Robert Mueller, the author of Bullying Bosses: A Survivor’s Guide, is an experienced lawyer who apparently survived frequent bullying behavior under a variety of trying circumstances. Today, he counsels clients who have been targeted for abusive treatment by predator bosses lurking unchecked in our workplaces. The book breaks down many
of the “faces” of bullying (e.g., demeaning, ranting, lying, hypercritical, controlling,
self-righteous, gloating, sexist, homophobic, moralistic, self-serving) and attributes ascribed to bullying bosses (e.g., narcissistic, cold, uncaring, anti-social, sadistic, power hungry, status-conscious).
The book repeats a cautionary theme that bullying bosses calculate, select, and plan attacks on vulnerable employee targets. When outrageous attacks occur, targeted employees are so shocked, confused, humiliated, and threatened, they process the attacks internally. They respond as if they had really done something wrong outside the bullying supervisor’s expectations and trumped up concerns about lost time, work goals, company productivity, and comprised bottom-lines. Bullying bosses have vulnerabilities which a prospective “victim” needs to understand and, over time, be able to shape their work behavior more confidently and judiciously.
According to Mueller, bullies attack with preconceived, deliberate intent and planning, The bully’s goal is to demonstrate power and control over the employee, usually with little or no factual basis for “dumping on” the target. A targeted employee’s immediate response is to take it, recoil, and flee this perceived “Ring of Fire.” Later, a victimized employee may seek solace and support from coworkers, friends, and family by retelling painful abusive experiences. Mueller claims victimized employee’s storytelling often appears to others confused, dramatic, and too extreme to be believed. Coworkers
minimize and discount it in different ways. They may deny the core premise and withdraw contact, possibly for fear of association with a target and fear of a similar fate. Others may brush it off as an isolated event or allege a personality conflict between the supervisor and employee. Many will implicitly blame the victim for the incident and become critical of the employee’s naivete about the job and workplace realities.
The author integrates positive attributes for employee survival into a proactive model
of “Workplace Warrior” - a practical, objective, and savvy model to be used as a guide to help transform potential “victims” of abuse into workplace warriors. The employee’s transformation into a politically adept warrior will require more knowledge of what is really going on behind the scenes in the workplace. It is the employee’s responsibility
to use this knowledge when confronted by an abusive boss or when interacting with coworkers. Mueller asserts the acceptance and use of his model can strengthen anti-bullying employee behavior, as well as limit demoralizing effects of victimization.
The author does not claim to be able to stop bullying behavior in supervisory roles primarily because of their favored, institutional positions in the power structure of the company. Only the supervisor’s manager can make workplace changes by identifying employee victimization and by intervening directly into abusive workplace scenarios. Unfortunately, managers often want supervisors to do only what is necessary to keep employees in line, on the job, and productive. Typically, managers do not want to know employees personally and, regrettably, do not want to know what supervisors really
do to the company’s worker scapegoats.
In the process of transformation employees will learn how to select, work with, and support trusted coworkers who, in turn, may play significant roles in the Workplace Warrior’s survival plan. The plan will focus on human intelligence, analysis, and
indirect “soft” tactics, strategies, documents (e.g., incident reports, card references, resources), and behavioral adjustments needed when encountering, deflecting, and redirecting bully behavior. Coworkers may become witnesses, allies, shields, reciprocal sources of inside information, and recipients of positive feedback. Coworkers may provide cover and indirect support for future employee maneuvering and working
of the system to survive bullying events.
Mueller discusses a few case examples and a composite role model (Anna) who outlines steps and suggestions to consider when making decisions and preparing plans - for example, when considering the timing of decision-making, who to talk to and what to say, when and how to seek legal counsel, how to report abusive incidents, what to ask a prospective attorney, and other work issues. The real Anna apparently survived, but
this reviewer would have liked to have learned more about the psychological, familial, economic, criminal, and social outcomes that followed other employee victims and bullying bosses referenced in the book.
Bullying Bosses: A Survivor’s Guide provides employee cases to suggest a number
of planned, document-based activities an employee can use to outflank and reduce negative contact with bullying bosses and build a clear record of documentation advantageous to any subsequent legal or remedial action. The work hints at emotional/
behavioral adjustments employees may need to make to strengthen themselves after experiencing bullying events. After an attack, a targeted employee must learn to withhold venting outrage to just any one around, and, hopefully, not suppress emotions to the point of depression and obsessive rumination about retaliation, revenge, and injustice.
I highly recommend this book to any one experiencing bullying behavior and/or any one who seeks to help empower workers in the attainment of safer and healthier workplace environments.