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kickbully - where your fight begins

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kickbully home

Identifying bullies:
Level the playing field
Master manipulator
Identifying the bully
Visible traits
Hidden traits
Subtle signs
Toxic workplace

Fighting bullies:
Preparing to fight
Basic methods
Best responses
Tools for fighting
Useful weapons
Custom approach

Anti-bully stuff:
User comments
Wall of lists
Good books
Useful links
Copyright 2009
by Dave Chapman.
All rights reserved.

Preparing Yourself to Respond
Are you ready to fight back against a bully at your job? Its tempting to
confront him immediately, now that you understand his motivations and
recognize his behaviors. But that usually isnt a good idea. It will be
difficult enough to deal with the bully without adding lack of preparation.
Thats not to say that you couldnt respond right now. It might even
work out well. Perhaps he has little power in the company, or he is
already on his way out. Or you might have another job lined up. In
these situations, your quick action could be rewarded with a dramatic
improvement in your quality of life.
But otherwise its better to hold your fire, particularly if the bully is highly
skilled and well-entrenched. Try to make the best of your situation-consider it more training for battle.
This section covers mental and financial preparation, after which you
can prepare a strategy for fighting back, covered in the next section. In
later sections, you will learn specific techniques for confronting and
exposing a bully.

Fighting back against a workplace bully is serious

business. Make sure you have thought through all the
ramifications before you begin.

Mental preparation
You are likely to experience many ups and downs as you battle a
workplace bully. To be effective, you need a resilient attitude. That will
allow you to endure difficult circumstances without feeling perpetually
overwhelmed, and will make you far more effective in your daily
interactions with the bully.
When you display a positive demeanor, it shows everyone--especially
the bully--that you arent bothered by his aggressive tactics. You may
even convey slight amusement at his more obvious bullying behaviors.
By displaying calmness and poise, and staying in good humor, you
become a more difficult target.

Going it alone
Expect to be on your own in your fight with a workplace bully, with no
support from within the company.
Do you have co-workers you consider close friends? Perhaps they will
stay loyal to you, but dont count on it. They are more likely to distance
themselves from your problems, hoping to preserve their own position
and opportunities.
It is wise to assume that management (HR department and executives)
will support the bully rather than the bullys targets. If this turns out not
to be the case, you will be pleasantly surprised.
You should also prepare for the possibility that fighting a bully will get
you fired. If you are alone in fighting a bully, management has an easy
opportunity to resolve the situation. Are you prepared to lose your job?
Do you have another job lined up? Or can you survive financially during
the time it takes to find a new job? If not, caution is prudent.

People grow through experience if they meet life honestly

and courageously. This is how character is built.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Which approach will you take?

Initially, you are probably better off planning a conservative approach to
fighting a workplace bully. This involves using some of the more subtle
techniques described on this website
Later, as you identify possible job opportunities, or begin establishing a
financial war chest, you may want to be a little more aggressive. And if
you are prepared to be abruptly fired, you can take a bold approach.
Never forget that you may be dealing with a ruthless manipulator. If you
act in an emotional, haphazard way, you are playing to his strengths.
Instead, you must control the game through careful planning and
deliberate actions. Then commit yourself to a calm and consistent
course of action.



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Preparing mentally
To some extent, everything on this website is intended to help you
prepare mentally. Through knowledge of self, knowledge of the bully
and knowledge of real-world techniques, you can develop the
confidence and expertise to fight back.

Emotional roller coaster

More specifically, you must gain, and then maintain, control of your
attitude and emotions. If you are currently being bullied at work, you
may already be on an emotional roller coaster.
One day, the bully offers supportive compliments, causing you to feel
enthusiastic about your job and your future; the next day, he criticizes
you so harshly that you sink into a funk, wondering if you will ever
become successful in your career. Or perhaps you were enjoying a
good relationship with the bully, but then you learned he had been
undermining you behind your back.

Is the bully controlling your emotions?

You may feel intimidated by his bouts of anger, or increasingly
frustrated by his attempts to control you. Maybe you just have the
vague sense of being manipulated. All of these factors impact your
attitude, reducing your ability to think clearly as you plan a response to
Before you can even consider fighting back, you must discipline your
emotions; otherwise you are giving him the power to control your
mental state. Dealing with a workplace bully can be difficult enough
without offering him an easy opportunity to dominate your thinking.

Who is in control of your emotions? If a workplace bully is

pushing your hot buttons, you will be in no condition to deal
with him in a calm and confident manner.

Personal philosophy
A valuable first step in preparing to fight back is to develop a strong
personal philosophy about the challenge facing you, one that will
provide you with a steadfast attitude. By adopting a clear perspective
and courageous outlook on the situation, you will be better prepared to
survive even the longest battle, regardless of the ongoing successes
and failures, or the ultimate result.

