Posts Tagged ‘Advice’

NARC’D! Encounter with a Female Narcissist

narcisisstic-rageI received the following email from a reader who believes that his ex-girlfriend is a narcissist. He asks for my feedback about their relationship and wants to know if he really is “weak and insecure” as his ex claims.

Dear Dr. Palmatier,

I recently had an encounter with what I think to be Narcissistic woman and wanted to share some of my experience. I had met this young woman around 6 years ago. She was around 23 at the time and now 29 and had grown into a gorgeous, seemingly intelligent young woman. I decided to pursue a romantic relationship with her and in the end nearly ended up putting my head through a window because I had truly had begun to  think I had gone insane.

There were many warning signs along the way. I chalked up some to regular woman stuff, like trying to get you to change your hairstyle etc., but then she started to exhibit many signs that I now see as narcissistic. Initially, I didn’t understand what she meant when she explained she she could be physically intimate, but was incapable of emotional intimacy.

She had wild mood swings. I never knew which girl to expect on our dates, but her default mood was very negative. For example, she was always putting others down and actually made fun of small children, whom she open claimed she hated. She also explained that she hated public displays of affection and even wouldn’t hold hands in public until she did a 180 one night.

She showed up for our date all prim and proper, decked out in her mother’s jewelry and played the darling sweet girlfriend, holding my hand and being openly affectionate in public. She said she wanted to go on holiday together (something she’d always avoided). I couldn’t figure out what was going on until her assistant from work suddenly showed up at the table. Little did I know that my ex had invited her. I figure this whole act was a display to show her assistant that she could actually be normal.

Things got weirder as our relationship advanced with so many twists and turns in logic that my head was spinning. About 3 months into a very hot sexual relationship she dropped the A-bomb. We’d been apart for a week due to our work and she began a very flirty text messaging campaign. It culminated with an invitation to her apartment after work one night. Since work would keep us apart for another week or so, I thought we were both anxious to get together. I arrived, we got to business and, as usual, I took care of her first. Once she “got hers” (sorry there’s no delicate way to put this), she rolled over while I was kneeling in front of her and declared she no was longer interested in me F*#king me and that we shouldn’t see each other for awhile.

I was dumbstruck, but tried to be compassionate and told myself it was work stress.  When she said we shouldn’t see each other, I got up angrily and started to leave when she she stopped me. She was crying and acting all sad that she hurt me. She then sat me down on the couch “to talk” and proceeded to rip into me for not leaving and said I was being “too nice” to her. Huh??

Things got even better after that. She went away for work and started the whole flirty texting campaign again. I thought everything was healing and we were moving on until she invited me for dinner at a crowded restaurant and very loudly broke-up with me. . . again.

Ok, I should have walked then, but I thought I was in love with her, so decided to go back for more punishment. The next three weeks were filled with barbs and jabs and poking for weaknesses that you write about in your column. The sex was gone and she kept me around for when she needed to be cuddled and held on the couch. At the same time, she was quick to proclaim that I wasn’t her boyfriend anymore. When I asked her what we were doing or where our relationship was headed, she got very defensive and basically made me feel stupid for asking such questions.

This last weekend was the final straw. We canceled our plans for dinner because she said she was ill. Later that night, I learned she was out partying with other friends. I called her on it and she flew into a rage blaming it all on me for checking up on her. She shouted that I was weak and insecure and an idiot and hung up on me. I actually started to think that she was right and called to apologize. Then she said I was humiliating myself and never to talk, text, or email her again and to stay out of her life.

So know I’m left wondering if this is narcissistic behavior or if she’s right and I’m just weak and insecure? My head just spins. Any advice or feedback would be appreciated.


Hi Jay,

You just got Narc’d!

It’s sort of like getting “Punk’d” by Ashton Kutcher except that it’s not a prank and there’s nothing funny about it.

I can’t diagnose a person I’ve never met, however, your description seems to indicate that she meets many of the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If she’s not a full-fledged NPD and/or BPD, she’s at the very least incredibly unstable and emotionally abusive.

