the Rescuer position. SGR’s have a natural capacity for organizing, as well as a wonderful nurturing ability. But when a SGR denies herself the benefit of these abilities - when she refuses to nurture or set priorities for herself ... then she will find herself obsessing about and intervening (or interfering) in the lives of others - most often in unhealthy ways. She becomes someone who takes responsibility for everyone but herself. These characteristics are commonly thought of as being primarily feminine characteristics - so the SGR can be seen as a distorted expression of the feminine aspect. The Persecutor, on the other hand, has a deep-seated sense of justice. He believes in the use of power and assertiveness. There is nothing innately wrong with these abilities; they are in fact, important in self care. Yet a SGP will exercise these gifts in twisted ways. When these essentially male qualities of protection, guidance and boundary setting are not fully acknowledged and claimed - when they are denied, they end up being expressed in unconscious and irresponsible ways - thus a SGP can be seen as a distorted expression of the masculine aspect. Attack, for the SGP, becomes the accepted way to express these powers and is then justified as a necessary defense. Simultaneously, a SGP will see themselves only as the innocent victim ... “They hurt me - I had to protect myself by retaliating”. It’s hard for any of us to admit we mistreat people. Persecutors justify their hurtful behavior with “good reasons” (“... because they did something to me” or “took something from me”) and this makes it okay, in their minds, to hurt “back”. This is typical
Persecutor mentality. SGP’s have suppressed their caring, nurturing qualities, and instead, tend to problem solve through anger, abuse and control. Here’s a typical example, that might easily show up in relationship… Don came home late for dinner. Ann, his wife, was angry. She had prepared a good meal and it was still sitting, uneaten and cold, an hour later. Like many SGP’s, Ann’s tendency is to assume the worse (“He did this to me”) and attack. So instead of checking in with her husband, she immediately launches into; “You told me you would be here on time. You lied! I can never trust you to tell me the truth.” When Don tries to explain that he got stuck in traffic, Ann is not listening. Instead she justifies her reaction… “You always have excuses! You expect me to believe you. You’re a liar ... “. She continues to hurl insults, even resorting to name calling. Later, she explained that he had hurt her and therefore deserved the way she treated him. This is classic Persecutor reasoning. Because Ann sees herself as a victim who doesn’t have the right to take care of herself or set boundaries, (by saying, something like, “Hi Sweetheart, I had dinner ready on time; when you didn’t get here, I went ahead and ate mine and left yours warming on the stove.”) she resorts to trying to feel powerful through attack. Her belief that she is at the mercy of someone who is trying to hurt her keeps her striking out in a distorted effort to protect. When we have suppressed both sides ... denying both our innate ability to take care of ourselves through healthy nurturing and the right to take protective, assertive action, we are left in Victim. As a matter of fact, a good definition for a SGV might be; someone who does not know how to set priorities or boundaries, nor nurtures and protects themselves. As individuals grow in awareness and begin to alter their behavior, they often change their starting-gate positions. Becoming aware of a primary position, they may commit to getting off the triangle but often merely switch roles instead. Although they may be operating from a different starting gate, they are nonetheless still on the triangle. This happens frequently and may even be an essential part of learning the full impact of living on the triangle. Consequences of Triangular Living Living on the victim triangle creates misery and suffering no matter what your primary starting gate position may be. The cost is tremendous for all three roles and leads to emotional, mental and even physical pain. Efforts to avoid pain, by blaming or looking for someone to take care of us, only ends up generating greater pain in the end. When we try to shield others from the truth, (rescue) we discount their abilities and this creates more pain. Everyone involved in triangular dynamics ends up hurt and angry at some point; no-one wins. There are characteristics of and consequences to being on the triangle that all three roles bear in common. Let’s talk about a few of them. Lack of Personal Responsibility Whenever we fail to take responsibility for ourselves, we end up on the triangle. Not even Rescuers, who pride themselves on being responsible, take responsibility for themselves. They take care of everyone else, but have no idea of how to do it for themselves. Not taking responsibility is a key identifying factor in recognizing when we are on the triangle. Persecutors shift responsibility by blaming others for their misery. Victims look for someone else to take responsibility for them. Not one of the three roles take responsibility for themselves. As long as we chase ourselves and others around the triangle, we relegate ourselves to living in reaction. Rather than living spontaneously and free through self-responsibility and personal choice, we settle into dull and painful lives ruled by the agendas of others and our own unconscious beliefs. To experience a
fulfilling life requires a conscious willingness to get off the triangle and extend grace to those still encumbered by their drama. Painful Beliefs Rule Unhealthy beliefs about ourselves and the world, instilled in childhood, become rigid rules that may need to be violated. Family dictums such as: “don't talk about it”, “don't share feelings”, or, “it's selfish to take care of yourself”, are some of the old beliefs that have ruled us and must be challenged if we are to evolve. We can expect, and even celebrate uncomfortable feelings when they come up for us, learning to see them as opportunities for freeing ourselves of the painful beliefs that keep us trapped on the triangle. Sometimes we simply need to sit with an uncomfortable feeling - such as guilt, without acting on it. Guilt does not necessarily imply that we have behaved wrong or unethically. Guilt is often a learned response. Sometimes guilt just means that we've broken a dysfunctional family I’m reminded of a story that has circulated among therapeutic circles for years about the way to cook a ham. Perhaps you remember it too. It goes like this: A little girl noticed her mother cutting the butt end off the ham to cook it for the family holiday dinner and asked, “Why do you cut off the end to cook it?” The mother without giving it a moment’s thought, replied, “Why, this is the way my mother always cooked a ham, so I know it’s the right way to do it!” Well, the little girls grandmother happened to live close by, so she visited her and asked her the same question, “Grandma, why do you cut the butt end off the ham before you cook it?” Her grandmother replied that her mother had taught her to cook a ham like that. Great granny happened to be visiting for the holiday so the little girl went to her and asked the same question... This time the answer came... “Child, when I was cooking hams back then, I only owned one baking pan and it was too small to hold a whole ham so I would cut the butt end off the ham to make it fit…” This is how it works. We follow, without question, family dictums and internalized beliefs that generate nothing but misery. Painful Feelings Frequently we get on the triangle through the port of painful feelings. It seems that many of us tend to let painful feelings rule us. We think a thought and it triggers guilt or fear, which prompts us to react in a way that puts us back on the triangle. Our reaction is usually a misguided attempt to control or get rid of the painful feeling so that we can “feel better”. For instance, we may rescue others as a way of both keeping ourselves and them from feeling bad. We tell ourselves things like, "She can’t handle it” or, “It will hurt his feelings”, so we “handle it” for them. We may notice that we feel better when we are fixing someone else - it gives us a false sense of being in control which feels temporarily empowering. We may fail to recognize that our increased sense of power is often at the expense of the other, leaving them feeling disempowered and “less than”. An Example Sam believed his son, Paul to be inept. The words he actually used to describe him were, “He’s stupid ... he will never be able to make it in the world.” As a result, Sam’s primary relating pattern with his son was as his primary Rescuer. Believing Paul was stupid brought feelings of guilt, apprehension and duty towards his son. “He’s my son and I must provide for him ... I must guide and advise him and bail him
out of all the scrapes he gets himself into because he’s too stupid to run his own life. I will just have to do it for him.” These were some of Sam’s thoughts. And so he did. Meanwhile, Paul had bought into the story too. He shared his father’s perception that said he couldn’t make it on his own. Believing that he was basically lacking in fundamental life skills created feelings of inadequacy and failure for Paul. The whole relationship between this father and son was based on the severely limited definition that they shared about Paul’s lack of ability to do well in life. So, how do you think someone like Paul, who believes he’s truly inept, would live his life? What sorts of choices would you expect someone to make who sees himself as incapable and lacking? With such painful beliefs about himself, how could Paul make anything but “foolish” choices! And every time he does, he ends up verifying his father’s story about Paul. As long as these two share such a painfully limiting story about Paul, their relationship will remain on the triangle - Paul “screwing up” and Sam fixing it for him. I can hear some of you asking, “But Lynne, what if it’s true? What if Paul is totally incompetent?” I only know this... it is our beliefs that make it so. We treat others according to what we believe about them. When we challenge these assumptions, our interaction with that person changes. For instance, the whole dynamic between Sam and Paul changed as Sam began to examine his beliefs about his son. He began to treat his son with new respect once he was able to get honest with himself about his previously denied need to keep Paul dependent. He began to let his son experience the natural consequences of his own choices instead of rescuing and then berating him for making “dumb decisions”. As a result Paul began to learn from his mistakes. Sam’s relationship with Paul completely transformed simply because Sam chose to take responsibility for his own feelings and beliefs. By giving up playing Rescuer Sam was able to move off the triangle into a more satisfying and authentic daily exchange with his son. We may attempt to manage the emotional affairs of others by keeping our opinions, feelings and thoughts hidden, even from ourselves at times. This can end up costing us our own well-being and inevitably creates distance between ourselves and the other. It is just one more way we continue the dance around the triangle. What made Sam’s move off the triangle possible was his recognition that his feelings were created by his own beliefs. He came to understand that his behavior was always determined by whatever thoughts he was believing at the time. This is key to moving off the triangle. When we believe painful stories about who we are... like,“I’m only loved for what I do for others” or, “I don’t matter” -- or we hold distorted beliefs about those around us... like, “They’re trying to hurt me” or “They’re incapable of doing well” - these personal convictions will lead us to behave as if they’re true. I’m saying that our painful feelings originate out of our limited ideas about ourselves and others. They cause us to react in ways that end up proving that what we believe is true. This is the vicious cycle of life on the triangle. Denial