Creating an invincible attitude

Developing a rock-solid attitude is rarely an instant event. You must
systematically work your way through the process of gaining a clear
perspective on the situation, preparing for the worst that may come,
and committing to see it through.
But first you might want to vent a little.

Steps to an invincible attitude:


Get some perspective
Prepare for the worst
Commit to see it through

Step One: Start with a little venting

Even though it is tempting to lose your temper and yell insults at a
workplace bully, dont do it. You would be playing into his hands and
harming your ability to effectively fight back.
Nevertheless, you may need to vent some anger and frustration. The
following may help, but wait until you are alone and not within earshot
of anyone else.
Short version to vent at a bully:
Youre a backstabbing, condescending, conniving, manipulative

Long version to vent at a bully:

Youre a pushy, controlling, judgmental, nitpicking, fault-finding,
blame-shifting, double-crossing, hypocritical, egotistical, selfabsorbed, self-centered, self-important, self-righteous, irrational,
unreasonable son-of-a-bitch!

Step Two: Get some perspective

A workplace bully wants you to be emotionally overwhelmed. When you
are flustered by his attacks, he can better control you. Gaining
perspective is a big step towards gaining control of your emotions. Start
by considering these questions:

Identify your workplace culture

What are the essential rules for conduct? What are the acceptable and
unacceptable patterns of behavior, and the inherent beliefs and values?
What are the prevailing approaches to communication and social



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interaction? Are relationships driven by a formal, rigid hierarchy or adhoc interactions?

Who has the greatest power? Second and third greatest? How much
power is held by others in the firm, individually and collectively?
How dominant is this workplace culture? Is it in a state of flux? Has it
evolved much during the past few years? Are there any major threats
facing the company? How are executives responding to these threats?
Has upper management ever fired someone for mistreating
employees? Is there currently a bully who appears to have the support
of upper management? Has anyone complained about the bully? What
was the result? Is there any chance the bully will be harshly disciplined
or fired in the future?
Do top executives display the types of leadership skills required to
recognize the problems of workplace bullying and change the
companys culture for the better?

Understand the results of losing

What are the chances it will be a losing battle? How would you be
impacted? Can you handle the downside of losing? Can you avoid or
overcome a sense of powerlessness, a sense of social isolation, or
feelings of incompetence, frustration and despair?

Evaluate the rewards of winning

Do you want to work there in the long term? Is it worth the effort to
conquer a workplace bully? Is your job really worth fighting for? Could
you better spend your energy in improving your work-related knowledge
and skills, and then find another job?

Evaluate the alternatives to fighting

Can you avoid a workplace bully, stay in your current position, and
maintain your dignity and happiness? Can you transfer elsewhere in the
company without retaliation from the bully? Should you find a new job
instead of fighting?

Face your fears about changing jobs

How difficult will it be to look for another job? Can you commit to doing
whatever it takes? Has a bully already convinced you that you are
incompetent and unemployable at your current salary level? (I once
heard a callous bully explain why he wasnt concerned about an
employee quitting: Its not like anyone else would hire him.)

Understand the risks of doing nothing

Is doing nothing a possible solution, or would things get worse? Will
you become infected by negativity if you stay in your current job? Will
your problems at work harm your personal life?
You should seriously consider whether inaction on your part would lead
to far more problems than confronting a workplace bully.

Step Three: Prepare for the worst

When you expect the worst, you are less likely to be disappointed.
Dont be too surprised by the ruthlessness of a workplace bullys
actions, the total lack of support from your co-workers, or the rewards
and honors bestowed upon the bully. You shouldnt be shocked when
the bully, a few weeks after you expose his diabolical plot against you,
receives a huge bonus --just when you thought he was about to be
Prepare for the worst. Then no matter how nasty things get, you can
keep your cool. Instead of being miserable, you can adjust your
strategy and continue the process of dealing with the bully to your best

Assume the worst from the bully

When you expect the worst from a bully, you are less likely to accept
him at face value and more likely to recognize his bullying behaviors.
Dont plan on a normal, cooperative relationship. Watch for him to
manipulate you, deceive you, or even slander you. Once you begin
fighting back, expect him to aggressively try to diminish your power and
harm your reputation in the company. Dont be surprised if he becomes
belligerent and vindictive in the process.
Always remember that a skilled, aggressive bully is capable of the
worst of workplace behaviors.