You are not weak and insecure. Come out of the fog this woman has you wandering in and re-read the email you sent me as if your younger brother or best friend had written it to you. Would you think he was insecure and weak or would you tell him that this woman is a head case?

Honor her request (i.e., command) to never contact her again. *By the way, only a narcissist or someone with narcissistic traits “punishes” people by denying them access to their special brand of sunshine. In their mind, cutting you out of their life is akin to a death sentence. Meanwhile, most people feel better after time away from their NPD. Being banished serves two purposes: It’s a form of punishment so you can “think about what you’ve done.” It also sets the stage for you to play the role of the humbled and contrite supplicant who comes back on bended knee to plea for her forgiveness. If I were you, I’d run and never look back.

Unfortunately, it’s rarely that easy. As soon as she realizes that you’re not crawling back for more, you’ll probably hear from her again. Either she’ll pretend like nothing ever happened to test the waters (i.e., are you open to being Narc’d again) or will express displeasure and offense that you didn’t chase after her to try to win her over (forgetting that you were actually respecting her wishes—remember, there’s no winning with these individuals). Then she’ll give you mixed signals and imply that she wants you in her life or something equally ambiguous—just like she did before. As soon as she feels confident she has your affection, she’ll emotionally sucker punch you. Bam! You just got Narc’d! Again.

Why would you even give this woman a second thought? According to your email:

  1. She flat out told you she can’t handle emotional intimacy. The whole point of being in a committed relationship is intimacy, emotional and physical. You need both to have a truly satisfying relationship.
  2. She doesn’t even reciprocate physical intimacy, but uses you as a stud service and/or “security blanket” when she wants a cuddle.
  3. She only shows you affection when she’s putting on a show to appear normal to others. You’re her relationship “prop.” This is yet another way this kind of woman uses people as objects.
  4. She has wild mood swings that cause you to walk on eggshells so that you can never really relax in her presence. Over time, this will create a trauma response within you if it hasn’t already.
  5. She has a negative attitude, which doesn’t make for very good company.
  6. She puts people down for her own amusement and to make herself feel superior. This includes you. After a while, this will erode your self-confidence and riddle you with self-doubt and other insecurities—i.e., more trauma.
  7. She makes fun of small children and explicitly states she hates kids. She doesn’t sound like future-mother-of-my-children material, to me. In fact, if she were a cat, I’d have her spayed.
  8. She got mad at you for being “too nice to her.” This seems to indicate that she has some script in her head that requires men to be jerks while she plays the long-suffering victim. This is not good. If you stay with her long enough, you may start reacting to her like a jerk once projective identification begins and the emotional abuse continues to escalate.
  9. She got mad at you for busting her in a lie when she should have apologized to you for lying. Instead, she attacked you and blamed you for her dishonest and abusive behavior.
  10. She broke up with you in a crowded, public restaurant. Even if she isn’t a narc, at the very least she seems like an insensitive jerk.
  11. She belittled you and tried to make you feel stupid for asking very legitimate questions about your relationship after the highly confusing mixed messages she gave you. “Hold me. Make me feel desirable, but, hey, don’t think I’m your girlfriend or that I want to be in a relationship with you. What are you? Stupid?

You’re neither weak nor insecure. You got Narc’d!, which can leave you feeling weak and insecure. Consider yourself fortunate she cut you loose and don’t respond when she comes trawling back around to make you her human scratching post again. You deserve better and by better I mean someone who will treat you with basic decency, kindness and reciprocity, which should be your baseline requirement for all future relationships.

Kind Regards,

Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

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I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.


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Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? Part Two

hamster-wheelThis is part two of Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? The last post examined your usual choice of romantic partner, which stems from early childhood relationship experiences and the faulty belief system you learned about relationships as a result.

