(Slightly adapted from Victims of CSIRO http://victimsofcsiro.com/2012/09/03/310/#comments )
When you are bullied at work, you soon learn that the Department of Education and Public Service polices are simply being ignored by Bad Apple Bully principals and public servants, and that nobody cares.
The Public Service Bad Apple Bullies know the REAL Public Service Code of Conduct -
- Pick on the most vulnerable target first – this will enhance your reputation with the next most vulnerable for a no-nonsense interaction style.
- Pick your targets selectively, you need to keep them isolated.
- Treat MOST people well – that way, when your targets complain, no-one will believe them, or others will try to convince them that their emotional responses to you are inappropriately based on misunderstanding.
- Those who give comfort and support to targets are like those who give comfort to terrorists. Distract them, warn them away, or punish them as necessary. If you are particularly skilled, you can even discourage your targets’ colleagues from informing them of the existence of even the official ineffective channels of complaint.
Effective Bullying strategies
- Feign offence, hurt, or anger randomly. Keep your targets on their toes.
- If your targets don’t respond to passive aggressive behaviour, make vague accusations of wrongdoing, and don’t be specific. Keep your targets guessing what THEY are supposed to have done “wrong”.
- Don’t make your threats specific either – keep your targets assuming the worst possible.
- If any complaints about your behaviour are raised, try to behave reasonably by at least understanding the substance of the complaint. However, the most important thing is to discover the IDENTITY of the complainant, in order to know who should have their credibility undermined and be punished for causing a disruption.
- You will achieve the greatest effect for least effort if you bully while the target is already stressed.
- As much as possible, ensure that whatever you say to target has a benign interpretation as well as a threatening one – this will confuse them and they may start to doubt their own judgement.
- Smile mysteriously when talking to targets. Later you will be able to claim that you were joking.
- Never acknowledge your target’s emotional distress. Later you will be able to pretend you were completely unaware.
- Whatever means your target uses to resolve conflict, criticise their choice of process. For example, if they raise the issue formally or put it in writing, berate them for making more of the issue that it is and not trying to resolve it privately first. If the target tries to resolve the issue verbally or informally, dismiss it as being obviously too unimportant to raise formally.
- Give your targets the impression that your colleagues either encourage, or tacitly condone, your behaviour – or at the very minimum, do not want to get involved. Imply that your political friends will be the ones investigating any complaints.
Maintaining appearances and deflecting scrutiny
- Treat your superiors in the hierarchy with charm and deference. (Not, of course, the way you treat your targets.)
- Never, ever put anything in writing – even email. It makes it far easier to claim misinterpretation, or even better, plausible deniability of knowledge of the matter completely.
- Save your most intimidating behaviour for in private – you don’t want witnesses, or people who might support the target in private.
- Undermine your target’s credibility by hinting, or stating, that they are poor performers, not team players, or troublemakers.
- Ensure that your political friends investigate any complaints about bullying. Failing that, ensure investigators that insist on the highest possible standards of proof before accepting any facts. Because you have never put anything in writing, or have witnesses for your behaviour, you can always claim that you were misunderstood.
- Grievance procedures are your friend. Note that the existence of slow, drawn out, grievance procedures are more effective protection for bullying than having no procedure at all. Not only will they ensure that any complaints remain confidential, you can then also give the impression to bullees that everyone involved in the process is your political ally. Because you have kept them isolated, they will believe you.
- While your targets are mired in process, punish them for causing you trouble. Even better, have them made redundant. This will enhance your reputation with your subordinates as a no-nonsense manager. Confidential grievance processes are excellent for this, since you can imply that you have gotten away with something unspeakable. Without information to the contrary, your subordinates will fear the worst, but also will have no evidence on which to base a formal complaint, or in fact even to discuss with others for support without sounding like paranoid conspiracy theorists.
- When in doubt, deny.
General Management Style
- Never give explanations for your decisions and habitually discourage subordinates for asking for reasons – this will train your subordinates into accepting unjust decisions.
- Make rules, preferably ones that are contradictory. Put them into policy. Enforce them arbitrarily.
- Enforce most boundaries with enthusiasm, but make it clear that you will gladly generously bend the rules for subordinates who curry your favour.
- Insist on confidentiality at random for the most trivial to the most controversial items of information. You will train your subordinates to self-police, and they will tend to err on the side of conservatism in order to avoid the hassle.
- Discourage complaints by isolating and belittling the complainant. Tell targets that no-one else has raised concerns. If they merely raise concerns, criticise their negativity. If they propose a solution, suggest that they should be focusing more on their other work rather than wasting time thinking about solutions. If they have information from others to support their proposed solution, criticise their disloyalty by airing dirty linen with others.
- Always ask for feedback, and make a great display of taking on board suggestions regarding trivial matters. For significant decisions, insist subordinates provide great detail with their suggestions (“in order to address all possible aspects”), and then ignore them. They will soon learn that it is a waste of time to provide feedback, and then you will not only be able to make decisions without interference, you will be able to correctly point out that they endorsed all of your decisions by not providing feedback when requested.
And remember – No-one likes a target – they are pathetic, spineless weaklings; and/or insubordinate, uppity, conniving, troublemakers. Most other people are unlikely to get involved – it’s human nature (the bystander effect).