Assume that others will disappoint you

Dont expect your co-workers to stand with you in confronting a bully.
Loyalty and friendship can quickly vanish in the stress and turmoil of a
toxic workplace, particularly when a powerful bully is on a rampage.
Your co-workers will be intimidated into silence when their own jobs
and careers are at stake.
Alternatively, your co-workers may remain unaware of the deceitful,
manipulative nature of the bully. If they are good, cooperative people,
theyll probably give him the benefit of the doubt, accepting the fiction



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that either its just a personality conflict or that you are a negative,
disruptive influence for complaining about the bully.
You may later see these co-workers victimized by the same workplace
bully. Then they will see things your way, although it will probably be
too late to do you--or them--any good.
You should also expect some co-workers to betray you and others to
bad-mouth you behind your back. They may even blame you for
problems caused by the bully. Expect to feel a gut-wrenching loss of
trust and camaraderie, resulting in isolation from your co-workers.
You should also expect the worst from your family and friends. Dont
plan on getting any sympathy at home. If your spouse, children and
closest friends havent experienced the pain of nasty workplace
bullying, they are unlikely to understand your predicament. Because of
their lack of understanding, they may offer you ineffective advice, or
even criticize you when you most need their unconditional support.
(Asking them to look at this website could open their eyes to your

Expect a nasty battle

By gearing up for a long, unpleasant battle with a workplace bully, you
will be prepared for anything. Maybe things will get resolved early, but if
it becomes a battle of endurance, you will have a much better chance
of coming out on top.
Remember that during a lengthy struggle, you are likely to make a
number of mistakes. There will be many twists and turns as the
situation evolves, with nasty surprises along the way. Expect things to
get much worse before they start to get better.
You should also acknowledge the possibility that you will lose
perspective along the way. You may become emotionally overwhelmed
or discouraged. With recurring frustration and failure, it can be a
struggle to regain control of your emotions. Emotional isolation will
make it even worse.
Be prepared to draw on reserves from deep within yourself in order to
return to a relaxed, positive attitude.

Identify the ultimate value

Now that you are prepared for the worst, you can relax. Stop worrying
about the future. Learn to appreciate the challenges. Look for the
opportunities that arise from your battle with a bully.
There may be long-term benefits in terms of personal growth. You can
develop the skill and poise to deal with challenges in the future, or
heightened emotional intelligence that improves every aspect of your
You can learn to make the most of every situation, no matter how
difficult. After repeated setbacks, you can learn to rebound quickly.
Instead of regretting the past and becoming embittered, you can learn
from your experiences and become empowered. If things get bad
enough, it may force a major rethinking of your lifes purpose. When it is
over, you will be a better, stronger and wiser person.
You can learn more about your relationships, including the quality of
your current friendships. You will learn to appreciate that rarest of
things, a genuine, loyal friend. Through this process, you can become a
better judge of people and what to look for in future friends. You can
also learn what to look for in future employers.
Winning doesnt necessarily mean you will stay in your current job.
Most importantly, you will have dealt with your fears, behaved with
integrity and stood up for your rights.
You may want to repeat this a few times every day: I appreciate the
many opportunities this job provides me for personal growth.

Step Four: Commit to see it through

What is the bullys level of commitment? You must match or exceed
that if you want to win.

Mildly committed bullies

In the mildest form, a bully only goes after convenient targets. His
ambition is limited to making himself feel more powerful as a short-term
ego boost. In this case, you dramatically improve your situation by
standing up to him, a relatively simple strategy requiring little
commitment on your part.
He prefers to exploit those whose responses to his bullying are weak
and submissive. You only need to differentiate yourself. Just gently
confront any aggressive behavior that comes your way, and the bully
will leave you alone and go find an easier target.

Relentless bullies
At the other extreme, the bully may be relentless in his quest for power.
That means he is probably committed to either controlling you or forcing
you out of the company. If you go up against him with a halfhearted
resolve to fight, he will almost certainly prevail.



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To have any hope of victory against an ambitious bully, you must

commit to see it through. He is highly motivated and you should be too.
After all, your job is at stake.
You know what you have to do. Dont get emotional about it; its only
business. You can feel good that you have taken the high road. With
honest motives, personal integrity and straightforward dealings, you are
guaranteed of success. Even if you are fired.
Let me put it this way: I would rather fight and lose to a hundred bullies
than spend one day in their position, knowing that for personal gain I
have compromised the most basic ethic of treating people fairly.

Letting the bully self-destruct

You should never consider long-term submission as a healthy solution.
But you may be able to stomach the situation long enough to watch the
bully create so many enemies that he must leave the company. Over
the years, Ive observed several individuals with a great deal of inner
strength survive a series of bullies.

Financial preparation
Lets face it: taking on a workplace bully can get you fired, or drive you
the point of quitting. Take some time to consider the consequences.
Are financial pressures making you desperate to hang on to your job? If
so, you will be in no position to calmly and effectively fight a bully.
So whats the solution?
You could line up a new job in advance, but your new employer will
probably want you to start within a reasonable time period. That wont
give you much opportunity to fight a bully. Still, if your company is truly
toxic and battling a bully is likely to be a futile endeavor, leaving is
probably the best answer.
On the other hand, if you believe it is worth the struggle, or if you just
want to test yourself on the battlefield, you should consider reorganizing
your finances. Then you wont be so concerned with the downside of
losing to the bully.