Ultimately, the self-doubts and self-defeating beliefs you have about yourself and relationships are obstacles to having the kind of relationship your rational mind wants. Whether you’re aware of them or not, they shape the relationship choices you make. For example, do you believe that:

  • You have to work hard to earn someone’s love?
  • You have to prove that you’re “good enough” for someone to love you?
  • You must be perfect to deserve someone’s love?
  • You have to go along with, like, or agree with everything your partner likes or wants?
  • You need to ignore or hide your needs and feelings in order to meet all of your partner’s needs?
  • Your partner should “magically” know or intuit how you’re feeling and what you want without having to tell him or her?
  • Your partner should be able to meet all your needs?
  • Your partner should enjoy doing all the things you do and like all of the same people you like?
  • Your partner should prove he or she cares by spending money on you and paying for trips, dinners and gifts?

Whenever we make statements that use the words should, always, must, never, or have to it usually means we’re placing unreasonably high expectations on others and ourselves. This usually leads to anger, disappointment, hurt and frustration, which makes it difficult to have good relationships.

A faulty relationship belief system, which is tied to our fears and self-doubts in a self-reinforcing loop, perpetuate our poor relationship choices. For example, do you worry that:

  • You’re unlovable?
  • No one would love you if they really knew you?
  • You’ll eventually be rejected?
  • You don’t deserve love?
  • You’re cursed?
  • You’re not attractive enough?
  • You’re not thin enough?
  • You’re not smart enough?
  • You don’t make enough money?
  • You’re boring?
  • There’s something wrong with you?
  • You don’t deserve respect?

It’s hard to feel good about yourself and have confidence in your ability to be an attractive partner to others with this kind of self-defeating garbage floating around in your head. We develop our beliefs and fears about relationships from observing our parents’ or caretakers’ relationships as children and by how they treated us. In many cases, they weren’t ideal relationship role models. These beliefs cause us to choose people who treat us in ways that make us feel bad, which reinforces these negative feelings and doubts.

It becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that can make us believe that we’re doomed to be alone or unhappy in relationships. As a result, many of us learned unhealthy relationship beliefs as children that still control our behavior to this day. An effective way to counter these faulty beliefs and fears is to challenge and reality test them to see if they’re true. Otherwise, you’re allowing what happened to you “way back when” to control your “here and now.” You don’t have to allow your adult life and the course of your adult relationships be defined by what happened to you as a child or teen.

You can take control of your life now. You don’t have to be dependent on the approval of others who aren’t likely to give it to you. You can let go of your old beliefs and adopt new ones. In some ways, it’s like flipping on a light switch in your mind. When you do this, you may see some things from the past that you’d rather not deal with, but they will continue to control you and lead you to make poor relationship choices until you do.

Next week, I’ll post part three in this series. It will focus on problematic relationship behaviors and coping strategies that tend to do more harm than good and contribute to staying stuck in an unhealthy relationship pattern.


Dr Tara J Palmatier_Shrink4Men_02Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.

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Request for Help: What Advice Do You Have for a Father Whose Son Is About to Marry an Emotionally Abusive, Controlling Possibly BPD and/or NPD Woman?

kicking-and-screaming-1Jon posted a question on my blog a few days ago regarding his son who is engaged to marry a woman whom, by his description, is at the very least controlling and emotionally abusive and quite possibly narcissistic and/or borderline personality disordered.

I’ve posted his story and question below. This father is in a position that many of the men who read this blog family’s have been in; poised to watch their grown son or brother make a disastrous mistake that will harm him, alienate him from his family and possibly harm any children he may have.

Please read his story and keep the following questions in mind:

  1. What do you wish your friends and family would’ve said to you before marrying or otherwise committing yourself to your emotionally abusive, BPD/NPD wife, ex-wife, girlfriend or ex-girlfriend?
  2. Is there anything they could’ve said or done at the time that would have caused you to reconsider the relationship or marriage?
  3. What advice can you give to Jon to help him preserve his relationship with his son?
  4. What advice do you have should the worst case scenario happen and his potential daughter-in-law effectively cut him off from his son and future grandchildren?

If you can make the time to reach out to Jon with any advice or support, please post your comments below and thank you in advance for your generosity.