Anytime we deny our feelings we set ourselves up for a victim perspective. Feelings are real. They are “energy-in-motion”. When we discount or undermine our emotions we end up overtaken by them, becoming impulsive reactors. We can’t take responsibility for ourselves when we refuse to acknowledge our feelings, which means that these disavowed “inner tyrants” will go on driving our behavior from behind the scenes. Although it is true that our feelings are generated by what we believe ... it does not work to discount or deny what we feel. Instead we come to see that when we are feeling “bad”, it simply means that there’s a distorted belief close by. Instead of denying the feeling, we learn to follow the feeling in to the belief behind it. This is where true intervention is possible. The feeling dissipates once the belief behind it is made conscious and addressed. We learn to recognize that our feelings are what point us to the limiting beliefs that are keeping us stuck on the triangle. Parents who never learned that feelings follow thought and who grew up without permission to acknowledge or express feelings often deny their children the same right. They may have decided early in life that certain feelings are wrong or bad, so they deny and repress them without examining the ruling thoughts behind the feelings. Telling ourselves that our feelings are unacceptable does not make them go away. As long as we continue to attach belief to painful stories about ourselves and others we will go on generating these same negative feelings. When suppressed, these denied emotions become secret pockets of shame within the psyche. They only serve to alienate us from others and sentence us to a life on the triangle. Sometimes we deny feelings in an ill-fated attempt to avoid feeling bad. Perhaps we tell ourselves that we can’t handle our feelings, that they are too much for us... We may think we are at the mercy of our own misery because we don’t know from where these feelings come or what to do with or about them. Maybe it is better to stay away from these messy inner states under such circumstances. But when we know that it’s our thoughts that produce painful feelings; that indeed our unhappy feelings act as gateways into greater understanding of ourselves - then we no longer have the need to suppress uncomfortable feelings. Until we are able recognize and grasp the implications of these simple truths however, we may go on trying to escape pain using various suppression tactics. These attempts at avoidance only keep us on the triangle where the guaranteed outcome is suffering and misery. Dishonesty Getting honest with ourselves is the most basic requirement for getting off the triangle. Getting off the triangle is impossible without self-honesty. Telling our truth is a key way of taking responsibility. We then must be willing to take necessary action for whatever that truth reveals. Of course, when feelings are denied, honesty is impossible. Remember that denial comes out of negative self judgment. If we have decided on some level that we cannot accept our thoughts, behavior or feelings than, chances are, we will not be able to admit we have them. It’s too painful to admit something about ourselves that we have judged as unacceptable. We must practice self acceptance if we are truly going to be able to be honest with ourselves and others. In order for a SG Rescuer to get honest, for instance, they have to be willing to confess their previously unconscious need to keep others dependent on them. This means acknowledging that being a rescuer is what they do to get their own need for self-worth met. As long as the Rescuer continues to see the other
as a weak, ineffectual and inept victim, they will continue to deceive themselves into believing that they must be the fixer and caretaker. Their own needs will not be recognized or met. In the same way, a SG Persecutor is being dishonest when they insist on blaming others for their misery and suffering. There is no way off the triangle for a Persecutor as long as they insist on seeing themselves as blameless, innocent bystanders who have been unjustly treated. In order for a SG Victim to get off the triangle, they must confess their investment in staying “little” dependent and needy. This means getting honest about how they have manipulated others, using a selfdeprecating story of ineptness, in order to get taken care of. Otherwise they will fall deeper and deeper into a downward spiral of despair and unworthiness. Living in reality requires truth. To tell the truth, we first must first know what it is. When we react out of denied feelings and unconscious programming, we cannot possibly know our personal truth. This means we will not be in touch with reality. There will be hidden agendas and dishonesty. This is another primary trait of all players on the triangle. Only by knowing our truth, can we begin to speak from a place of personal integrity. Then exiting the triangle becomes possible. Projection We tend to deny feelings and beliefs that we have judged as negative or unacceptable. As previously mentioned, we rescue ourselves by pushing these unacceptable parts into the dark unconscious. They don’t necessarily stay there, however. Whatever thoughts and feelings we don’t own, i.e., take responsibility for, will end up being projected out into our world, usually on someone we “love”. As soon as we judge some thought or feeling within us as unacceptable, we will unconsciously look around and find someone who has these same traits and hate them for it. This is called projection and it is a propelling force on the triangle. Projection ensures that the victim dance continues. Lisa and Ted came in for couples counseling. In gathering their history, I learned that Lisa had a father who raged often throughout her childhood. She was afraid of anger as a result and did not allow herself to feel or express her own ill-humor. She judged anger as “bad” and denied that she had any. It’s probably no surprise then that Lisa’s biggest complaint about her husband was his “short fuse”. “He’s so angry all the time”, she said. “He just wants to argue about everything!” Her husband, Ted came across as upfront; open and communicative. He reported that he had not felt heard in his family growing up and expressed frustration with Lisa because, “Any time I disagree with her, no matter how calmly I express it, she accuses me of being angry and refuses to discuss it. It ends up that the only way I can get heard is to blow up!” Can you place these two on the triangle? Let’s take a look: Let’s start with Lisa, who was on the triangle before a single word was spoken out loud between her and her husband. She started out by judging her own anger (persecuting herself) and then denying it (rescuing herself). Lisa is on the triangle with herself. She rescues herself through denial. Denial is always an attempt to rescue ourselves. Lisa has learned to shut her anger down so quickly that she does not even register it consciously. But that angry energy has got to go somewhere. That’s where Ted enters the picture. Lisa needs someplace to project her disowned anger. Ted is the perfect fit. Lisa sees in Ted the angry self that she has denied. This is why she is so quick to label the slightest dissent from him as “bad” anger. She then castigates Ted for the “bad” feelings that she has projected and proceeds to criticize him harshly (persecutor) in the same way she has unconsciously
judged herself. Ted, just as when he was a child, feels misunderstood and unheard at first. He is in victim. But before long his anger arises and he moves into persecutor by “blowing up” at Lisa. This moves Lisa into victim, prompting her to remember the “angry dad” of her childhood. Both Ted and Lisa are unconsciously validating their own childhood dramas by projecting their painful beliefs and judgments about themselves onto one another. These sorts of interactions are why I call the victim triangle the “playing field” for all dysfunction. You may wonder where the rescuer is in all this melee. Sometimes a role is played “beneath the surface”. It may not be externally evident as in the case described above. Because Lisa cannot take responsibility for her own anger (because to see herself as being “bad like dad” would be too painful) she rescues herself through denial. She takes herself off the hook by projecting her unwanted feelings onto her husband. This allows her to pretend she’s not angry (he’s the angry one, not her). On one level it feels better to believe that she’s not mean and angry like her dad was. The shadow consequences, however are that it sets her up to blame and persecute Ted and allows her to stay unconscious about her own personal anger. This is the nature of projection on the triangle. Ego and The Story of Who We Are We interact with others through old, unconsciously held and limiting beliefs that generate shame. Each starting gate position has a distinct type of core belief that drives their particular dance around the triangle. These core beliefs combine into unconscious stories. We believe these descriptions of ourselves and others without ever questioning them. Left to run unabated in the mind, they generate all sorts of painful feelings, including worthlessness, inadequacy and defectiveness. We reinforce and perpetuate these beliefs by moving around the triangle. The ego is that part of us that manufactures and believes these limiting stories. The ego is totally identified with the stories it tells and wants to keep us identified with them as well. The ego uses the triangle to strengthen these painfully, limited identities of who we are. When I think of our relationship with ego I often think of the nursery rhyme that goes: “Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, had a wife and couldn’t keep her. So he put her in a pumpkin shell and there he kept her very well.” This is a great metaphor for our relationship with the ego. Peter Pumpkin Eater is the ego and the wife he couldn’t keep is our own Inner Feminine. She is that part of us who remembers who we really are. The only way Ego can control this Authentic Essence is to keep it confined in the “pumpkin shell” of a limiting story. We are each held within the confines of such a story. The victim triangle is the playing field that ego uses for the purpose of reinforcing this dysfunctional story. We certainly can see this with Ted and Lisa. They each were entrapped within a very painful story; Ted believing that he will not be heard and therefore expecting to have his feelings judged and discounted. He is in the role of a SG Victim who inadvertently acts in ways that guarantee he will come away feeling ashamed and worthless. Lisa is the SG Persecutor who sees herself as a victim. She believes Ted is trying to hurt her with his anger which justifies her attempts to control him. Lisa punishes Ted by ignoring him until he finally strikes out, thus verifying her story about him as being “angry and cruel, just like dad”. Both have egos that are much more interested in verifying a limiting story than in feeling harmony between them. Failed Intimacy Although most of us long for a sense of connection with others, many people are secretly terrified of
intimacy. Allowing someone to really know us can be frightening. Intimacy requires vulnerability and honesty. Believing at heart that we are unlovable, defective or “less than,” makes it difficult to reveal ourselves. We want unconditional acceptance, but when we haven't accepted ourselves, it's impossible to believe that anyone else could love us. Needing to hide our unworthiness makes distance imperative. As long as we maintain hidden agendas and deny our truth, intimacy is impossible. Victim-hood is designed to insure alienation, not only from others, but also from ourselves. Intimacy is not possible on the triangle.
In Summary When we are ready to be accountable, we begin to sort through our genuine motives and feelings regarding our present situation. We become willing to experience our own uncomfortable feelings and we allow others their uncomfortable feelings too, without rescuing them. If our loved ones or associates are also willing to participate in this process of self-realization we can cultivate a healthier relationship together. As a result there is less and less interaction based on guilt, fear or shame. The good news is that whether or not our loved ones choose to get off the triangle, we can make that choice for ourselves! And that will change the whole dynamic between you and them. We are never victims, except by choice. Getting off means knowing where you stand right now and being willing to negotiate boundaries when necessary. Setting boundaries is not about being in control or manipulating outcomes. We sometimes confuse the two. We learn to look closely at our motives with an attitude of curiosity and the desire for deeper self-understanding. And then whatever we do, when done from a connected space, even if it is to walk away, will have a better chance of being based in truth rather than drama. Remember there will be times when we may be seen as the persecutor. Our challenge is to stay in touch with our truth and allow others the right (and they do have the right) to have their story. The two versions; your story and their story, do not have to match for you to be happy. That’s a common, but mistaken, idea. In reality, how others see us is not our concern. How we see ourselves is what can bring us transformation. We learn to focus on what we are believing. We notice the impact in own lives of believing those particular, and often painful, thoughts - beliefs like, “I’m only as important as what I can do for others” ... or, “They’re trying to hurt me” or “I’m a total failure” - these are just a few of the stories with which we torture ourselves. Remember that just because we believe these stories does not make them true. But when we do believe them, we will act in ways that make them true! This is a profound and simple dawning of consciousness that holds a key to the door off the triangle. Used with sincere desire and rigorous, self-loving truth, these steps are the process that takes us all the way, straight through to the “Off” exit. As we liberate ourselves through self-responsibility and truth telling, we transform our lives. We actualize our Higher Selves, thus realizing the possibility that lies within each of us to live, not out of an ego limited story, but to expand into a much bigger and wonderful experience of life. “Getting off the triangle is not something we do once and for all. We get on and off all the time. Understanding tools like Stephen Karpman’s victim triangle brings us a map. It shows us where we are in our relational life and where we’re headed. Studying this map helps us find the best route for getting off the triangle. Again, it’s a process, not a final destination. I invite you to relax into the role of curious,
creative explorer and willing student . . . may your thoughts and feelings be teachers for you as you travel the route to freedom from the triangle.”
Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP) Factitious disorder, factitious disorder by proxy Munchausen Syndrome is an attention-seeking personality disorder which is more common than statistics suggest. Munchausen Syndrome, named after a German soldier renowned for exaggerated tales, is a predominantly female disorder in which an emotionally immature person with narcissistic tendencies, low self-esteem and a fragile ego has an overwhelming need to draw attention to herself and to be the centre of attention. In Munchausen Syndrome, this is achieved by capitalising on, exploiting, exaggerating or feigning illness or injury or personal misfortune. The opportunities for being centre of attention can be increased if feigning victimhood through alleged victimisation, isolation, exclusion or persecution is added to the equation; the Munchausen person can then depict another person (often a family member) as a victimiser or persecutor and herself as the victim. Presenting herself as a false victim is also a Munchausen trait. In Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP), occasions for being centre of attention are created by deliberately causing illness, injury or harm to others to provide opportunities for rescue and care. Often the MSBP sufferer will work as a nurse, perhaps in a hospital ward for sick children (especially very young babies) or in a home for elderly persons, or with severely handicapped people, or as a care giver. The common thread is a victim whose is vulnerable, whose verbal skills or emotional state or mental condition prevents them from explaining what the MSBP person is doing to them and whose hold on life may already be precarious. Even if the victim survives, they cannot or will not be a witness. Because death amongst these groups occurs normally and is therefore not unusual or unexpected, her activities in causing death may escape notice for years. Few people ask questions, for how many people would dare to think that this wonderful, kind, caring, compassionate person who has devoted her life to helping others is, in reality, a murderer? Or, given the repeat nature of the crime, a serial killer? How many people suspected that Beverley Allitt, that kind, comparing, compassionate nurse who cared for sick babies at Grantham Hospital was, in reality, killing them, one by one? Her behaviour merited the label of Angel of Death. How many people suspected that the kind, avuncular doctor who eased his elderly female patients' suffering with morphine was, in reality, Britain's most prolific serial killer? Manchester GP Harold Shipman was sentenced to life in prison for his killings. Shipman committed suicide in January 2004. Shipman is not a Munchausen case but the circumstances of his murderous actions are similar to MSBP. Harm can be inflicted by any means which leaves little or no forensic evidence, such as restricting breathing by holding a hand over the mouth, fingers over the nostrils, lying on top of the baby, smothering, placing plastic or cling film over the person's face, withholding food, withholding medicine or over-medicating or medicating when unnecessary, or by delaying calling for medical assistance when an emergency arises. When the victim reacts with a fit, breathing difficulties, collapse etc, the MSBP sufferer can - after ensuring the condition is sufficiently lifethreatening - rush to the rescue and later be hailed as a hero for being such a wonderful, kind, caring, compassionate person for having saved this person's life. The MSBP sufferer is often a mother who deliberately harms her child with the intention of gaining the attention of the medical services. She gains gratification from being in the presence of doctors, nurses and medical personnel and revels in the attention that a concerned mother inevitably attracts in these surroundings. It appears that the intent is to induce illness and injury, rather than commit murder, for the death of the child would take away the object which she repeatedly manipulates for her gratification. Death may also arouse suspicions to the point of investigation. However, the injury or illness must be severe enough to warrant the need for medical intervention; if, as often happens, she miscalculates and the child dies, then the sympathy for a grieving mother becomes another opportune vehicle for gaining attention. The MSBP nurse can wallow in the attention and the gratitude of bereaved parents for the kindness she showed during their baby's short life. However, the MSBP nurse cares nothing (except for herself) for she has an endless supply of potential victims. The MSBP mother or nurse also knows that if family members or colleagues have suspicions, they are unlikely to voice them for fear of being wrong. No-one wants to make an accusation or report their suspicions to the
Munchausen Syndrome and
authorities; if they are wrong, it could mean a libel action or ostracism from the family or workplace. If the MSBP person finds out that an allegation has been made, and she can guess who has made the allegation, this is deemed persecution and victimisation and becomes another, even bigger, opportunity for being the centre of attention. When this happens within the family, it's an opportunity to turn the whole family against the person making the accusation - or against anyone the MSBP sufferer can label as likely to have made the suggestion. Munchausen sufferers, as with most attention seekers, are always plausible and convincing. It's been estimated that as many as one in five cot deaths is really a murder resulting from a mother with Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy. The MSBP mother (who becomes a serial killer) knows that fear [by the police or investigating authorities] of accusing the wrong person is usually enough to evade accountability and prosecution. No-one is going to challenge a grieving mother, and the father may be in ignorance of what has really happened and thus steadfastly supporting his partner. Evidence is minimal and the cause of death is put down as cot death (also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS), choking, breathing difficulties or some other plausible reason. However, MSBP is an ongoing condition and it is the repeated deaths from ambiguous or unidentified causes which arouse suspicion. There's a saying in social services: one [death] is cot death, two is suspicious, three is Munchausen. But who is going to take the risk of wrongly accusing a bereaved mother or a caring nurse? If questioning does take place, the Munchausen mother is likely to give the most convincing performance of innocence whilst the innocent mother is likely to be less convincing due to a combination of grief, sadness, loss, disbelief, bewilderment, anger and guilt, all of which are heightened by trauma. Recent court cases have demonstrated that the number of infant deaths alone is not grounds for conviction, and that when genetic factors are taken into account, the odds are statistically higher that a family who has suffered genuine cot death is more likely to suffer further cot deaths. Paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow, who made a career acting as expert witness in cases of mothers accused of murdering their children, has recently been shown to have used flawed data (which he has inexplicably shredded) and been backed up by bad science to obtain convictions. In July 2005 Professor Sir Roy Meadow was struck off by the General Medical Council (GMC) for serious professional misconduct after his misleading evidence in the case of Sally Clark. Recent research suggests that up to 80% of repeat cot deaths in the same family are not suspicious. It's likely that the best indicator of guilt is behaviour profile and history of attention-seeking behaviour including manipulation and deception, at which Munchausen cases excel. Further reading In many cases the Munchausen Syndrome sufferer's behaviour contains many of the characteristics listed under the profile of a serial bully. The pages on attention-seeking tactics and Narcissistic Personality Disorder may also be enlightening, as may be the page on bullies in the family. Links Munchausen Syndrome Hub Salt poisoning mother is jailed
The injury to health caused by prolonged negative stress including fatigue, anxiety, depression, immune system suppression, IBS, aches, pains, numbness and panic attacks
On this page Stress Ill-health symptoms caused by stress and bullying Fight or flight: the stress response Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS or ME) New! Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Psychiatric injury | Reactive depression | The mental health trap Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) | Suicide Further reading | Links
Bullying, stress and the effects of stress on health
"There's only one way of dealing with stress - that's to identify the cause and then work to reduce or eliminate that cause. I believe bullying is the main, but least recognised, cause of stress in the workplace today." Tim Field "Poor management is a major cause of stress." Dr Peter Graham, Head of Health Directorate, UK Health & Safety Executive, 24 September 1998 Stress is not the employee's inability to cope with excessive workloads and the unreasonable demands of incompetent and bullying managers; stress is a consequence of the employer's failure to provide a safe system of work as required by the UK Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. Blaming the sufferer of stress for suffering stress is an admission of failure to fulfil this obligation of duty of care. The HSE publication Working on Stress describes the view that "All you need to do is go for counselling to stop work-related stress" as "wrong" and as being "unlikely to tackle the source of the problem". HSE Stress Management Standards Stress comes in two forms: positive and negative: Positive stress (or eustress) is the result of competent management and mature leadership where everyone works together and everyone is valued and supported. Positive stress enhances well-being and can be harnessed to enhance performance and fuel achievement. Negative stress (or distress) is the result of a bullying climate where threat, coercion and fear substitute for nonexistent management skills. Employees have to work twice as hard to achieve half as much to compensate for the dysfunctional and inefficient management. Negative stress diminishes quality of life and causes injury to health resulting in the symptoms of ill-health described on this page. When people use the word "stress" on its own, they usually mean "negative stress". The CBI estimates stress and stress-related illness cost UK industry and taxpayers £12 BILLION each year. The UK Department of Health state that 3.6% of national average salary budget is paid to employees off sick with stress. Stress is now officially the Number One cause of sickness absence although 20% of employers still do not regard stress as a health and safety issue. Stress plays havoc with the body's immune system. Symptoms The symptoms of stress seem to cover more pages of every book published on the subject. Stress caused by bullying results in these symptoms (and more):
• • main symptoms - stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, fatigue (including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - see below), trauma physical symptoms - reduced immunity to infection leading to frequent colds, coughs, flu, glandular fever, etc (especially on days off, eg weekends and holidays), aches & pains (with no clear cause - this lack of attributability suggests stress as the cause - sometimes diagnosed as fibromyalgia), back pain, chest pains and angina, high blood pressure, headaches and migraines, sweating, palpitations, trembling, hormonal problems (disturbed menstrual cycle, dysmenorrhoea, loss of libido, impotence), physical numbness (especially in toes, fingers, and lips), emotional numbness (including anhedonia, an inability to feel joy and love), irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, paruresis (shy bladder syndrome), thyroid problems, petit mal seizures, skin irritations and skin disorders (eg athlete's foot, eczema, psoriasis, shingles, internal and external ulcers, urticaria), loss of appetite (although a few people react by overeating), excessive or abnormal thirst, waking up more tired than when you went to bed, etc psychological symptoms - panic attacks, reactive depression (which some people describe as Adjustment Disorder with depressed mood), thoughts of suicide, stress breakdown (this is a psychiatric injury, not a mental illness), forgetfulness, impoverished or intermittently functioning memory, poor concentration, flashbacks and replays, excessive guilt, disbelief and confusion and bewilderment ("why me?" - click here for the answer), an unusual degree of fear, sense of isolation, insecurity, desperation, etc; one experiences acute anxiety at the prospect of meeting the bully or visiting the location where the bullying took place, or at the thought of touching the paperwork associated with the case; one is unable to attend disciplinary meetings and may vomit before, during or after the meeting, sometimes at the
