Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine Segal
I have unfortunately worked for more than one boss who was a bully. And since I started teaching, coaching, and consulting with individuals and organizations around bullying and mobbing behaviors, I’ve heard stories about many more. I recently did some consulting at a non-profit, and witnessed a bully very much like one of the (Division chair) managers who made my life a misery when I was a tenured professor. I call this type the blind self-righteous bully.
Here are some traits of the blind self-righteous bully:
Here is how this played out at the community college where I was a tenured professor:
Death by Numbers:
When I was newly hired, my division chair wanted me to add more classes to the department and submit the paperwork to renumber the rest immediately for consistency without making changes to content at that time. I did as she asked, creating some new classes to expand the skills and levels we offered, and changing the numbers on the rest of the classes.
After one year, this division chair retired and we got a new one, I’ll call Rowena. When she realized I had simply changed the numbers on some of the classes she instantly took against me and decided I was incompetent. It didn’t matter to her that I was only doing what the previous division chair directly instructed me to do.
Rowena could have chosen to accept the wishes of the previous chair at that time, and asked me now to review the curriculum for the older classes and make more substantive changes. Instead, she did everything she could to make me look bad and to get me fired, including telling blatant lies against me to the VP of instruction, and concocting anonymous accusations against me during my next evaluation. This continued until she retired and we got a new bully boss of a different kind.
How can you protect yourself?
It is very difficult to navigate this kind of bully, because their animus is so toxic, complete, and pervasive. I don’t believe it is possible to get back in the good graces of someone like this once you fall out of favor. All this took a deep emotional toll on me. However, once I realized how vigilant I needed to be, I was able at times to counter or head her off. Two techniques worked to some extent:
I’m grateful I’m not at that college anymore, for many reasons, and I am glad I can use my hard-won understanding to help others.
If you have to work with or for this kind of blind self righteous bully, please know you are not alone, you deserve support, and you can take steps to stand up for yourself!
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