We all know what an asshole is, but the term I am referring to is someone who purposely targets others with the intent to cause hurt, humiliation, isolation, sabotage, intimidation and emotional distress with verbal and non-verbal behavior. To hell with the sticks and stones rhyme, words and actions can and do hurt.
But this is not the type of bullying that exists in schools. Schools are artificial playgrounds that do not represent the real world. Kids are bullied because they’re different, or because they look different. Bullies may have come from broken homes and experienced abuse themselves.
Some kids bully just to be popular, or they do it because of peer pressure. The psychological reasonings behind school bullying is different to adult, work-related bullying.
This article isn’t just for people who get targeted by assholes at work, it’s also for people who get targeted by assholes in business. Yes, they do exist when you’re self employed too (but thankfully you don’t have to hire them). Assholes exist in every industry and niche, but thankfully, they’re not common.
People who are self-employed have the luxury of being able to choose who they want to work with and who they hire. If they are mobile entrepreneurs, they have the luxury of being able to leave any place where assholes are too much to bear. If the asshole in question is a supplier, manufacturer, retailer, wholesaler, shipper, client, coach or whom ever, business owners can choose not to deal with them.
With employees, it’s different. The ability to choose is limited. You don’t want to leave your job, but the asshole is making your life hard. It’s even worse if your boss IS the asshole. So being an employee who becomes the target of work place bullying is tough. Employees are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Believe it or not, 50% of employees in the US have experienced some form of work place bullying in their lives.
Unlike schoolyard bullying, work-related bullying doesn’t involve fists and fights. In trying to appear mature, the adult bully uses words and non-verbal actions to cut their victims down. In fact, surveys show that the people assholes target aren’t victims at all. Yes, you read that right: NOT victims.
A bit strange isn’t it? Don’t bullies usually pick on weaklings? That’s what I mean by the difference between bullying of children in schools versus adults at work. Child or teenage bullies go for the weaklings that they know won’t fight back, usually loners or someone physically smaller. Assholes at work target people for their strengths, even people who are sociable and well liked.
The People Assholes Target
Assholes usually target people who are the most skilled person in the group, as they see them as a threat. Studies show that 80% of assholes are usually bosses, while 15-20% of assholes are same level role employees (or rivals).
The targets are usually more qualified or more intelligent – even if they are of a lower employment rank. Targets are usually warm and optimistic folks whom customers, clients and other co-workers are drawn to. Generally, they are helpful people which others go to for guidance – especially new workers. They’re well liked, sociable and most likely to possess better emotional intelligence. Targets are also independent thinkers, and refuse to be subservient. Because of these traits, they also tend to be more ethical and honest. Whistleblowers who expose corrupt companies are usually targets of bullying because they fit the bill of a target. Targets also dislike conflict and aggression so assholes take advantage of this – they will usually continue with the bullying if nothing is done.
The People Assholes Won’t Target (Because They’re Cowards)
You will rarely see a work bully target their boss or manager or anyone who is more powerful than they are. Not surprising. They won’t bite the hand that feeds them but will bite those beneath them. This is a true test of someone’s character:
- How do they treat their same level co-workers?
- How do they treat their subordinates or assistants?
- How do they treat service workers like waitresses, cleaners, checkout operators and so on.
If they only treat their bosses well (or people who are richer and more powerful), but treats their peers like dirt, it’s a really good indicator of their TRUE character. People should do this with people they want to date. Watch how he or she treats the waiting staff at a restaurant. If they treat them with disrespect, imagine how they will treat you in ten years?
The Asshole(s) Modus Operandi
You don’t need to yell or raise your voice to be mean. Some assholes do yell and scream, but the toxic ones are the silent assholes that cuts targets down with stealth. What behaviors do they use against targets?
- Ignore targets or pretend they’re invisible
- Make personal remarks and attacks
- Use jokes to deliver insults
- Spread rumors
- Threats and intimidation
- Invading a target’s territory or personal space
- Purposely interrupting or wasting a target’s time
- Dirty looks and other rude gestures
- Career sabotage via email
- Publicly humiliating targets
- Ineffective training to sabotage work
- Two-faced attacks
- Belittling and disrespecting targets
I know there are more – that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
How To Take The Asshole Out
Firstly, you need to recognize that it isn’t your fault that people are assholes. Assholes are born or conditioned to be the miserable people that they are. They see you as a threat. Whether you are or not, is not your problem, it’s theirs.
Stop worrying about what you did or didn’t do to invoke attack. You did nothing wrong. People who attack over their own paranoia are illogical and emotionally immature, let them fester in their own dark thoughts and you go and focus on how to make your life better.
Admitting to be a target does not mean you’re a weakling, nor does being targeted mean you are one. In fact the total opposite is true (as stated above under “The Types Assholes Target”). Assholes target people they see as a threat. Don’t let them make you unhappy to the point where it turns you into one of them – which means they’ve won in that case – and we don’t want that!