88 thought of the meeting or on receiving a threatening letter insisting one attends (these are PTSD diagnostic criteria B4 and B5) • behavioural symptoms - tearfulness, irritability, angry outbursts, obsessiveness (the experience takes over your life), hypervigilance (feels like but is not paranoia), hypersensitivity (almost every remark or action is perceived as critical even when it is not), sullenness (a sign the inner psyche has been damaged), mood swings, withdrawal, indecision, loss of humour, hyperawareness (acute awareness of time, seasons, distance travelled), excessive biting, teeth grinding, picking, scratching or tics, increased reliance on drugs (tannin, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sleeping tablets, tranquillisers, antidepressants, other substances), comfort spending (and consequent financial problems), phobias (especially agoraphobia), etc effects on personality - shattered self-confidence and self-esteem, low self-image, loss of selfworth and self-love
Other symptoms and disorders reported include sleep disorder, bipolar disorder, mood disorder, eating disorder, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, skin disorder. Increasingly researchers are suggesting that diabetes, asthma, allergies, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis (MS), chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) and even some forms of cancer are caused or aggravated by stress. An article in Biologist (T cells divide and rule in Gulf War syndrome (and asthma, TB, cancer, ME), Jenny Bryan, Immunology section in The Biologist, (1997) 44 (5)) suggests that a shared immunological defect may link many disorders. Others suggest that the inappropriateness of the stress response in dealing with modern threats - which are largely psychological rather than physical - is to blame. The traumatising effect of bullying results in the target being unable to state clearly what is happening to them and who is responsible; the target may be so traumatised that they are unable to articulate their experience for a year or more after the event. This often frustrates or prevents legal action: see 12-week tribunal application limit and psychological reactivity of PTSD. Another frustration is incorrect diagnosis by a medical or mental health professional who doesn't understand Complex PTSD or who is antagonistic towards the concept of psychiatric injury. If you're under one of these characters, ditch them immediately as they will sabotage both your legal case and your efforts to recover. False diagnoses commonly given include schizophrenia, paranoia, work phobia, school phobia, borderline personality disorder (as a cause rather than a symptom), etc. Bullying results in strong feelings of fear, shame, embarrassment, and guilt, which are encouraged by the bully to keep their target quiet. This is how all abusers (including child sex abusers) silence their targets. For detailed reasons why targets of abuse don't or can't report their abuse, click here. Work colleagues often withdraw their support and then join in with the bullying, which increases the stress and consequent psychiatric injury; to see why mobbing breaks out, click here. Poor concentration, impaired memory, and fatigue are common and early signs of excessive stress. These have significant Health & Safety implications if the employee drives a vehicle, operates machinery, or is responsible for the care or welfare of others as part of their duties. RoSPA estimate that in the UK at least 1000 road deaths each year involve people for whom driving is part of their job. Fatigue is a major factor. Fight or flight: the stress response The fight or flight mechanism, or stress response, is designed for responding to physical danger (eg being about to be attacked by a sabre-toothed tiger) but today is more likely to be activated by a psychological danger (eg bullying at work, harassment, stalking, abuse) for which it was not designed. The stress response can also be activated by anticipation of low-probability or long-term or non-life-threatening events such as financial problems (clinching the next big deal, how to pay the mortgage next month, wondering when the next benefit cheque will arrive), motorway traffic jams, job security, picking up a parking ticket for a car park overstay, etc. Different people respond with different degrees of stress to different stressors, a fact which has dogged research. However, there are at least four factors which determine the degree to which one will feel stressed:
• control: a person feels stressed to the extent to which they perceive they are not in control of the stressor; at work, employees have no control over their management
89 • predictability: a person feels stressed to the extent to which they are unable to predict the behaviour or occurrence of the stressor (bullies are notoriously unpredictable in their behaviour) expectation: a person feels stressed to the extent to which they perceive their circumstances are not improving and will not improve (a bullying situation almost always gets worse, especially as one gains insight into the cause) support: a person feels stressed to the extent to which they lack support systems, including work colleagues, management, personnel, union, partner, family, friends, colleagues, persons in authority, official bodies, professionals, and the law
Once the stress response is activated, the body's energy is diverted to where it is needed, thus heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate increase. All non-essential body functions are temporarily shut down or operate at reduced level; these include digestion, growth, sexual systems (menstrual cycle, libido, testosterone production), immune system, storage of energy as fat, etc. In response to threat, glucose, proteins and fats are rapidly released from storage (in muscles, fat cells and liver) and energy becomes abundantly available to those muscles which will help you fight the danger or run away from it. In extreme cases bowels and bladder will spontaneously evacuate to lighten the load; the smell may also help to deter the attacker. There is no point in digestion, reproduction and immune system etc continuing to operate if you're likely to be the sabre-toothed tiger's dinner in the next ten minutes - better divert that energy into avoiding being on the menu. Therefore, the prospect of going to work, or the thought or sound of the bully approaching immediately activates the stress response, but fighting or flight are both inappropriate. In repeated bullying, the stress response prepares the body to respond physically when what is required is an employer-wide anti-bullying policy, knowledge of bullying motivations and tactics, assertive responses to defend ourselves against unwarranted verbal and physical harassment, and effective laws against bullying as an ultimate deterrent or arbiter when all else fails. Fatigue The fatigue caused by bullying is understandable when you realise that the body's fight or flight mechanism ultimately becomes activated for long periods, sometimes semi-permanently. For a person with a regular daytime job, the activation can last from Sunday evening - at the prospect of having to go to work the following day through to the following Saturday morning - at the prospect of two days relief. The fight or flight mechanism is designed to operate briefly and intermittently, but when activated for abnormally long periods, causes the body's physical, mental and emotional batteries to drain dry. Energy stored in the body as protein, glycogen and triglycerides is rapidly converted back to amino acids, glucose and fatty acids etc to help the body deal with the perceived threat. The process of conversion, achieved via the release of stress hormones such as glucocorticoids, glucagon, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), itself consumes energy. The stress hormones also trigger the conversion of protein in those muscles not required for flight or fright into amino acids. Whilst the human body is capable of withstanding considerable levels and periods of stress, when the stress response is turned on for long periods, the body inevitably sustains damage through prolonged raised levels of glucocorticoids (which are toxic to brain cells), excessive depletion of energy reserves, resulting in fatigue, loss of strength and stamina, muscle wastage (as in steroid myopathy when patients receive large doses of glucocorticoids to treat various illnesses), and adult-onset diabetes. At the weekend and days off, the weakened immune system cannot fight off viruses (eg colds, flu, glandular fever etc) and the person suffers constant illnesses during which the batteries do not recharge. Even without viral infection, the obsessiveness and disturbed sleeping patterns prevent the body from replenishing stored energy. Reactivation of the fight or flight mechanism prior to returning to work produces a flow of stress hormones which appear to temporarily suppress the effects of illness. For suggested reading click here. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Many people who are bullied experience and report symptoms similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (formerly ME, myalgic encephalomyelitis, also called Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome [CFIDS] and Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome). The main symptoms are:
90 • • • • • • • • • • • • • overwhelming fatigue pains in the joints and muscles with no obvious cause occasional bursts of energy, followed by exhaustion and joint/muscle pain inability to concentrate poor recall, eg words, sentence construction, etc mood swings, including anger and depression difficulty in learning new information sense imbalances, eg in smell, taste and appetite dislike of loud noises and bright lights inability to control body temperature sleep disturbance (eg sleeping by day and waking at night) disturbance of balance clumsiness, eg unable to grasp small objects, inability to separate sheets of paper
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome achieved official recognition from the UK's Chief Medical Officer Sir Kenneth Calman on 15 July 1998. This view was endorsed by a report published in January 2002 which was compiled for Chief Medical Officer for England. Professor Sir Liam Donaldson called for the recognition of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS or CFIDS, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME) as a chronic condition with long term effects on health on a par with illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease. The report also recommends early diagnosis, better access to treatment, and that CFS/ME should be included in the education and training of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. The only omission from the report seems to be that one of the causes of CFS can be long-term bullying, harassment and abuse, which compromise the body's immune system and drain the body's energy reserves. The syndrome is not well understood, but a virus in the same family of enteroviruses as multiple sclerosis (MS) and polio is thought to be implicated. The only cure is complete rest. Exercise, which in people without CFS strengthens the body and aids good health, makes the condition worse. CFS is often linked to stress and trauma, although the stressors may not always be obvious. Action for ME: What is ME? What is CFS? Information for clinicians and lawyers News item, May 2003: chronic fatigue costs UK £3.5 billion a year says charity Action for ME. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a classic symptom of stress. It's not a disease but a functional disorder (ie a malfunction) of the digestive system, hence it's other name of spastic colon. Certain foods, especially wholewheat and fat, cause a violent spasm of the intestine resulting in abdominal pain (often excruciating), stomach cramps, bloating, endless tummy rumbling, gas, belching, nausea and sometimes vomiting, constipation or diarrhoea (or both alternating) and a general debilitating feeling of great unwellness. Attacks are triggered by certain foods and can last a day. The cause is unknown and IBS can start at any age with no apparent reason, although long-term stress is often, if unscientifically, implicated. Up to 20% of the population may experience IBS to some degree, but sufferers may find diagnosis can be difficult to obtain. There's no "cure" but strict attention to diet can reduce or even eliminate the symptoms. Many people suffer for years before obtaining diagnosis, after which their life is transformed with a new diet. More at Help For IBS.com. Psychiatric injury Over time, the symptoms described above result in psychiatric injury, which is not a mental illness. Despite superficial similarity, and comments (both direct and implied) from those around you, there are many distinct differences between psychiatric injury and mental illness including a) mental illness is assumed to be inherent (internal) whereas psychiatric injury is caused by something or someone else (external) - who is liable; b) an injury is likely to get better;