I’ve been looking for an explanation for why my 25 yr old son, professional, University graduate etc. has changed since becoming engaged less than a year ago. His fiancee is permanently infuriated by my wife and I for not giving in to her every whim regarding the forthcoming wedding. The latest is that she (and aparrently our son) only want parents and siblings at the wedding ceremony. When we objected, because relatives from overseas who love our son would like to come over, she threw a fit and said we weren’t welcome either – what I couldn’t understand is why our son keeps silent during her rants, and when I ask him what he thinks he just says that its what they both want. She only very reluctantly allows us to speak in private to our son, saying that she had to defend her future husband from us – his parents. He seems oblivious to how he has become alienated from us and his sisters who love him dearly – it seems to us that he has been captured by her and her family who seem to also live in fear of her – were they trying to get her off their hands?

As he’s only been with her for about a year (quick engagement and rapid wedding plans) what is the best way of trying to get him to come to his senses?


My reply:

Hi Jon,

My heart goes out to you and your family. It appears that your daughter-in-law to be is your average NPD/BPD nightmare. What you’re describing is a fairly common occurrence. She’s isolating your son from his family, the people who really care about him, so that she can assume total, unchallenged control over him.

Don’t dismiss her indefensible behaviors as pre-wedding jitters; they’re not. I’ve read numerous stories similar to yours and know people personally and professionally who have had this happen to their sons. In fact, my dearest friend’s family went through something very similar prior to her brother’s wedding. Now, he’s married with two children and his wife basically denies his parents access to their grandchildren unless they come bearing expensive gifts and pay her homage during every visit. . . My friend has had barely any contact with her brother for the last 5 years and describes it this way, “It’s like my brother died. I don’t know who this person is. . .”

The cruel irony is that your son’s fiancee is probably alienating him against his own family by portraying you as controlling, selfish, etc., which, in reality, is how she’s behaving. Why does he go along with it? Because if he doesn’t, he’s probably subjected to verbal and emotional abuse, shouting, tears and heaven knows what else. At least when she’s raging at you, she’s not yelling at him, so he keeps his mouth shut.

These women are masterful when it comes to getting a man to marry them. They close the deal fast before the worst of their behavior comes out. Although, sometimes they expose their true monstrous selves prior to the ceremony and men still marry them. It’s astounding.

Have you spoken with your son’s friends about his fiancee? What do they think of her? Unfortunately, he may not be able to hear any of your warnings or pleas to reconsider what I can guarantee you will be a disaster, especially when they begin having children. There’s a risk in telling him what you really think and feel. If he repeats it to her, she’ll use it to further cut you off from your son. If you could speak with his friends about intervening that might be a good first step.

If you talk to your son, I’d avoid saying anything bad about his fiancee because he’ll probably become defensive. You need to frame it in such a way that you’re able to express that he doesn’t seem like himself, you don’t understand why his fiance is becoming upset, you don’t want to put him in the middle, that you love him and support him no matter what, but that you are concerned because a wedding should be a happy time and it’s been the opposite.

Jon’s reply:

Dear Dr Tara,

Thank you for your reply. It helps to know we are not alone – and reassuring to confirm that we aren’t crazy or unreasonable. Having an explanation for our future daugher-in-law’s behaviour provides some basis for trying to work out a strategy for rescuing our son before it’s too late – i.e. before the wedding in 5 months time!

Having read some of the papers and blogs on this site it is obvious to me now that our son tells her everything that we speak to him about, and she uses this ruthlessly against us – twisting the most innocent things to make us appear inconsiderate of his future happiness and well-being. She is the only person on the planet who’s sole mission in life is to make him happy!

The articles you have produced on how to tell if you are in an abusive relationship etc. seem more targetted at those tragic long-term sufferers. What I would really like is something I can use to help my son see for himself that he is dangerously close to making the biggest mistake of his life. I have pleaded with him to postpone the wedding and just continue living together – but he is adamant and insists if they could marry tomorrow they would.

Of course I could be deluding myself – he shared a flat with her at University for 3 years before they ever got together, although I suspect he was her shoulder to cry on and “rock” between a succession of failed relationships taking place right under his nose. So maybe he is already a long way down the road to perdition.

