Just Fight On!
Click me to go to the jfo homepage
Against workplace
bullying and abuse

Click here for our interactive forums and online support
Search Now:

Keep informed!
Join our mailing list
Your Email:
Subscribe to Bully News Now, the most comprehensive bullying and related news research service:

[more info]

Got a website?
Please link to jfo using our banner. For a reciprocal link, please email us

Are You New To Bullying?
Explaining Bullying/Work Abuse:
Your First Questions Answered Psychology of bullying Definitions
Quickhits: Work Health Support Legal Financial [in production]
Internet Use Advice/Resources: Trolls Latest Virus Alerts Free Downloads [anti-virus etc]


New to Bullying?
Yours First Questions Answered

This is one of several pages in this section that will give you the immediate information to answer your first questions and to help you lay the groundwork for protecting you and your interests. These pages are from a variety of sources but all tried and tested by many targets. You may feel that some things are not necessary or the advice takes a particularly pessimistic view of people and employers - sadly, it's the reality in an extremely high majority of cases. Research conducted by Cobra Payday Loans, who's parent company is Ready Money Capital Limited found that most cases of bullying follow exactly the same format. Protect yourself by knowing all you can and by taking the advice on the following pages.

This specific page has selected material from Bullyonline with the kind permission of Tim Field. You may also wish to buy Bully In Sight by Tim Field.

Skip to:
To set the scene, a typical sequence of events
And then answers to the following questions:
Am I being bullied?
Can this person really be a bully?
Why me?
What's the bully's selection criteria?
Is there a trigger to being bullied?
But why me?
Why did I let it happen to me?
What did I do to deserve it?
Am I the only one this is happening to?
Why don't you just stand up for yourself?
I love my job ... how can I avoid losing it?

A typical sequence of events (top)

The target is selected using the criteria above, then bullied for months, perhaps years

Eventually, the target asserts their right not to be bullied, perhaps by filing a complaint with personnel

Personnel interview the bully, who uses their Jekyll and Hyde nature, compulsive lying, and charm to tell the opposite story (charm has a motive - deception)

It's one word against another with no witnesses and no evidence, so personnel take the word of the senior employee - serial bullies excel at deception and evasion of accountability

The personnel department are hoodwinked by the bully into getting rid of the target - serial bullies are adept at encouraging conflict between people who might otherwise pool negative information about them

Once the target is gone, there's a period of between 2-14 days, then a new target is selected and the process starts again (bullying is an obsessive compulsive behaviour and serial bullies seem unable to survive without a target on to whom they can project their inadequacy and incompetence whilst blaming them for the bully's own failings)

Even if the employer realises that they might have sided with the wrong person in the past, they are unlikely to admit that because to do so may incur liability

If legal action is taken, employers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep targets quiet, usually by offering a small out-of-court settlement with a comprehensive gagging clause

Employers are often more frightened of the bully than the target and will go to enormous lengths to avoid having to deal with bully (promotion for the bully is the most common outcome)

Am I being bullied? (top)

If you can identify with this list, then yes, you are being bullied...

Constantly criticised and subjected to destructive criticism (often euphemistically called constructive criticism, which is an oxymoron) - explanations and proof of achievement are ridiculed, overruled, dismissed or ignored

Forever subject to nit-picking and trivial fault-finding (the triviality is the giveaway)

Undermined, especially in front of others; false concerns are raised, or doubts are expressed over a person's performance or standard of work - however, the doubts lack substantive and quantifiable evidence, for they are only the bully's unreliable opinion and are for control, not performance enhancement

Overruled, ignored, sidelined, marginalised, ostracised

Isolated and excluded from what's happening (this makes people more vulnerable and easier to control and subjugate)

Singled out and treated differently (for example everyone else can have long lunch breaks but if they are one minute late it's a disciplinary offence)

Belittled, degraded, demeaned, ridiculed, patronised, subject to disparaging remarks

Regularly the target of offensive language, personal remarks, or inappropriate bad language

The target of unwanted sexual behaviour

Threatened, shouted at and humiliated, especially in front of others

Taunted and teased where the intention is to embarrass and humiliate

Set unrealistic goals and deadlines which are unachievable or which are changed without notice or reason or whenever they get near achieving them

Denied information or knowledge necessary for undertaking work and achieving objectives

Starved of resources, sometimes whilst others often receive more than they need

Denied support by their manager and thus find themselves working in a management vacuum

Either overloaded with work (this keeps people busy [with no time to tackle bullying] and makes it harder to achieve targets) or have all their work taken away (which is sometimes replaced with inappropriate menial jobs, eg photocopying, filing, making coffee)

Have their responsibility increased but their authority removed

Have their work plagiarised, stolen and copied - the bully then presents their target's work (eg to senior management) as their own

Are given the silent treatment: the bully refuses to communicate and avoids eye contact (always an indicator of an abusive relationship); often instructions are received only via email, memos, or a succession of yellow stickies or post-it notes

Subject to excessive monitoring, supervision, micro-management, recording, snooping etc

The subject of written complaints by other members of staff (most of whom have been coerced into fabricating allegations - the complaints are trivial, often bizarre ["He looked at me in a funny way"] and often bear striking similarity to each other, suggesting a common origin)