c) the person suffering mental illness exhibits a range of symptoms associated with mental illness (paranoia, schizophrenia, delusions, etc) but not with psychiatric injury, whereas the person suffering psychiatric injury will typically exhibit a range of symptoms (eg hypervigilance, hypersensitivity, obsessiveness, irritability, fatigue, sleeplessness) associated with psychiatric injury but not with mental illness. A table showing the differences between psychiatric injury and mental illness is on the PTSD page - click here. Reactive depression One of the symptoms of psychiatric injury is reactive depression - it is a reaction to an external event. My understanding is that the chemistry of reactive depression is different to clinical or endogenous depression (which is associated with mental illness). If you are diagnosed as suffering depression as a result of bullying at work, make sure it is diagnosed (eg on your sick note) as reactive depression. The word "depression" on its own is usually (mis)interpreted (especially by the bully) as "endogenous depression". In April 2005 researchers from King's College Hospital identified depression as the main reason of sickness absence, although they made no mention of a primary cause of depression, ie cumulative negative stress caused by bullying. [More] The mental health trap In every workplace bullying relationship the symptoms suffered by the target eventually become sufficiently noticeable that people start to ask questions. At this moment, the bully will try and portray their target as mentally ill as a way of abdicating and denying their responsibility for the injury which they have caused. I call this the mental health trap. To handle the mental health trap, on every occasion that the bully implies you are "mentally ill" or "mentally unstable" or are a person with a "mental health problem", look the bully in the eye and (preferably with a witness present) say: The state of my physical and mental wellbeing today is a direct consequence of your behaviour towards me over the last xx months/years. Put this in writing, with support from your union or other representative. You may need to repeat it. If you are coerced into reporting to occupational health, use this phrase to identify the cause of your injury. Do not have any qualms about naming the individual whose behaviour is the cause of your psychiatric injury. Bullies are skilled at finding and exploiting your forgiving streak in order to get you to retract allegations. This is a deliberate tactic - so don't be fooled. If the bully or your employer insist on labelling you as mentally ill, consider including libel (written), slander (spoken) and defamation of character in your legal proceedings. If you are being bullied by the medical profession, or the employer's doctor insists on labelling you as mentally ill, question the competence of a medical practitioner who is unable to tell the difference between mental illness and psychiatric injury. If you're fighting this battle, see the page on PTSD for further insight. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Whilst there is no official diagnosis yet, the symptoms of being bullied are congruent with those of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I estimate half the UK workforce are exhibiting many of the symptoms of PTSD, albeit diagnosed as "stress" or "anxiety" or "fatigue".. The diagnostic criteria for PTSD are defined in DSM-IV, the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. This is covered in detail on a separate page; click here to display. With bullying, the injury is caused by an accumulation of small events rather than one major event. The related diagnosis of Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder (PDSD, which is PTSD over time) may be more appropriate. However, whereas PTSD is in DSM-IV, PDSD is not - yet. PDSD, or Complex PTSD as it is now becoming known, is a more appropriate diagnosis for people who experience distressing events every day, such as the emergency services (eg fire, ambulance and police officers etc), as well as those in abuse situations. As well as PTSD caused by accident, disaster, violence and rape, David Kinchin's book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury includes chapters on PTSD resulting from terrorism, physical and sexual abuse, and bullying. The official estimate of 850,000 cases of PTSD in the UK may swell dramatically as a result of this new
research (it's estimated for instance that as many as 14 million people are bullied at work in the UK). This book contains insight that only someone who has experienced PTSD can impart; as David Kinchin says in the introduction, "This is the book I so badly wanted to read when I was traumatised". For an overview, click here; to order a copy click here. Suicide We know that at least sixteen children in the UK kill themselves each year because of bullying at school. Each of these deaths is foreseeable, preventable and unnecessary. The true total could be as high as 80 or more. These estimates, which are published in the book Bullycide: death at playtime by Neil Marr and Tim Field, are endorsed by leading childcare charities. People who are bullied have many common characteristics including an unwillingness to resort to violence (or legal action) to resolve conflict, and a tendency to internalise anger rather than express it outwardly. Focusing anger inward is a recognised cause of depression. Bullying is perpetrated over a long period of time, perhaps measured in years, and the internalised anger builds to the point where one of these three occur:
• • the target starts to exhibit all the symptoms of stress as the internal pressure causes the body to go out of stasis (this happens in every case) the target focuses the anger onto themselves and self-harms, either by using drugs (usually alcohol), or by attempting or committing suicide (the UK has the highest suicide rate in Europe) in rare cases, and the target "flips" and starts to exhibit the same behaviours as the bully; in extremely rare but well-publicised cases, the target returns to the workplace to carry out a spree killing
How many adult suicides are caused by bullying? Consider the following: bullying (an abdication and denial for the effect of one's behaviour on others) ...causes... prolonged negative stress (psychiatric injury) ...which includes... reactive depression (the cause is external - someone is responsible and liable) ...which results in... fluctuating baseline of one's objectivity (balance of the mind disturbed) ...which leads to... contemplated suicide (being viewed as suffering mental illness) ...culminating in... attempted suicide (cry for help) ...which may end in... suicide (manslaughter - causation) It's likely that many suicides are the result of bullying, but the target's lack of awareness of what is going on, their unwillingness to confide what is happening, the traumatization, and the inability to articulate, everyone else's denial, the bully's accomplished lying and Jekyll and Hyde nature, plus the general lack of knowledge and awareness of society, prevent the real cause from being identified. Further reading For insight into the stress response and the effects of prolonged stress on the body I recommend the book Why zebras don't get ulcers: an updated guide to stress, stress-related diseases, and coping by Robert M Sapolsky (Freeman, 1998, ISBN 0-7167-3210-6). Click here for suggested reading. Job stress can result in reactive depression: see Donald J Franklin's page on reactive depression. For information on depression see the page by Irish charity Aware Depression - a common symptom of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from long-term bullying and abuse - takes a huge toll on productivity: http://www.psychologytoday.com/htdocs/prod/PTOArticle/PTO20030722-000001.asp
West Dorset Hospitals NHS Trust becomes first employer to be given official stress warning: the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) becomes proactive in the fight against stress and bullying: http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health/story.jsp?story=430762 and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3124783.stm The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Stress Management Standards Action strategies for combating depression by building self-esteem: http://www.psychologytoday.com/htdocs/prod/PTOArticle/PTO-20031001-000001.asp and http://www.psychologytoday.com/htdocs/prod/PTOArticle/PTO-20031224-000003.asp Beyond Blue is an Australian resource on depression. Depression Anxiety disorders- Panic, Phobic and other social anxiety disorder: this easy-to-understand, sympathetic guide deals with the entire range of mental health disorder and shows that anxiety disorder has many different forms as well as degree of severity with treatment options.
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD symptoms, survivor guilt and trauma caused by bullying, harassment, abuse and abusive life experiences What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? How do I recognise the symptoms of PTSD? How do I recover from PTSD?
Updated 4 November 2005
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Please link to this page: stress/ptsd.htm
On this page Definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - what is PTSD? DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Complex PTSD, PDSD and bullying Mapping the health effects of bullying onto the diagnostic criteria for PTSD Common symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Associated symptoms of PTSD - survivor guilt etc New! Transformation The difference between mental breakdown and stress breakdown Differences between mental illness and psychiatric injury Features of Complex PTSD specific to bullying, especially feelings of guilt Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and fatigue Incidence of PTSD and Complex PTSD in the general population Legal aspects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Bullying causes PTSD: the legal case Complex PTSD and stress, especially stress at work David Kinchin's book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury Tim Field's book Bully in sight validates the experience of psychological violence Recommended reading on PTSD | Bookshops | Articles on PTSD Seminars on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and recovery Links to PTSD, Complex PTSD and trauma sites
"When the trauma is inflicted by another person, is especially intense, or the traumatized person is extremely close to the trauma, the severity of traumatization may be especially profound" Robert C Scaer, MD, Author, The Body bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation and Disease Definition Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a natural emotional reaction to a deeply shocking and disturbing experience. It is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined in DSM-IV, the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. For a doctor or mental health professional to be able to make a diagnosis, the condition must be defined in DSM-IV or its international equivalent, the World Health Organization's ICD-10.