Lining up a new job

There is the possibility that a vindictive workplace bully will harm your
ability to find a new job. Lets say, for example, that as you fight back,
you either get to the point of being fired or you resign before finding a
new job. In this situation, the bully may provide negative feedback on
your performance to any prospective new employers.
And you probably wont have any recourse, because he can cleverly
paint a negative picture of you without being explicit. He may damn you
through faint praise or use subtle innuendo. For example, if asked
about your level of commitment, he could say: Well, at least ____
showed up to work every day.
For this reason, you may be better off lining up a new job before you
get too far down the road in fighting a workplace bully.

No griping
When you talk to prospective employers, be careful not to complain
about your current situation. Instead, explain your motivation in positive
terms. Explain that you are generally satisfied with your current job but
you are seeking to improve your prospects, that you believe they offer
more opportunity for advancement. Dont mention that you cant stand
your boss.
Try to find companies you admire, then describe that admiration as
your reason for interviewing. Alternatively, you could simply explain that
you want a job closer to home.

Employment agencies and recruiters

You may want to enlist the help of an employment agency or
professional recruiter. Find an experienced professional who
understands your skills and ambitions. He should be able to arrange
confidential interviews.
Theres usually no reason to tell the recruiter of your difficulties in
dealing with a bully. If it comes up, make it clear that your main focus is
on personal advancement, not escaping from a difficult relationship,
and ask them not to share your dilemma with potential employers. Your
positive attitude will go a long way towards enabling the recruiter to find
you the best possible opportunity.
On occasion, a bullys reputation may precede him. In a closely knit
business community or specific industry, recruiters may have recurring
opportunities from the same company, both filling vacancies and
helping unhappy employees find jobs. Recruiters usually figure out that
a bully is involved. If the recruiter has heard of your boss, he will
understand your motivations.

A highly effective method of finding good jobs is to work through your
network of friends and former co-workers. By getting a personal



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introduction to a prospective employer, you are more likely to find a

company worthy of your commitment and to get a job offer.
Make job-hunting an ongoing part of your weekly routine. Study
relevant books and create a personal job search plan. Make use of jobfinding websites. Investigate the latest in social networking sites as a
job-finding tool.
Set aside two or three hours each week to carry out your plan. It
doesnt take much more than that. In fact, it may be as simple as using
an occasional lunch break to advance your plans: search web sites,
study companies, and call or meet recruiters, peers, potential
employers, or even people you admire in your line of work who can give
you advice on career advancement. If you talk to enough people,
something is likely to come along. Remember that when it comes to job
hunting, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Fighting after finding a new job

With the right new employer, you can request some time to wrap up
your existing job. This could free you up to try more assertive tactics
with the workplace bully. (But if your new employer asks you what
needs to be wrapped up, dont laugh like a villain and say: Because
vengeance will be mine.)
On the other hand, youre probably better off leaving right away. There
are obvious advantages to immediately escaping a stressful situation.

Reorganizing your finances

Its important to be realistic: if you are buried in debt with a family to
support, fighting a workplace bully may not be for you. However, when
it is more a question of lifestyle, you could consider making major
You may be living in a comfortable home in a great neighborhood, but if
youre miserable at work, is it truly worth it? Wouldnt you rather
sacrifice some unessential pleasures in order to find flexibility and
fulfillment in your career?
Try to imagine making major changes to reduce your current lifestyle
and build up a larger nest egg. Not worth it? Then maybe you arent
ready to take on a bully at work.

Getting family on board

Once you decide that a fulfilling career takes priority over a comfortable
lifestyle, you can begin the process of educating your family. Ask them
if theyre willing to sacrifice for a couple of years, until your work
situation is back on track.
If they show no sympathy for your plight, you may be left with no viable
options except to endure the current situation or find a new job.

Financial independence
If your family fully supports you, or youre single with nothing to lose,
you can get serious about achieving a greater degree of financial
independence. There are many excellent books on this subject, with a
primary emphasis on more disciplined spending and saving habits, in
combination with debt reduction.

Avoiding sharks
By the time you finish preparing for the worst, you may have convinced
yourself it isnt worth the fight. Theres a very good chance thats true.
I once heard a shark expert asked: What should you do when youre
swimming in the ocean and see a shark approaching? He answered:
Get out of the water.
Sometimes the best answer is the most obvious one. Consider the
happiness of yourself and your family before taking on a powerful bully.
Maybe you can escape the situation before he pulls you under.
But if you decide to fight back, make sure you have some powerful
shark repellent handy.
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