Have you heard of the Tall Poppy Syndrome? In Australia, where poppies grow, they for the most part grow to the same height. Every once in a while, one poppy grows higher than the rest. What do you think they do? You got it…they come along and chop the poppy down to match all the others. This is the same methodology a bully will take with a superstar or high achiever.
Workplace bullies by nature are very insecure people. It is their mission to not be “found out” as they delude themselves into a false sense of power while they secretly plot to subjugate their target. Superstar employees are frequently the targets of bullying at work.
The insecurity of workplace bullies is far reaching. They feel socially inadequate, behaviorally and morally. While they present a public image of superiority, supremacy and bravado, underneath it all they feel profoundly inadequate. Workplace bullies, rather than facing their inferiorities, choose instead to lash out at people who threaten their superiority.
When competent, bright, self-assured people enter the domain of workplace bullies, their bullying strategy is to attack rather than avoid. This gives them a sense of power and control, convincing them that despite their deep inadequacies they still rule.
What Do Bullies Do To Superstars?
Bullies at work use a myriad of covert methods to sabotage the competent employee. They spread rumors, misrepresent the accomplishment of the target, and often take credit for the target’s work. They gossip about the individual. All of this chicanery is used to prop up their need for feeling ‘better than’. You may have worked very hard on a project or assignment only to be snubbed by a bully, or maybe you were put down with a comment such as ‘stop taking the limelight’ or ‘there are other people who want to contribute here, tone it down’. This is not an effective leadership strategy! No one does better when we think less of them. Be aware of these tactics and know it comes from the bully’s insecurities. A great leader would thank you. A great leader or co-worker would acknowledge you. A great leader would not try and shut you down, even if you were on the wrong track; they’d re-direct your enthusiasm.
Bullies at work will frequently constrain the work of their employees. How? By piling unreasonable amounts of work on a target, restricting budget, constantly criticizing, and anything else to undermine the target’s success and sense of competency. Being in control by wielding power is an addiction for workplace bullies.
They will be unreasonable in their demands, so they can witness the failure of someone else, giving them a sinister rush as they witness the failure of one who is more competent.
Workplace bullies assume the role of overlord as they demand that the target produce something out of nothing. Workplace bullies enjoy watching the target ‘sweat under the load’. They cover up their own sense of nothingness by their repetitive, intoxicating power fix.
By constantly criticizing competent employees, workplace bullies don’t feel so lonely in their haunting self-criticism. In undermining the competent employee, workplace bullies convince themselves that they are still able to subjugate another, despite their brutal self-perception.
Some workplace bullying targets are savvy enough to see through the ‘bullying game’ and find ways to outsmart their nemesis. Eventually however, they are likely to look for greener pastures, refusing to endure the aggravation.
However, others, who do not recognize the game or choose not to compete with the bully, are not so fortunate. They will try harder and harder to please, but to no avail. Eventually they will be worn down by the bully and begin to sustain severe psychological damage.
Competent employees who become targets of bullying in the workplace are very often ethical, just, fair and honorable people. Naively, many of them expect the same of others as well. Sadly they become fodder for hungry workplace bullies waiting to satisfy their compulsion for control.
Workplace bullies need to be ‘brought to heel’ by exposing their Machiavellian tactics and seeing them for who they are. Employers and law-makers cannot afford to ignore this workplace epidemic any longer. They must act now to protect their brightest and best from unnecessary and deliberate ruination.
If you are a superstar, and feel that you are becoming a target of bullying in the workplace, know that you have every right to continue being the superstar in everything you do. You are more than the workplace bully’s low self-image; you are a ‘superstar’.
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Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to http://www.BullyFreeAtWork.com
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