In the previous version of DSM (DSM-III) a criterion of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was for the sufferer to have faced a single major life-threatening event; this criterion was present because a) it was thought that PTSD could not be a result of "normal" events such as bereavement, business failure, interpersonal conflict, bullying, harassment, stalking, marital disharmony, working for the emergency services, etc, and b) most of the research on PTSD had been undertaken with people who had suffered a threat to life (eg combat veterans, especially from Vietnam, victims of accident, disaster, and acts of violence). In DSM-IV the requirement was eased although most mental health practitioners continue to interpret diagnostic criterion A1 as applying only to a single major life-threatening event. There is growing recognition that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can result from many types of emotionally shocking experience including an accumulation of small, individually non-life-threatening events in which case the resultant PTSD is referred to as Complex PTSD. DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) The diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are defined in DSM-IV as follows: A. The person experiences a traumatic event in which both of the following were present: 1. the person experienced or witnessed or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others; 2. the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. B. The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in any of the following ways: 1. recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts or perceptions; 2. recurrent distressing dreams of the event; 3. acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (eg reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those on wakening or when intoxicated); 4. intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event; 5. physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event. C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma) as indicated by at least three of: 1. efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma; 2. efforts to avoid activities, places or people that arouse recollections of this trauma; 3. inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma; 4. markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities; 5. feeling of detachment or estrangement from others; 6. restricted range of affect (eg unable to have loving feelings); 7. sense of a foreshortened future (eg does not expect to have a career, marriage, children or a normal life span). D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma) as indicated by at least two of the following: 1. difficulty falling or staying asleep; 2. irritability or outbursts of anger; 3. difficulty concentrating; 4. hypervigilance; 5. exaggerated startle response. E. The symptoms on Criteria B, C and D last for more than one month. F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The focus of the DSM-IV definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a single life-threatening event or threat to integrity. However, the symptoms of traumatic stress also arise from an accumulation of small incidents rather than one major incident. Examples include:
95 • repeated exposure to horrific scenes at accidents or fires, such as those endured by members of the emergency services (eg bodies mutilated in car crashes, or horribly burnt or disfigured by fire, or dismembered or disembowelled in aeroplane disasters, etc) repeated involvement in dealing with serious crime, eg where violence has been used and especially where children are hurt breaking news of bereavement caused by accident or violence, especially if children are involved repeated violations such as in verbal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse regular intrusion and violation, both physical and psychological, as in bullying, stalking, harassment, domestic violence, etc
• • • •
Where the symptoms are the result of a series of events, the term Complex PTSD (formerly referred to unofficially as Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder or PDSD) may be more appropriate. Whilst Complex PTSD is not yet an official diagnosis in DSM-IV or ICD-10, it is often used in preference to other terms such as "rolling PTSD", "PDSD", and "cumulative stress". See the National Center for PTSD fact page on Complex PTSD. Causes of PTSD PTSD resulting from accident, disaster, war, terrorism, torture, kidnap, etc has been extensively studied and literature is available elsewhere. The first written reference to PTSD symptoms comes from the sixth century BC; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is nothing new - and neither is the willingness of some people to discredit and deny the existence of the disorder. This section of Bully OnLine focuses on PTSD and Complex PTSD resulting from bullying, primarily in the workplace, however anyone suffering PTSD (however caused) will find this page enlightening. Most of the information on this page and web site is relevant to other types of bullying, eg at school, in relationships (including domestic violence), by families, by neighbours or landlords, in the care of the elderly, in the armed services, etc. Bullying is behind harassment, discrimination, prejudice and persecution, therefore targets of repeated sexual harassment or racial discrimination or religious or ethnic persecution will also identify with the symptoms. The insight about bullying on this web site is therefore also relevant to more serious issues including physical abuse, repeated verbal abuse, sexual abuse, violent crime, kidnap, abduction, rape, war, terrorism, torture, and denial and abuse of human rights. Those exploring Contact Experience may also find this page helpful. PTSD, Complex PTSD and bullying It's widely accepted that PTSD can result from a single, major, life-threatening event, as defined in DSM-IV. Now there is growing awareness that PTSD can also result from an accumulation of many small, individually non-lifethreatening incidents. To differentiate the cause, the term "Complex PTSD" is used. The reason that Complex PTSD is not in DSM-IV is that the definition of PTSD in DSM-IV was derived using only people who had suffered a single major life-threatening incident such as Vietnam veterans and survivors of disasters. Note: there has recently been a trend amongst some psychiatric professionals to label people suffering Complex PTSD as a exhibiting a personality disorder, especially Borderline Personality Disorder. This is not the case PTSD, Complex or otherwise, is a psychiatric injury and nothing to do with personality disorders. If there is an overlap, then Borderline Personality Disorder should be regarded as a psychiatric injury, not a personality disorder. If you encounter a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional who wants to label your Complex PTSD as a personality disorder, change to another, more competent professional. It seems that Complex PTSD can potentially arise from any prolonged period of negative stress in which certain factors are present, which may include any of captivity, lack of means of escape, entrapment, repeated violation of boundaries, betrayal, rejection, bewilderment, confusion, and - crucially - lack of control, loss of control and disempowerment. It is the overwhelming nature of the events and the inability (helplessness, lack of knowledge, lack of support etc) of the person trying to deal with those events that leads to the development of Complex PTSD. Situations which might give rise to Complex PTSD include bullying, harassment, abuse, domestic violence, stalking, long-term caring for a disabled relative, unresolved grief, exam stress over a period of years, mounting debt, contact experience, etc. Those working in regular traumatic situations, eg the emergency services, are also prone to developing Complex PTSD.
A key feature of Complex PTSD is the aspect of captivity. The individual experiencing trauma by degree is unable to escape the situation. Despite some people's assertions to the contrary, situations of domestic abuse and workplace abuse can be extremely difficult to get out of. In the latter case there are several reasons, including financial vulnerability (especially if you're a single parent or main breadwinner - the rate of marital breakdown is approaching 50% in the UK), unavailability of jobs, ageism (many people who are bullied are over 40), partner unable to move, and kids settled in school and you are unable or unwilling to move them. The real killer, though, is being unable to get a job reference - the bully will go to great lengths to blacken the person's name, often for years, and it is this lack of reference more than anything else which prevents people escaping. Until recently, little (or no) attention was paid to the psychological harm caused by bullying and harassment. Misperceptions (usually as a result of the observer's lack of knowledge or lack of empathy) still abound: "It's something you have to put up with" (like rape or repeated sexual abuse?) and "Bullying toughens you up" (ditto). Armed forces personnel faced threats of being labelled with "cowardice" and "lack of moral fibre" (LMF) if they gave in to the symptoms of PTSD. In World War I, 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers were shot as "cowards" and "deserters" on the orders of General Haig in an act which today would be treated as a war crime see separate page on this injustice. In the UK at least 16 children kill themselves each year because they are being bullied at school. This figure is established in the book Bullycide: death at playtime. Each of these deaths is unnecessary, foreseeable, and preventable. The UK has one of the highest adult suicide rates in Europe: around 5000 a year. The number of adults in the UK committing suicide because of bullying is unknown. Each year 19,000 children attempt suicide in the UK - one every half hour. in the UK, suicide is the number one cause of death for 18-24-year-old males. Females also attempt suicide in large numbers but tend to use less successful means. Since Andrea Adams first identified workplace bullying and gave it its name in 1988, recognition of adult bullying has grown steadily. Tim Field's UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line has logged over 8000 cases in seven years; in the majority of cases (over 80%), the caller is a white-collar worker who has become the prey of a serial bully whose behaviour profile suggests a disordered personality. Callers refer to predecessors who have had stress breakdowns, taken early or ill-health retirement, or been dismissed on grounds of ill-health - all caused by the same individual. Sometimes callers refer to suicides of fellow employees. Mapping the health effects of bullying onto PTSD and Complex PTSD Repeated bullying, often over a period of years, results in symptoms of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. How do the PTSD symptoms resulting from bullying meet the criteria in DSM-IV? A. The prolonged (chronic) negative stress resulting from bullying has lead to threat of loss of job, career, health, livelihood, often also resulting in threat to marriage and family life. The family are the unseen victims of bullying. A.1.One of the key symptoms of prolonged negative stress is reactive depression; this causes the balance of the mind to be disturbed, leading first to thoughts of, then attempts at, and ultimately, suicide. A.2.The target of bullying may be unaware that they are being bullied, and even when they do realise (there's usually a moment of enlightenment as the person realises that the criticisms and tactics of control etc are invalid), they often cannot bring themselves to believe they are dealing with a disordered personality who lacks a conscience and does not share the same moral values as themselves. Naivety is the great enemy. The target of bullying is bewildered, confused, frightened, angry - and after enlightenment, very angry. For an answer to the question Why me? click here. B.1. The target of bullying experiences regular intrusive violent visualisations and replays of events and conversations; often, the endings of these replays are altered in favour of the target. B.2. Sleeplessness, nightmares and replays are a common feature of being bullied. B.3. The events are constantly relived; night-time and sleep do not bring relief as it becomes impossible to switch the brain off. Such sleep as is achieved is non-restorative and people wake up as tired, and often more tired, than when they went to bed. B.4. Fear, horror, chronic anxiety, and panic attacks are triggered by any reminder of the experience, eg receiving threatening letters from the bully, the employer, or personnel about disciplinary hearings etc. B.5. Panic attacks, palpitations, sweating, trembling, ditto. Criteria B4 and B5 manifest themselves as immediate physical and mental paralysis in response to any reminder of the bullying or prospect of having to take action against the bully.
C. Physical numbness (toes, fingertips, lips) is common, as is emotional numbness (especially inability to feel joy). Sufferers report that their spark has gone out and, even years later, find they just cannot get motivated about anything. C.1. The target of bullying tries harder and harder to avoid saying or doing anything which reminds them of the horror of the bullying. C.2. Work, especially in the person's chosen field becomes difficult, often impossible, to undertake; the place of work holds such horrific memories that it becomes impossible to set foot on the premises; many targets of bullying avoid the street where the workplace is located. C.3. Almost all callers to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line report impaired memory; this may be partly due to suppressing horrific memories, and partly due to damage to the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked to learning and memory (see John O'Brien's paper below) C.4. the person becomes obsessed with resolving the bullying experience which takes over their life, eclipsing and excluding almost every other interest. C.5. Feelings of withdrawal and isolation are common; the person just wants to be on their own and solitude is sought. C.6. Emotional numbness, including inability to feel joy (anhedonia) and deadening of loving feelings towards others are commonly reported. One fears never being able to feel love again. C.7. The target of bullying becomes very gloomy and senses a foreshortened career - usually with justification. Many targets of bullying ultimately give up their career; in the professions, severe psychiatric injury, severely impaired health, refusal by the bully and the employer to give a satisfactory reference, and many other reasons, conspire to bar the person from continuance in their chosen career. D.1. Sleep becomes almost impossible, despite the constant fatigue; such sleep as is obtained tends to be unsatisfying, unrefreshing and non-restorative. On waking, the person often feels more tired than when they went to bed. Depressive feelings are worst early in the morning. Feelings of vulnerability may be heightened overnight. D.2. The person has an extremely short fuse and is often permanently irritated, especially by small insignificant events. The person frequently visualises a violent solution, eg arranging an accident for, or murdering the bully; the resultant feelings of guilt tend to hinder progress in recovery. D.3. Concentration is impaired to the point of precluding preparation for legal action, study, work, or search for work. D.4. The person is on constant alert because their fight or flight mechanism has become permanently activated. D.5. The person has become hypersensitized and now unwittingly and inappropriately perceives almost any remark as critical. E. Recovery from a bullying experience is measured in years. Some people never fully recover. F. For many, social life ceases and work becomes impossible; the overwhelming need to earn a living combined with the inability to work deepens the trauma. Common symptoms of PTSD and Complex PTSD that sufferers report experiencing
• • • • • • • • • • • • hypervigilance (feels like but is not paranoia) exaggerated startle response irritability sudden angry or violent outbursts flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive recollections, replays, violent visualisations triggers sleep disturbance exhaustion and chronic fatigue reactive depression guilt feelings of detachment avoidance behaviours
98 • • • • • • • • • • • • • nervousness, anxiety phobias about specific daily routines, events or objects irrational or impulsive behaviour loss of interest loss of ambition anhedonia (inability to feel joy and pleasure) poor concentration impaired memory joint pains, muscle pains emotional numbness physical numbness low self-esteem an overwhelming sense of injustice and a strong desire to do something about it
Associated symptoms of Complex PTSD Survivor guilt: survivors of disasters often experience abnormally high levels of guilt for having survived, especially when others - including family, friends or fellow passengers - have died. Survivor guilt manifests itself in a feeling of "I should have died too". In bullying, levels of guilt are also abnormally raised. The survivor of workplace bullying may have develop an intense albeit unrealistic desire to work with their employer (or, by now, their former employer) to eliminate bullying from their workplace. Many survivors of bullying cannot gain further employment and are thus forced into self-employment; excessive guilt may then preclude the individual from negotiating fair rates of remuneration, or asking for money for services rendered. The person may also find themselves being abnormally and inappropriately generous and giving in business and other situations. Shame, embarrassment, guilt, and fear are encouraged by the bully, for this is how all abusers - including child sex abusers - control and silence their victims. Marital disharmony: the target of bullying becomes obsessed with understanding and resolving what is happening and the experience takes over their life; partners become confused, irritated, bewildered, frightened and angry; separation and divorce are common outcomes. Breakdown The word "breakdown" is often used to describe the mental collapse of someone who has been under intolerable strain. There is usually an (inappropriate) inference of "mental illness". All these are lay terms and mean different things to different people. I define two types of breakdown: Nervous breakdown or mental breakdown is a consequence of mental illness Stress breakdown is a psychiatric injury, which is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation The two types of breakdown are distinct and should not be confused. A stress breakdown is a natural and normal conclusion to a period of prolonged negative stress; the body is saying "I'm not designed to operate under these conditions of prolonged negative stress so I am going to do something dramatic to ensure that you reduce or eliminate the stress otherwise your body may suffer irreparable damage; you must take action now". A stress breakdown is often predictable days - sometimes weeks - in advance as the person's fear, fragility, obsessiveness, hypervigilance and hypersensitivity combine to evolve into paranoia (as evidenced by increasingly bizarre talk of conspiracy or MI6). If this happens, a stress breakdown is only days or even hours away and the person needs urgent medical help. The risk of suicide at this point is heightened. Often the cause of negative stress in an organisation can be traced to the behaviour of one individual. The profile of this individual is on the serial bully page. I believe bullying is the main - but least recognised - cause of negative stress in the workplace today. To see the effects of prolonged negative stress on the body click here.