If, as seems feasible, I’m going to lose my son anyway, I would prefer to do so as a result of my active attempts to get him out of this relationship, rather than watching the train-wreck just happen in front of my eyes.

I am working on contacting his close friends, though these have dwindled and may not be as close as before. I feel like picking him up and shaking him – what other things can you suggest, or any other correspondents out there who have had or are having similar experiences.

By the way – here’s an almost unbelieveable irony – they are both medical doctors and she wants to specialise in psychiatry!

The above questions and comments were originally posted on the Contact page.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.


If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

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Kicking and screaming cake topper at bride.

What to Do If You’re the Target of Bullying at Work

women bulliesBy the time you realize you’re the target of workplace bullying and mobbing, it’s usually the beginning of the end. The ultimate goal of the bully/mobbing ringleader is to eliminate you from the organization. Unfortunately, most organizations neither acknowledge nor address workplace bullying in a way that protects the target.

In fact, Human Resources and management usually further victimize you by siding with the bully. Unless you can document acts of sexual harassment, racial or religious discrimination, pressure to engage in unlawful activities or discrimination for a physical disability, bullying/mobbing isn’t illegal in most states unless you can tie it to these specific acts of harassment. Therefore, it’s important that you come up with a plan to protect and remove yourself from this unhealthy and stressful work situation.

The following are measures you can take if you’ve become the target of mobbing at work:

1. Assess your professional options. What can you do to protect yourself in the short-term while working on a long-term solution? Do you know people who can connect you with other job opportunities? Do you need to learn new skills to transfer to another department or to seek employment elsewhere?

If management won’t address the problem, you’re going to have to leave or continue to suffer the abuse. Bullies don’t stop until they force you out. Their attacks escalate in severity and in frequency. The more they get away with their behaviors, the more vicious they become.

2. Play it cool. Don’t react with anger at work. Even though your anger is completely justified, don’t blow your top. Find an outside person with whom to vent your frustrations.

A common tactic of bullies is to provoke you into anger in front of co-workers and management. They then pretend like you’re the one who is out of control and hostile, “See. What did I tell you—s/he is uncooperative and people are afraid of him/her.” Of course, they don’t mention the dirty tricks and psychological torture they used to push you into it. They want to destroy your professional reputation. Don’t give them the ammunition to do it.

3. Don’t give your employer “cause.” The bully/mobbing ringleader is looking for reasons to have you terminated, so you have to be beyond reproach. When you’re bullied, you feel demoralized, unappreciated, attacked, and frustrated. Consequently, you lose interest in your job. Your heart just isn’t in it anymore and you let things slide. This is referred to as “presenteeism” or “discretionary effort.” The mindset is, “I’m being mistreated. The company isn’t doing anything about it, so why kill myself working any harder than I have to?”

Try not to do this. Your goal should be to leave your current organization on your own terms. Don’t give them grounds for termination. Demonstrate that in the face of a hostile work environment, you did your best. Once you’ve secured a comparable or better job, let the HR person know exactly what happened during your exit interview. If the company gets enough victims of the bully on record, they might eventually do something about it. The bottom line of any organization is money and recruiting and training new personnel is costly.

4. Create a paper trail. Document everything: dates, times, witnesses, detailed descriptions of their behaviors and events. Send emails describing what’s going on to yourself or a trusted colleague. If you meet with HR, take notes and submit a signed copy for your personnel file.

If your manager or boss is one of the people bullying you and they pressure you to sign a false or unfair performance evaluation or disciplinary action, draft a counter statement explaining your position. Stick to the facts and try to keep anger and emotionality out of it. State that you were made to feel belittled or persecuted. Document that it’s a hostile work environment, which is highly stressful and makes it difficult for you to do your job. Most importantly, keep the original copies and store them in a safe place—i.e., not at work.

