Helping You Cope With & Stop



Hooked Into The Bully’s Plans and Not Your Own?

Remember, the bully has a plan. A plan to have power over you. Also remember this is not your fault. You didn’t cause it, you cannot control it and you can’t cure it. This is a popular phrase used with people with addictions and their loved ones. It’s the loved ones that often feel responsible to ‘make things better’ and all around the world loved ones are coached to internalize this: This addictive behavior is not about you. Consider yourself the loved one when dealing with workplace bullies.

When a bully hooks their bait for you to take, go straight instead of taking the bait. What does this mean?

Do you ever feel this way? The bully attacks you with a statement and this leaves you feeling like you have to defend yourself and you get caught up in wondering what to say…AND completely forget about yourself, your own plans and your own path. Do this over and over again and a target may lose a sense of themselves. It’s okay; if you recognize this pattern now, you can decide to try something new…today. Here it is:

Situation: Target is cornered and attacks the bully’s bait with blame.  No win.

  • Bully: “If you really cared about your job, you wouldn’t be so slow in getting month end done.”
  • Target: “What do you mean, slow?  I’m not slow.  I go as fast as I can.”
  • Bully: “Well, then explain to me why these reports are never completed on time.”
  • Target: “It’s not my fault that you’re short staffed”.

Try this instead: Target is cornered and replies directly to the attack, gaining the upper hand and causing confusion for the bully.

  • Bully:  “If you really cared about your job, you wouldn’t be so slow in getting month end done.”
  • Target:  “When did you start thinking I didn’t care?”

Here’s the key! By asking “when” questions, you catch the bully off guard.  They are not expecting you to go ‘straight’; they are expecting you to take their bait.

So, practice asking ‘when’ questions to catch the bully off-guard and see what happens!

PS:  Did you know that our book Bully Free at Work is distributed in over 100 countries worldwide? If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, it might just be the time!


*Note: Your name and email will not ever appear, it is strictly used to prevent spam comments.

6 responses to “Hooked Into The Bully’s Plans and Not Your Own?”

  1. Kate says:

    Sherry – I too am in a hostile work environment that includes 1) a small group of employees making false accusations against me that would result in my termination (I’ve spoken with HR and volunteered for a peer review of both my accusers as well as other department employees so there was a fair playing ground – HR found no merit to these accusations and reported that to my management). 2) one of these employees regularly engages in off work activities with my Director. This employee admitted to my Director that he is purposefully doing things to retaliate against me and create a hostile work environment. I had the support of my immediate management until this employee engaged a union president into his plan to get me fired by false accusations. This employee also has enlisted a 3rd department union employee and a outside department union employee who have picked up his ball/cause and have begun to make false accusations against me to my Director and Assistant director. As a result of the orchastrated “plan” I had a nervous breakdown (single parent, single income, my source of income was being threatened directly) and went into outpatient hospitalization. I was granted Family Medical Leave for the duration of my time off but my next review reflected a negative performance evaluation (the first in 14 years of employment) with no explanation and no disscussion about performance concerns from my director or assistant director. There was also no opportunity for me to have a dialog with my director or assistant director with my side of their concerns. The statement on my performance evaluation was documented, signed, I signed and added hand written documentation on the review “acknowledged receiving the performance evaluation” (note I did not address the negative comments – I only acknowledge receiving the evaluation). The statements were directed about my performance deficits that occured during my approved FML and documented a made up negative impact to a project and as a result of my poor performance my role was reassigned to another employee. (approved Family medical leave allows employees legally to be gone from their employment for up to 12 weeks a year and cannot result a poor performance evaluation as a result of my leave during that time). A federal law was broken and I had a document to prove it. My next course of action was to go to HR and address my concerns about what has been happening in my department, all the facts (that I could back up), and the result of me being hospitalized as well as now receiving a poor performance evaluation about my approved FML hospitalization the stress caused and that I was concerned for my employment as well as the legal ramifications of this document. The HR Director took a copy of my performance review discussed it with our legal council and my performance review was rewritten (I have the original document still secured). The HR director also discussed with my immediate executive management the need to address the hostile work situation I am in, and the now documented retaliation my mangement team was taking against me. The HR Director also discussed with them any and all forms of retaliation that would be considered illegal to my management against me and not to engage in it. I sat down with my manager (the assistant director) with the HR director and we discussed MY side of all the above incidents (something they were not interested in doing themselves). and the impact of the employee’s behavior and the lack of support I felt from my immediate management team (I was also put on the budget cut list which became public through the rumor mill). I shared that the accusations were false and that my side of the accusations were never asked for which is unfair and because they led to my hospitalization and possible job termination and poor performance evaluation there is an appearance that these employees and my mangement were in fact acting upon “gossip and bullying” and the whistleblower was going to get fired (me). At one point in time I was called an asshole to my face by one of the employees and there was no consequence to that employee (I am a middle manager – female). So fast forward a year and my managers (Director or Assistant Director) rarely speak with me, rarely answer my valid work input, monitor my emails, video tape me in my office (I suspect audio recordings however I cannot prove it and it would be illegal), monitor my calls. I am still on approved intermittent Family Medical Leave due to the a diagnosis of exposure to long term stress (PTSD diagnosis) from my work situation. I have 3 physican documents to back this up plus my FML documentation and the illegal performance evaluation. The employees still engage in passive aggressive behavior towards me and this website has given me some tools to begin to move foward. I am 51 and instead of enjoying job security and contributing to a productive work product and finishing my career with this employer I am mentally and emotionally beginning to heal so I can start looking for a new job at 51. I only associate with employees that are positive and supportive. I do not engage with my bully’s and I am very politically correct with my immediate management. My doctor believes my PTSD will decrease/eliminate when I am out of this hostile work environment and in a healthy work environment. I am taking small steps towards health recovery and supporting my 11 year old daughter and 25 year old disabled son (got a lot on my plate to add a unstable job to it right?) Im taking back control of my situation where I can and doing alot of self care right now in preparation to look for a new employer or a new career (at 51?!?). It’s not fair that Im the one that has to leave but I’ve accepted that I cannot change other people or their attitudes or agendas. I can only work as hard as I can, I document everything I do at work (time in, time out, work accomplisments, negative situations). I also started noting when I accomplish something positive at work even though no one else cares or notices. my advice to you is to focus on your needs, keep detailed documentation, read the bully tips on this website, and take back control over your work environment in the areas you can – you’re worth more than the situation your in and you are valuable and deserve to be in a work environment that values and rewards productive contributions and is a healthy supportive environment.