The person who suffers a stress breakdown is often treated as if they have had a mental breakdown; they are sent to a psychiatrist, prescribed drugs used to treat mental illness, and may be encouraged - sometimes coerced or sectioned - into becoming a patient in a psychiatric hospital. The sudden transition from professional working environment to a ward containing schizophrenics, drug addicts and other people with genuine long-term mental health problems adds to rather than alleviates the trauma. Words like "psychiatrist", "psychiatric unit" etc are often translated by work colleagues, friends, and sometimes family into "nutcase", "shrink", "funny farm", "loony" and other inappropriate epithets. The bully encourages this, often ensuring that the employee's personnel record contains a reference to the person's "mental health problems". Sometimes, the bully produces their own amateur diagnosis of mental illness - but this is more likely to be a projection of the bully's own state of mind and should be regarded as such. During the First World War, British soldiers suffering PTSD and stress breakdown were labelled as "cowards" and "deserters". During the Second World War, soldiers suffering PTSD and stress breakdowns were again vilified with these labels; Royal Air Force personnel were labelled as "lacking moral fibre" and their papers stamped "LMF". For further commentary on this issue, click here. It's noticeable that those administrators and top brass enforcing this labelling were themselves always situated a safe distance from the fighting; see the section on projection. The person who is being bullied often thinks they are going mad, and may be encouraged in this belief by those who do not have that person's best interests at heart. They are not going mad; PTSD is an injury, not an illness. Sometimes, the term "psychosis" is applied to mental illness, and the term "neurosis" to psychiatric injury. The main difference is that a psychotic person is unaware they have a mental problem, whereas the neurotic person is aware - often acutely. The serial bully's lack of insight into their behaviour and its effect on others has the hallmarks of a psychosis, although this obliviousness would appear to be a choice rather than a condition. With targets of bullying, I prefer to avoid the words "neurosis" and "neurotic", which for non-medical people have derogatory connotations. Hypersensitivity and hypervigilance are likely to cause the person suffering PTSD to react unfavourably to the use of these words, possibly perceiving that they, the target, are being blamed for their circumstances. A frequent diagnosis of stress breakdown is "brief reactive psychosis", especially if paranoia and suicidal thoughts predominate. However, a key difference between mental breakdown and stress breakdown is that a person undergoing a stress breakdown will be intermittently lucid, often alternating seamlessly between paranoia and seeking information about their paranoia and other symptoms. The person is also likely to be talking about resolving their work situation (which is the cause of their problems), planning legal action against the bully and the employer, wanting to talk to their union rep and solicitor, etc. Transformation A stress breakdown is a transformational experience which, with the right support, can ultimately enrich the experiencer's life. However, completing the transformation can be a long and sometimes painful process. The Western response - to hospitalise and medicalize the experience, thus hindering the process - may be wellintentioned, but may lessen the value and effectiveness of the transformation. How would you feel if, rather than a breakdown, you viewed it as a breakthrough? How would you feel if it was suggested to you that the reason for a stress breakdown is to awaken you to your mission in life and to enable you to discover the reason why you have incarnated on this planet? How would it change your view of things if it was also suggested to you that a stress breakdown reconfigures your brain to enable you to embark on the path that will culminate in the achievement of your mission? [More | More] Differences between mental illness and psychiatric injury The person who is being bullied will eventually say something like "I think I'm being paranoid..."; however they are correctly identifying hypervigilance, a symptom of PTSD, but using the popular but misunderstood word paranoia. The differences between hypervigilance and paranoia make a good starting point for identifying the differences between mental illness and psychiatric injury. Paranoia
• paranoia is a form of mental illness; the cause is thought to be internal, eg a minor variation in the balance of brain chemistry •
is a response to an external event (violence, accident, disaster, violation, intrusion, bullying, etc) and therefore an
100 injury • paranoia tends to endure and to not get better of its own accord the paranoiac will not admit to feeling paranoid, as they cannot see their paranoia • wears off (gets better), albeit slowly, when the person is out of and away from the situation which was the cause the hypervigilant person is acutely aware of their hypervigilance, and will easily articulate their fear, albeit using the incorrect but popularised word "paranoia" drugs are not viewed favourably by hypervigilant people, except in extreme circumstances, and then only briefly; often drugs have no effect, or can make things worse, sometimes interfering with the body's own healing process the hypervigilant person often has a diminished sense of self-worth, sometimes dramatically so the hypervigilant person is often convinced of their worthlessness and will often deny their value to others hypervigilance is seen in conjunction with other symptoms of PTSD, but not in conjunction with symptoms of mental illness the hypervigilant person is aware of how implausible their experience sounds and often doesn't want to believe it themselves (disbelief and denial) the hypervigilant person is hypersensitized but is often aware of the inappropriateness of their heightened sensitivity, and can identify the person responsible for their psychiatric injury heightened sense of vulnerability to victimisation the hypervigilant person's sense of threat is well-founded, for the serial bully is out to get rid of them and has often coerced others into assisting, eg through mobbing; the hypervigilant person often cannot (and refuses to) see that the serial bully is doing everything possible to get rid of them the hypervigilant person is on alert in case there is danger the hypervigilant person cannot bring themselves to believe that the bully cannot and will not see the effect their
• • sometimes responds to drug treatment
the paranoiac often has delusions of grandeur; the delusional aspects of paranoia feature in other forms of mental illness, such as schizophrenia the paranoiac is convinced of their selfimportance paranoia is often seen in conjunction with other symptoms of mental illness, but not in conjunction with symptoms of PTSD the paranoiac is convinced of their plausibility
the paranoiac feels persecuted by a person or persons unknown (eg "they're out to get me") sense of persecution
the sense of persecution felt by the paranoiac is a delusion, for usually no-one is out to get them
the paranoiac is on constant alert because they know someone is out to get them the paranoiac is certain of their belief and their behaviour and expects others to share that certainty
101 behaviour is having; they cling naively to the mistaken belief that the bully will recognise their wrongdoing and apologise
Other differences between mental illness and psychiatric injury include: Mental illness
• • the cause often cannot be identified •
the cause is easily identifiable and verifiable, but denied by those who are accountable the person is often articulate but prevented from articulation by being traumatised the person is obsessive, especially in relation to identifying the cause of their injury and both dealing with the cause and effecting their recovery the person is in a state of acute selfawareness and aware of their state, but often unable to explain it the depression is reactive; the chemistry is different to endogenous depression there is very often no history of depression in the individual or their family often there is no history of mental health problems responds empathically to the needs and concerns of others, despite their own injury is often highly sceptical about their condition and circumstances and is in a state of disbelief and bewilderment which they will easily and often articulate ("I can't believe this is happening to me" and "Why me?" - click here for the answer) may experience an unusually heightened sense of vulnerability to possible victimisation (ie hypervigilance) suicidal thoughts are often a logical and carefully thought-out solution or conclusion is driven by the anger of injustice looks forward to each new day as an opportunity to fight for justice refuses to be beaten, refuses to give up
the person may be incoherent or what they say doesn't make sense
• • the person may appear to be obsessed •
• • • • •
the person is oblivious to their behaviour and the effect it has on others the depression is a clinical or endogenous depression there may be a history of depression in the family the person has usually exhibited mental health problems before may respond inappropriately to the needs and concerns of others
• • • •
• • displays a certitude about themselves, their circumstances and their actions
• • • • •
may suffer a persecution complex
suicidal thoughts are the result of despair, dejection and hopelessness exhibits despair often doesn't look forward to each new day is often ready to give in or admit defeat
• • •
Common features of Complex PTSD from bullying
People suffering Complex PTSD as a result of bullying report consistent symptoms which further help to characterise psychiatric injury and differentiate it from mental illness. These include: Fatigue with symptoms of or similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (formerly ME) An anger of injustice stimulated to an excessive degree (sometimes but improperly attracting the words "manic" instead of motivated, "obsessive" instead of focused, and "angry" instead of "passionate", especially from those with something to fear) An overwhelming desire for acknowledgement, understanding, recognition and validation of their experience A simultaneous and paradoxical unwillingness to talk about the bullying (click here to see why) or abuse (click here to see why) A lack of desire for revenge, but a strong motivation for justice A tendency to oscillate between conciliation (forgiveness) and anger (revenge) with objectivity being the main casualty Extreme fragility, where formerly the person was of a strong, stable character Numbness, both physical (toes, fingertips, and lips) and emotional (inability to feel love and joy) Clumsiness Forgetfulness Hyperawareness and an acute sense of time passing, seasons changing, and distances travelled An enhanced environmental awareness, often on a planetary scale An appreciation of the need to adopt a healthier diet, possibly reducing or eliminating meat - especially red meat Willingness to try complementary medicine and alternative, holistic therapies, etc A constant feeling that one has to justify everything one says and does A constant need to prove oneself, even when surrounded by good, positive people An unusually strong sense of vulnerability, victimisation or possible victimisation, often wrongly diagnosed as "persecution" Occasional violent intrusive visualisations Feelings of worthlessness, rejection, a sense of being unwanted, unlikeable and unlovable A feeling of being small, insignificant, and invisible An overwhelming sense of betrayal, and a consequent inability and unwillingness to trust anyone, even those close to you In contrast to the chronic fatigue, depression etc, occasional false dawns with sudden bursts of energy accompanied by a feeling of "I'm better!", only to be followed by a full resurgence of symptoms a day or two later Excessive guilt - when the cause of PTSD is bullying, the guilt expresses itself in forms distinct from "survivor guilt"; it comes out as:
