The Silicon Valley Voice

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Going Incognito

Is there a bully in your business? Does one of your co-workers boss you around, even though he or she is not really the boss? Are you the victim of practical jokes, public shaming and hurtful nicknames?

If these negative experiences occur regularly in your workday, you have a bully on your case and in your face. You may think that such a situation only occurs in kindergartens, but in fact, a bully story has recently emerged from the locker room of the Miami Dolphins. According to the news reports, the bullying behavior of a butterball of a football player, Richie Incognito, caused another big galoot of a football player to take his ball and go home.

In the long run, this may not be a matter of concern for the victim, Jonathan Martin. He’ll probably get hired by another team. No, the person with the bullying problem is you, gentle reader. If a bully forces you out of your safe sinecure, who the heck is going to make you their first-round draft choice?

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I was alerted to the problem of bullying in an email from Eric Rogell on the subject of “How to Keep a ‘Richie Incognito’ From Destroying Your Business Team.” You’ve heard of Rogell, of course. He’s the guy who penned “The Art of War for Dating” and is the creator of The Casanova Code, “where he takes the secrets of seduction out of the bedroom and into the boardroom — teaching business owners and executives how to successfully wield Attraction, Influence and Persuasion like Picasso wielded a paintbrush — to achieve stunning success in business and in life.”

I’m sure Rogell’s prescriptives will help business owners and executives handle workplace bullies. The question is — how can a low-level drone like you deal with a co-worker whose abusive behavior is making your work life even more miserable?

For example, Rogell warns executives to be wary of an employee who calls them “Chief,” “Honcho,” or “Boss Lady.” In other words, “anything that may suggest to their peers they’re not fully respecting you, while making it look to you like they do.” The same boardroom problem can also occur in the coffee room. Your co-worker may act like he is using a term of endearment when he refers to you as “big stupid lunkhead,” but in fact, it’s a very public way to show disrespect.

What to do? When you’re a boss, Rogell says, you can’t have a mere employee “flexing their Alpha muscles, showing other staff they are not afraid of you or your authority.” That’s why the advice for bosses when “challenged by someone trying to ‘out Alpha’ you,” is to “push back quickly and decisively.”

If the advice to a manager is “squash their attempt and assert your authority and higher value,” someone like you, with no authority and little value, will have to find another route. (Naturally, you don’t want to really “push back,” because violence has no place in the workplace, unless it is on your computer screen when you watch “Postal 2” instead of doing your work.)

Instead of acting like an Alpha, I suggest you act like an Omega. Take a page from the Killdear, a shorebird that fakes injuries to draw predators away from their nest.

In other words — show that sticks and stones may break your bones but nasty nicknames can break your heart. When the bully strikes, you strike back by collapsing in sobs, bitterly weeping in an expression of grief that attracts the attention of everyone in the office.

“My parents called me ‘big stupid lunkhead,” you moan. “How I wish they were here now, instead of being so horribly mauled at that tractor pull.”

Immediately, you will be showered with sympathy and healing hugs. The bully, meanwhile, will be left isolated and forever scorned.

Eventually, when you’ve stretched out your lament as long as possible, you “pull yourself together” and march bravely back to your desk, secure in your reputation as someone who doesn’t let their own personal grief interfere with their work. From this day forward, you will be universally admired for your sensitivity.

And this can really pay off in terms of big raises, hot dates and a general lack of anger when you slip out of the office after lunch to hammer back the brewskies at the Kit Kat Klub.

Of course, if you can’t identify a bully in your office, this could mean another set of problems. Chances are, the bully is you.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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