  2. says:

    I don’t think I would try to get a bully off guard by asking “when did you start thinking I didn’t care about my job!” Because it invites more of an attack….. The more and more I deal with bullies it seems that the he’s approach is to completely ignore them and sing a happy song in your head repeating positive affirmations to yourself – sometimes silence is the best response and that much I agree with when Valerie states you do not have to defend yourself or engage a bully. My new approach is to try silence

  3. Sherry says:

    My Boss abused their authority by messing up my performance appraisal review and putting me into a PIP (Performance Improvement Program) to keep me where I am. I am stuck – what they wrote on my PIP was all fabricated and it is their words against mine. I have been dismissed 4 times in the same unit from Level 5 to level 4 and level 3 and then I was moved from 4 Managers in the same department. I was an “Excellent” worker then in just 3 months I became “Needs Improvement” within my 6 months of training, then I was again “Distinguished” and in 3 months they pull me back to Quality to prevent me from getting my annual incentive bonus; all my achievements, volunteers and initiatives were ignored. I was humiliated for the past 7 years and my career was ruined as well as my reputation. But I cannot quit now that I know what is going on and who the players are but it is very difficult when you are all alone with no one to back you up except my documentations… How can I stay without sacrificing my health? Where should I go after I was told my concerns were serious allegations and unfounded. They are covering up for each other. I was forced to take stress leave for they put too much pressure on me – harassing me. My doctor’s note and letter was denied that I did not get paid for 5 weeks. I am back to work for I can’t afford living without income and the behavior still continues – no one seems to monitor them and they do whatever they want. What is your advice and strategy on how I can face this challenge?

  4. Ruby says:

    I would have to read your book and practically memorize what to say; I’m always caught off guard by attacks and the things they do, yet I understand to not be provoked by the bully. I usually can walk away and be low-key, but it just gives permission to the bully to keep acting badly. I am a professional and I just never expect someone to treat me the way bullies do. Now I am thinking about staying out of my normal work altogether, and entering into a new industry where I am skilled, all the while taking on an outside, personal business because it never hurts to have a few eggs in different baskets to make sure income keeps flowing. Employment doesn’t end at age 45 or 56, I am older in my tender age and am employable, have great skills, and due to my age I’m seen as reliable, mature in attitude, experienced.

  5. Niamh Leonard says:

    Unfortunately I’ve had a similar event occur for me Best strategy is to focus on any breach of dignity at work

  6. wallace owen says:

    To whom it may concern I just found out about workplace bullying in november and I have been receiving your help gmails and that settled me down for a little bit and it brought to my attention that it wasn’t me that I was being bullied. I have putting up with this behavior from the same boss for almost 5 years. I just thought I couldn’t please the man. I have tried to have it stopped though my union to no avail, I called a lawyer and he says there are no laws against bullying and if I can’t prove harrassment by the codes of the eeoc he says I need to get the union involved more and the union says you need to get a lawyer and now I have been falsely accused of insubordination and have another charge of insubordination in november that wasn’t resolved yet through greivance procedure and now im on the outside looking in just wishing there was something I could do to get it stopped. I had the union press charges of harrassment back in august of 2008. 2weks later I was falsely accused of insubordination and because of my actions at the time it happened I was suspended 5 days but the one in november my union steward thougt we had resolved and I was not informed I was being insubordinate or charged with insubordination until the next day. Also one point that I think pushed my boss into making a false claim against me was I informed him in front of my union steward that I was tired of being insulted and degraded and belittled and I told him one more time I was going up front about it and then the next day surprise I’m being suspended for 3 days more. All in retaliation, like I said the union is no help and I can’t afford to lose my job because of the health benefits and it would be hard to find another that pays as well and i’m. In my early 50s and starting over is pretty rough I like never found this job. And 6years ago when I was 45 jobs seemed real hard to come by because of my age. So I’m. In a pretty difficult position and I wonder if there’s any suggestions on you end that could help me. Sincerely. Wallace owen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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

© Bully Free at Work. All rights reserved: All trademarks used or referred to on this site are the property of their respective owners. No materials on this site may be reproduced, altered, or further distributed without Bully Free at Work’s prior permission.