Forced to work long hours, often without remuneration and under threat of dismissal

Find requests for leave have unacceptable and unnecessary conditions attached, sometimes overturning previous approval. especially if the person has taken action to address bullying in the meantime

Denied annual leave, sickness leave, or - especially - compassionate leave

When on leave, are harassed by calls at home or on holiday, often at unsocial hours

Receive unpleasant or threatening calls or are harassed with intimidating memos, notes or emails with no verbal communication, immediately prior to weekends and holidays (eg 4pm Friday or Christmas Eve - often these are hand-delivered)

Do not have a clear job description, or have one that is exceedingly long or vague; the bully often deliberately makes the person's role unclear
are invited to "informal" meetings which turn out to be disciplinary hearings

Are denied representation at meetings, often under threat of further disciplinary action; sometimes the bully abuses their position of power to exclude any representative who is competent to deal with bullying

Encouraged to feel guilty, and to believe they're always the one at fault
subjected to unwarranted and unjustified verbal or written warnings
facing unjustified disciplinary action on trivial or specious or false charges

Facing dismissal on fabricated charges or flimsy excuses, often using a trivial incident from months or years previously

Coerced into reluctant resignation, enforced redundancy, early or ill-health retirement

A favourite tactic of bullies which helps them evade detection is to undertake a "reorganisation" at regular intervals. This has several advantages:

Anyone whose face doesn't fit can be organised out through downsizing (redundancy) or transfer

Ditto anyone who challenges the reorganisation

Ditto, their job can be "regraded" or "redefined" to the person's disadvantage

Each reorganisation is a smokescreen for the bully's dysfunctional behaviour - everyone is so busy coping with the reorganisation (chaos) that the bully's behaviour goes unnoticed
the bully can always claim to be reorganising in the name of "efficiency" and therefore be perceived by those above as a strong manager

Can this person really be a bully? (top)

Most bullying is traceable to one person, male or female - bullying is not a gender issue. Bullies are often clever people (especially female bullies) but you can be clever too.

Who does this describe in your life?

Jekyll & Hyde nature - vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses; no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive nature - only the current target sees both sides

Is a convincing, compulsive liar and when called to account, will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment

Uses lots of charm and is always plausible and convincing when peers, superiors or others are present; the motive of the charm is deception and its purpose is to compensate for lack of empathy

Relies on mimicry to convince others that they are a "normal" human being but their words, writing and deeds are hollow, superficial and glib
displays a great deal of certitude and self-assuredness to mask their insecurity

Excels at deception

Exhibits unusual inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters or sexual behaviour; underneath the charming exterior there are often suspicions or intimations of sexual harassment, sex discrimination or sexual abuse (sometimes racial prejudice as well)

Exhibits much controlling behaviour and is a control freak

Displays a compulsive need to criticise whilst simultaneously refusing to acknowledge, value and praise others

When called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of others, responds with impatience, irritability and aggression

Often has an overwhelming, unhealthy and narcissistic need to portray themselves as a wonderful, kind, caring and compassionate person, in contrast to their behaviour and treatment of others; the bully is oblivious to the discrepancy between how they like to be seen (and believe they are seen), and how they are actually seen

Has an overbearing belief in their qualities of leadership but cannot distinguish between leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, trust and integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness, aggression, distrust and deceitfulness)

When called to account, immediately and aggressively denies everything, then counter-attacks with distorted or fabricated criticisms and allegations; if this is insufficient, quickly feigns victimhood, often by bursting into tears (the purpose is to avoid answering the question and thus evade accountability by manipulating others through the use of guilt)

Is also aggressive, devious, manipulative, spiteful, vengeful, doesn't listen, can't sustain mature adult conversation, lacks a conscience, shows no remorse, is drawn to power, emotionally cold and flat, humourless, joyless, ungrateful, dysfunctional, disruptive, divisive, rigid and inflexible, selfish, insincere, insecure, immature and deeply inadequate, especially in interpersonal skills

Why am I being bullied (top)

Skip to: The bully's selection criteria
The trigger for being bullied But why me?

The bully's selection criteria (top)

Bullies are predatory and opportunistic - you just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; this is always the main reason - investigation will reveal a string of predecessors, and you will have a string of successors (but don't rely on your employer to investigate adequately - Jo)

Being good at your job, often excelling

Being popular with people (colleagues, customers, clients, pupils, parents, patients, etc)

More than anything else, the bully fears exposure of his/her inadequacy and incompetence; your presence, popularity and competence unknowingly and unwittingly fuel that fear

Being the expert and the person to whom others come for advice, either personal or professional (ie you get more attention than the bully)

Having a well-defined set of values which you are unwilling to compromise

Having a strong sense of integrity (bullies despise integrity, for they have none, and seem compelled to destroy anyone who has integrity)

Having at least one vulnerability that can be exploited

Being too old or too expensive (usually both)

Refusing to join an established clique

Showing independence of thought or deed

Refusing to become a corporate clone and drone

The trigger for being bullied (top)

Bullying starts after one of these events:

The previous target leaves

There's a reorganisation

A new manager is appointed

Your performance unwittingly highlights, draws attention to, exposes or invites unfavourable comparison with the bully's lack of performance (the harder you work to address the bully's claims of underperformance, the more insecure and unstable the bully becomes)

You may have unwittingly become the focus of attention whereas before the bully was the centre of attention (this often occurs with female bullies) - most bullies are emotionally immature and thus crave attention
obvious displays of affection, respect or trust from co-workers

Refusing to obey an order which violates rules, regulations, procedures, or is illegal

Standing up for a colleague who is being bullied - this ensures you will be next; sometimes the bully drops their current target and turns their attention to you immediately

Blowing the whistle on incompetence, malpractice, fraud, illegality, breaches of procedure, breaches of health & safety regulations etc

Undertaking trade union duties

Challenging the status quo, especially unwittingly

Gaining recognition for your achievements, eg winning an award or being publicly recognised

Gaining promotion

But why me? (top)

Personal qualities that bullies find irresistible in their targets:

Popularity (this stimulates jealousy in the less-than-popular bully)

Competence (this stimulates envy in the less-than-competent bully)

Intelligence and intellect

Honesty and integrity (which bullies despise)

You're trustworthy, trusting, conscientious, loyal and dependable

A well-developed integrity which you're unwilling to compromise

You're always willing to go that extra mile and expect others to do the same

Successful, tenacious, determined, courageous, having fortitude

A sense of humour, including displays of quick-wittedness

Imaginative, creative, innovative

Idealistic, optimistic, always working for improvement and betterment of self, family, the employer, and the world

Ability to master new skills

Ability to think long term and to see the bigger picture

Sensitivity (this is a constellation of values to be cherished including empathy, concern for others, respect, tolerance etc)

Slow to anger, giving and selfless

Helpful, always willing to share knowledge and experience

Difficulty saying no, diligent, industrious, tolerant

Strong sense of honour

Irrepressible, wanting to tackle and correct injustice wherever you see it

An inability to value oneself whilst attributing greater importance and validity to other people's opinions of oneself (eg through tests, exams, appraisals, manager's feedback, etc)

Low propensity to violence (ie you prefer to resolve conflict through dialogue rather than through violence or legal action)

A strong forgiving streak (which the bully exploits and manipulates to dissuade you from taking grievance and legal action)

A desire to always think well of others

Being incorruptible, having high moral standards which you are unwilling to compromise, unwilling to lower standards

A strong well-defined set of values which you are unwilling to compromise or abandon, a strong sense of fair play and a desire to always be reasonable

High expectations of those in authority and a dislike of incompetent people in positions of power who abuse power

A tendency to self-deprecation, indecisiveness, deference and approval seeking

Low assertiveness

A need to feel valued

Quick to apologise when accused, even if not guilty (this is a useful technique for defusing an aggressive customer or potential road rage incident)


Higher-than-average levels of dependency, naivety and guilt

High coping skills under stress, especially when the injury to health becomes apparent

A tendency to internalise anger rather than express it

Why did I let it happen to me? (top)

Because you had little or no knowledge of bullying, no training in how to deal with it, those around you denied or ignored it, you didn't recognise the bully as a sociopath, the bully disempowered you, you were vulnerable, you're honest and unwilling to compromise your integrity, the law is weak, jobs are scarce so you were frightened to report it, personnel and management probably didn't help or took the side of the bully, etc.

What did I do to deserve it? (top)

Nothing. It is NEVER the target's fault - it is always the bully who is responsible for their behaviour; however, bullies project their behaviour onto their target and claim their target is the one with the "negative attitude" who is "aggressive" etc. Treat each criticism or allegation as an admission by the bully of his or her own failings and inadequacy. A target of abuse simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - and probably has plenty of predecessors and successors.

Am I the only one this is happening to? (top)

Almost everyone who is abused thinks this. Abusers encourage it, for it disempowers and silences you. However, there are many people in your situation - with workplace bullying, perhaps half the workforce. The reason so few people report their abusers is for fear that "no-one will believe me". See the section on denial. They are usually correct - but things are changing. You can help the process of change.

Why don't you just stand up for yourself? (top)

Because in almost every case when you assert your right not to be bullied, things get worse. The bully senses that their tactics of control and subjugation are not working and, worse, that you can see through his or her mask of deceit. The bully's paranoid fear of exposure (of their weakness, inadequacy and incompetence) goes exponential and the bully moves into phase two - elimination. For a list of reasons why people are prevented from asserting their right not to be bullied click here. It's similar to why victims of abuse can't and won't report the abuse.

I love my job ... how can I avoid losing it? (top)

The truth is, you've lost your job the moment the serial bully selects you as their next target. The bully will do everything humanly possible to oust you from your job, although because of your inner strength, emotional maturity and integrity, this may take a year of two - by which time you will have sustained a severe psychiatric injury which may prevent you from working in your chosen field again.

Does this sound familiar?
Check out the other pages in this section to see what you can do NOW to protect yourself...

Other pages: to follow...

Just Fight On!
Email jo@jfo.org.uk

© JFO 2004-2010