• • • • • • • • • an initial reluctance to take action against the bully and report him/her knowing that he/she could lose his/her job later, this reluctance gives way to a strong urge to take action against the bully so that others, especially successors, don't have to suffer a similar fate reluctance to feel happiness and joy because one's sense of other people's suffering throughout the world is heightened a proneness to identifying with other people's suffering a heightened sense of unworthiness, undeservingness and non-entitlement (some might call this shame) a heightened sense of indebtedness, beholdenness and undue obligation a reluctance to earn or accept money because one's sense of poverty and injustice throughout the world is heightened an unwillingness to take ill-health retirement because the person doesn't want to believe they are sufficiently unwell to merit it an unwillingness to draw sickness, incapacity or unemployment benefit to which the person is entitled
103 • an unusually strong desire to educate the employer and help the employer introduce an antibullying ethos, usually proportional to the employer's lack of interest in anti-bullying measures a desire to help others, often overwhelming and bordering on obsession, and to be available for others at any time regardless of the cost to oneself an unusually high inclination to feel sorry for other people who are under stress, including those in a position of authority, even those who are not fulfilling the duties and obligations of their position (which may include the bully) but who are continuing to enjoy salary for remaining in post [hint: to overcome this tendency, every time you start to feel sorry for someone, say to yourself "sometimes, when you jump in and rescue someone, you deny them the opportunity to learn and grow"]
Fatigue The fatigue is understandable when you realise that in bullying, the target's fight or flight mechanism eventually becomes activated from Sunday evening (at the thought of facing the bully at work on Monday morning) through to the following Saturday morning (phew - weekend at last!). The fight or flight mechanism is designed to be operational only briefly and intermittently; in the heightened state of alert, the body consumes abnormally high levels of energy. If this state becomes semi-permanent, the body's physical, mental and emotional batteries are drained dry. Whilst the weekend theoretically is a time for the batteries to recharge, this doesn't happen, because:
• • • the person is by now obsessed with the situation (or rather, resolving the situation), cannot switch off, may be unable to sleep, and probably has nightmares, flashbacks and replays; sleep is non-restorative and unrefreshing - one goes to sleep tired and wakes up tired this type of experience plays havoc with the immune system; when the fight or flight system is eventually switched off, the immune system is impaired such that the person is open to viruses which they would under normal circumstances fight off; the person then spends each weekend with a cold, cough, flu, glandular fever, laryngitis, ear infection etc so the body's batteries never have an opportunity to recharge.
When activated, the body's fight or flight response results in the digestive, immune and reproductive systems being placed on standby. It's no coincidence that people experiencing constant abuse, harassment and bullying report malfunctions related to these systems (loss of appetite, constant infections, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, loss of libido, impotence, etc). The body becomes awash with cortisol which in high prolonged doses is toxic to brain cells. Cortisol kills off neuroreceptors in the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked with learning and memory. The hippocampus is also the control centre for the fight or flight response, thus the ability to control the fight or flight mechanism itself becomes impaired. Most survivors of bullying experience symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - see health page for details. Legal In law, gaining compensation for psychiatric injury is a long arduous process which can take five years of more. The areas most commonly quoted are breach of duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), and personal injury. There is little case law for personal injury caused by bullying (although there have been settlements which are subject to gagging clauses). The most frequently quoted case is Walker v. Northumberland County Council  IRLR35 (High Court). John Walker was a social worker dealing with child abuse cases. He suffered a stress breakdown caused by work overload, recovered and went back to work; his employer, having been informed of the cause of his stress breakdown, took no steps to reduce his workload and Mr Walker subsequently suffered a second stress breakdown. The award was made by the courts on the basis of the second stress breakdown. In May 2001 the case of Long v. Mercury Mobile Communications Services resulted in Mr Long (the target of bullying, in this case in the form of a vendetta) winning his case on the basis of a first stress breakdown. This has become the new precedent. The House of Lords judgment in Barber v. Somerset County Council has also set a new precedent. In July 1999 Beverley Lancaster won her case for stress against Birmingham City Council, and in September 2000 in the case of Waters v. London Metropolitan Police the UK House of Lords judged that an employee (or in this
case an office holder) has the right in law to sue for negligence if bullying and harassment which the employer knew about but failed to deal with resulted in psychiatric injury. However, the law at present is clearly inadequate: the better a person qualifies to pursue a claim for personal injury by satisfying PTSD DSM-IV diagnostic criteria B4, B5, C1, C2, C3, D3, E and F, the more they are, ipso facto, frustrated from pursuing the claim B4. intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event; B5. physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event. C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness: C1. efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma; C2. efforts to avoid activities, places or people that arouse recollections of this trauma; C3. inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma; D3. difficulty concentrating; E. The symptoms on Criteria B, C and D last for more than one month. F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The Diagnostic Criteria are exacerbated by the abusive and aggressive behaviour of the bully, the employer, and the employer's legal representatives in their defence and rejection of the claim. In its Consultation Paper on Liability for Psychiatric Illness (No 137) the Law Commission recommended, among other things, that 6.2 There should continue to be liability for negligently inflicted psychiatric illness that does not arise from a physical injury to the plaintiff; 6.15 Damages for psychiatric illness should continue to be recoverable irrespective of whether the psychiatric illness is of a particular severity; 6.20 Subject to standard defences, there should be liability where an employer has negligently overburdened its employee with work thereby foreseeably causing him or her to suffer a psychiatric illness. There are a growing number of personal injury cases (for psychiatric injury caused by bullying) in the pipeline, with the first settled out of court in February 1998. See the case law page for recent cases and settlements. New! Bullying causes PTSD: the legal case Many people, especially guilty parties and their accomplices and lawyers, reject the notion that PTSD can arise from bullying. However, this research proves otherwise:
• European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology (EJWOP), 1996, 5(2), whole issue devoted to bullying and its effects, including PTSD. Published by Psychology Press, 27 Church Road, Hove, East Sussex BN3 2FA, UK. The late Professor Heinz Leymann was one of the first people to identify the symptoms of injury to health caused by bullying as PTSD. Research from Warwick University, England, identifies bullying as a cause of PTSD Bullied workers suffer 'battle stress' and show the same symptoms of armed forces personnel who have been engaged in war
• • •
It is common practice for employers to order targets of bullying to see a psychiatrist of the employers' choosing and to have the employee diagnosed as being "mentally ill" in order to provide grounds for dismissal whilst thwarting a personal injury claim. See BMA: ethics advice and the articles Abuse of Medical Assessments to Dismiss Whistleblowers and Battered Plaintiffs - injuries from hired guns and compliant courts and Giving Workers the Treatment: if you raise a stink, you go to a shrink! Incidence of PTSD and Complex PTSD The number of people suffering PTSD is unknown but David Kinchin estimates in his book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury that at any time around 1% of the population are experiencing PTSD. This figure is only for PTSD resulting from traditional causes such as accident, violence or disaster.
The incidence of Complex PTSD is unknown; with estimates of the number of people being bullied at work in the UK ranging from 1 in 8 (IPD, November 1996) to 1 in 2 (Staffordshire University Business School, 1994), the figure could be as high as 14 million - or more. The silent suffering is considerable; symptoms prevent sufferers from realising their potential and contributing fully to society. Many sufferers are claiming benefit, often reluctantly, as people who suffer Complex PTSD are often hard working and industrious prior to their injury. Anyone who is on benefit and unable to work is also not paying tax and national insurance. Within some groups of society, the incidence of PTSD must be expected to be much higher than one per cent. Within the emergency services (fire, police and ambulance) and the armed forces (army, navy and air force) the incidence of PTSD can be as high as 15 per cent. It is a disturbing probability that out of every hundred police officers currently engaged in uniformed patrol duties in our towns and cities, fifteen will be suffering from symptoms in accord with PTSD. David Kinchin, Author, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Stress Stress is on everybody's minds these days. However, whilst almost everyone seems to feel "stressed", most people are unaware that stress comes in two forms: positive and negative. Positive stress (what Abraham Maslow calls eustress) is the result of good management and excellent leadership where everyone works hard, is kept informed and involved, and - importantly - is valued and supported. People feel in control. Negative stress (what Maslow calls distress) is the result of a bullying climate where threat and coercion substitute for non-existent management skills. When people use the word "stress" on its own, they usually mean "negative stress". I define stress as "the degree to which one feels, perceives or believes one is not in control of one's circumstances". Control - or people's perception of being in control - seems to be key to susceptibility to experiencing PTSD. The UK, and much of the Western world, adopts a blame-the-victim mentality as a way of avoiding having to deal with difficult issues. When dealing with stress it is essential to identify the cause of stress and work to reduce or eliminate the cause. Sending employees on stress management courses may sound good on paper but coercing people to endure more stress without addressing the cause is going to result in further psychiatric injury. Stress is not the employee's inability to cope with excessive workload and excessive demands but a consequence of the employer's failure to provide a safe system of work as required by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Stress is known to cause brain damage. Dr John T O'Brien, consultant in old-age psychiatry at Newcastle General Hospital, published a paper in March 1997 entitled "The glucocorticoid cascade hypothesis in man" (and presumably woman), helpfully subtitled "Prolonged stress may cause permanent brain damage". If Dr O'Brien's research proves correct, then employers who encourage stressful regimes comprising long hours, threat and coercion might soon find themselves on the wrong end of a string of expensive personal injury lawsuits. Further discussion of stress is on the health page.
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