No matter what is said about bullies, and how they will get their come-uppance some day, how Karma will wreak havoc in their lives eventually, how they are really just pushovers when it comes down to it–sorry, but it ain’t true.
Bullies win. All the time.
Whether you meet them in the schoolyard, the workplace, at the family dinner table or just waiting at a stoplight, make no mistake–if you challenge a bully, if you stand up to him/her, if you stand firm on your principles then be fully prepared for the punch in the nose (or your wallet, or your emotional core) that will almost certainly follow. The proverbial bully who runs away isn’t really a bully at all; he’s a fraidy-cat wearing a bully mask. The real trick is to know when you are dealing with the real thing.
Lesson #1: Don’t EVER mistake a real bully for a fraidy-cat. All you are likely to achieve is to confirm what they already suspect–that you’re scared of what they might do.
Many years ago I worked for a man (but it could have been a woman, too) who was a quintessential bully–and he was enormously successful. Why? Because he had it all figured out. He routinely hired small to mid-sized contractors, beat them down on price and when the work was done (with their materials & labour) he just waited…and waited…and waited. Invoices passed the 30-day mark, the 60-day mark and the 90-day mark. If polite enquiries became more demanding (or desperate) the file was sent to the lawyer who was on retainer to deal with these folks “before legal costs” were incurred (by the guy trying to collect). And it worked. The retainer he paid the lawyer was far less than the 50% or more “we’re not paying” discount that the lawyer “negotiated” on my boss’s behalf. Of course, there were always the courageous ones who stood up for their principles and fought for their money. Some of THOSE files (with the same lawyer) were several years old by the time I saw them. And none of them were resolved within the 6 months that I worked for the bully.
Yup, 6 months. You guessed it. I stood up to him. Told him I was not going to follow his instructions to send a contractor to a site to do work that I KNEW the boss was not going to pay for. I insisted that we pay him 50% up front, as per his contract (obviously, this guy had run into bullies before). Voice shaking, hands sweaty, I quietly refused. He fired me on the spot.
The cherry on top was that he refused to pay me the $4,000 he owed me (unpaid overtime, unpaid holiday time, auto expenses, travel expenses, etc.); yup, I was on contract too, that’s how well he played the game. Hiring people outright meant benefits, OHIP, CPP, etc. In the end I had to eat the worst-tasting crow of my life when I dragged myself back to his office, stood there while he utterly humiliated me, and I literally begged for the money he owed me. I was a single Mom and I knew his foolproof system would crush me–and I needed the money more than my pride. I crawled away with a cheque for 1/3 of the amount he owed me but at least it covered my out-of-pocket expenses. I had worked for him for a month for a big fat zero. His accountant nearly had tears in his eyes when he walked into the boss’s office with the cheque in his hand. He and the rest of the staff knew I had stood up to the bully (as they wished they could do) and lost. And. . . I had to say thank-you before the bully handed me the cheque.
Bullies win. Forget about Karma. Forget about “deep down they are marshmallows and they will back down.” The genuine bullies win. It’s that simple.
A few more lessons I’d like to share about dealing with bullies:
If it’s too late for lesson #1:
Lesson #2: Avoid the inevitable moment of confrontation by getting as far away from anyone you even suspect is a bully. In a word . . . RUN!!
If you missed (or ignored) the lessons in #1 and #2, then
Lesson #3: Don’t EVER stand up to a bully. Take your lumps. Crawl away and find peace in survival. Whatever the bully took from you (or out of your hide) is far less than if you had stood there and duked it out. Remember, they do this because they are good at it. And they really, really enjoy winning.
Lesson #4: Forget about principles. Bullies have had their moral compasses surgically removed very early in life. And anyway, what do principles have to do with winning?
Lesson #5: Don’t try to teach a bully right from wrong. He/she already knows the difference. To repeat the lesson of #4: What’s that got to do with winning?
Lesson #6: Don’t jump on your white charger and fight the good fight for all the victims before and after you. It’s already too late for the folks who went before you–hopefully they’ve learned the lesson and moved on. For the hapless victims to come…you’ll do more for them by walking away (while you still can) and balancing all that negative energy by adopting a positive, compassionate, wholesome outlook and practicing honesty in all that you do.
Lesson #7: Fighting bullies can rob you of your inspiration, compassion and positive outlook. Save your energy for the good stuff. Remember, you attract what you focus on. Focus on love, compassion, caring, openness and well, yes, forgiveness (even for the bully…if you can).
Lesson #8: Spread the word: bullies win.
Here’s the P.S. Remember my bullying boss? Are you thinking, hey, you don’t know what might have happened since. He may have got his just desserts in the end. But, er….nope. The last I heard (a few months ago) he had turned his fortune into a VAST fortune. He owns some of the flagship real estate in the city (we won’t name which one). When I watched him interviewed on television for the re-opening of a fabulously renovated downtown building I was nearly speechless at how effortlessly he played the down-to-earth nice guy. Gad, he’s good, I thought. And how many contractors got sc*#wed?
Bullies. They win.
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