- Ignore the asshole back, pretend they’re paint on the wall. If they ignore you, don’t keep on saying hello or being polite for the sake of pleasing them. Walk past them as though they’re nothing but the faint echoes of a fart.
- Since they lack emotional intelligence, you might as well treat them like inanimate objects – imagine a rock. If you have to deal with them verbally, be civil and talk as emotionless and as cold as you can.
- Show them that you’re not easily affected or offended by them. They get off on seeing their targets feel pain after being offended or humiliated – don’t give them that pleasure.
- Don’t invite them to anything social. Being nice to them won’t make them stop bullying, so stop trying to be their buddy.
- Be knowledgeable, on your game, dress for success, work smart and deliver results. Assholes win if they can manage to affect your performance, so don’t let them lower you to that point. You win if you shine and succeed, and it’ll make them even MORE upset because you’ve become more threatening. Jealousy is a curse and far more painful to them than you can imagine.
If the situation is out of hand (like if they threaten your safety, they physically hit you or you’re having suicidal thoughts) then it is time to leave the job – for the sake of your health and emotional state. No job is worth the stress or risk to personal safety. Your employer should be providing a safe place to work. Unless your company gets rid of the asshole(s), or you get promoted or moved to another department, there’s no point in staying if it means having assholes tear you down emotionally for a paycheck. Speak to the HR department or your boss to see if anything can be done about these people. Only go to HR if you’re confident that they will be confidential with your case and not blab your situation to the offending assholes. If your boss is the perpetrator, take it to the head honcho.
The Four Additional Options:
1. If they’re making you physically ill by stressing you out, it’s time you consider a new job.
Hatch a plan of escape. Find new work before you quit. Have your family, friends or your partner support you emotionally. Tell them how it’s affecting you and that you need their support.
Go counselling if it helps. Join forums and groups that will provide a network of emotional support while you transition. Having emotional support from other people helps. There is a high chance of being fired when targeted (either through reporting the asshole to managers or assholes trying to get you fired) so make it so you’re in control of your job by finding another job and leaving with your head held high. Targets who get bullied and then fired have a double-whammy of trauma to deal with.
By leaving because you’ve found another job or venture (like blogging ) will give you assurance and confidence. Leave proudly, not in shame!
2. Sue if the company you work for is too weak to fire the asshole. In the US, it’s called “negligent retention”. Only do this if the company you work for knows about the bullying but does nothing about it and you’ve sought legal advice. Remember to document the attacks and document any health problems arising from the emotional distress.
In Australia, you can take out an AVO (Apprehended Violence Orders) against the asshole – even if the violence is of a non-physical nature. AVOs will legally force the asshole off the premises of where you work – which will cost them their income and career. If you live in other countries, find a good employment lawyer and seek out any legal avenues to put a stop to the bullying.
3. Flush out the asshole to the company. On average, trying to get an asshole fired will usually result in getting the target fired, but it is a path some are willing to take. Show the big bosses of the company why the asshole is costing the business money and productivity. They don’t care much about your emotional trauma, they will care most about how the asshole is making them lose money. If you can document it with numbers, even better. Don’t cry and get all emotional.
Looking like a mess will make them want to fire you instead, as you’ll look emotionally unstable! If they’re too pathetic to flush the asshole out, then it’s not a company you want to work for anyway. Make sure to have a backup job to go to if this plan fails. A good result is seeing them move departments. A great result will be having the asshole leave.
4. Confront the asshole. Sometimes confronting them might work (only if you’re extroverted and don’t mind confronting situations). Most targets are not aggressive or confronting types so that works to the asshole’s advantage. But if you just cannot take it anymore and want to confront them, try it without raising your voice or becoming emotional. Why? Being emotional makes people think you’re irrational or fearful (and boy do they love being feared). By being calm and logical, you look like you’re in control of yourself and the situation. It’ll make the asshole more afraid of you. Be civil and calm – even if they’re off their head.
In fact, if you’re calm and the asshole is acting like a screeching banshee, the company and your peers are going to lose respect for the asshole. Make sure you have all your points of what you want to say sorted out, before you approach them. If they try to ignore you, make it firm and clear that you want to speak to them. Do it publicly if you have to.
Here’s a tip: Lowering and deepening your voice with a hint of seriousness whilst being calm commands more respect – women can do this too, you don’t have to make your voice out to be like a man, just a deeper, serious version of your natural voice.
Love Thy Self
What ever you do, don’t feel guilty. It’s not your fault and you don’t need to feel sorry for these people. Your number one priority is YOU and your health (physical and emotional). Which ever option you choose, the result should be this: don’t let some external stranger affect your life and how you feel about yourself. No one is allowed to do that unless you believe the bovine excrement coming from these assholes.