Compliments of maha-online via Flickr

In David and Goliath, Gladwell argues that people misjudge what appear to be “mismatched” opponents. He explains the weak may triumph not simply by finagling the rules, but by changing the very game itself. Applied to the bully/target debacle, strategies for turning the tables rest on the element of surprise; and, on a game of the unexpected. To curtail future abuses, aggressors must know that a counterattack is coming – only not one using conventional weaponry.

A bullied, bedraggled target does not have the willpower to meet the bully on his/her own terms – which is why they must find alternative means of displaying their presence. Social media can catapult one’s cause into a movement – and as a result, save so many more people. “David refused to engage Goliath in close quarters, where he would surely lose.” Namie states that individuals who encourage confrontation are “weirdoes,” and that this tactic doesn’t work. What if however the targeted party takes their message outside the bully’s reach – to social media and professional associations, and perhaps by making keynote addresses?

A target (especially an introvert) is unlikely to confront bullies in the heat of a battle, but may have the opportunity to convey their viewpoint elsewhere. What bullies possess in brute force, activists can circumnavigate with skill, moxie, and with staying power. Those who beat bullies must use an atypical assault.

What are some substitutes for head-on confrontation at work?

  • Get exposure. This is accomplished by “putting yourself out there:” by volunteering to speak, by sharing your story, and through networking with individuals who are known. It is more difficult for abusers to discredit an army of like-minded souls.
  • Turn your tragedy into a series of initiatives to “right the scales.” If bullying is indeed the issue, then why not craft strategy to promote civil culture? This can include drafting civility policy, serving on task forces committed to ensuring respectful conduct, role modeling appropriate behavior, and seeking success stories from firms that have excelled in creating connection. Successful initiatives are important to inciting future momentum.
  • Build your network. Modern weaponry in the fight against bullying includes building a powerful band of fellow bloggers, along with top level industry managers who can champion your cause. Targets then develop strength by association.

Revolutions are not wrought by “yes” people. They are crafted, as Gladwell so aptly describes, by persons who possess a unique constellation of traits. These include conscientiousness, openness to experience, and a healthy dose of disagreeableness – in other words, a willingness to challenge convention, and a propensity to risk the displeasure of other people.

At work, the bully’s small sphere of influence consists of their immediate friends – which are but a tiny section on a much larger court. Played correctly, activists’ spheres can be everything else. A relentless campaign against bullying can ensure that they own the arena, and that they win in the court of public opinion. Disruptors excel at a game that most bullies weren’t anticipating – ones in which they’re both ignorant of and incapable of learning the rules.

Attempting to stop workplace revolutionaries will not succeed. Their locomotive has already left the station.


Related posts:   PodCast (WBI): Destigmatizing workplace bullying
Defiance and disruptors

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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