5. Get a second opinion. Reality test with a trusted colleague, therapist, coach, or lawyer. One of the most damaging aspects of workplace bullying is gaslighting. You begin to doubt your own perceptions because most of these behaviors are diffuse forms of innuendo, done behind your back or, even worse, if you’re publicly humiliated, the participants deny or minimize how you were treated.

6. Use available resources. Do research on the web. Study your organization’s HR handbook, particularly work grievance and harassment policies. Although, keep in mind, workplace grievances usually aren’t an effective way to deal with a bully. Either the bully has friends in HR or management or is your boss. HR usually sides with management. Plus, most bullies are practiced liars who deny, minimize and distort the facts with ease. Additionally, your company has already failed you in allowing the bullying to occur and not stopping it.

If you have access to a labor attorney or are able to obtain a free consultation, consult with him or her about your rights. Look for other work options. Seek support from friends, family or a therapist.

7. Take care of yourself. Bullying is a form of emotional abuse and violence in the workplace. It takes a very negative toll on your physical and psychological health. Work becomes an active war zone, which causes you to maintain a defensive stance and become hypervigilant. It’s incredibly stressful, exhausting, and traumatic. This toxicity will eventually spill over into your personal life.

Minimize the effects of the abuse by reframing or changing how you see things (Sutton, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t, 2007, pp. 131-147). If you change your mindset about what’s happening, you can reduce the amount of damage you experience. For example:

  • Avoid engaging in self-blame.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
  • Develop indifference and emotional detachment.
  • Learn when and how not to give a damn.
  • Lower your expectations about your co-workers and management.
  • Remind yourself that you’ll recover and move on from this ordeal.
  • Look for small wins. Gaining control over little things will positively impact your well-being.
  • Limit your exposure with the bully.
  • Build areas in your life that provide support, safety, and sanity.

8. Use your free time to develop your career outside of your organization. If you’re not being given assignments anymore or your responsibilities have decreased because of bullying/mobbing, use that time to network in other departments, attend professional trainings, work on your résumé, and network outside your organization.

Quantify how these activities are related to your current job in some way, so that you can’t be accused of working on personal activities on company time. For example, hand out business cards when you attend an outside networking event and mention your company and what you do in conversation. Do not, however, bad mouth your company to anyone outside the organization. This will reflect poorly on you. Additionally, you don’t want to be accused of disparaging the organization as grounds for termination.

Workplace bullying and mobbing are insidious forms of psychological and emotional abuse. You can survive with your professional reputation intact if you don’t fall into the trap of reacting or shutting down at work (i.e., not fulfilling your responsibilities). Educate yourself, protect yourself, and develop a plan to get out and move forward with your life.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.


If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Related articles:


Sutton, R.I. (2007).  The no Asshole rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t.  NY, NY, Warner Business Books.

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Talking behind my back on Forbes.

How to Avoid Bullying and Mobbing at Work

bullseye painted on my foreheadBullying and mobbing are forms of workplace emotional abuse and psychological violence. These behaviors are more than a case of harmless personality differences; bullying and mobbing are purposeful and malicious.

Bullying, whether perpetrated by an individual or a group, entails victimization of a target with the goal of demeaning, discrediting, alienating, excluding, humiliating, undermining, and isolating him or her. It often manifests itself in petty harassment and bureaucratic hassles.

Bullying doesn’t stop unless someone with authority steps in or the bully is able to manipulate the target into quitting or being fired. The bully’s  ultimate goal is to force the target out of the organization.

7 Steps to avoid becoming a target for mobbing and other workplace bullying:

1) Heighten your awareness. Be aware of changes in management and possible differences between your values and organizational values. A power shift or change in management structure can create an environment conducive to bullying and mobbing and/or trigger bullies who already exist within the system.

New managers typically want their own people in place who are loyal to them and share their beliefs and values. If they don’t have legitimate grounds to fire you, they may try to eliminate you through bullying tactics by making the workplace as unpleasant as possible for you.

Alternately, new managers often inherit bullies from the old manager. They’re difficult to initially spot as most bullies put on a charming face in front of authority figures. If the bully enjoyed a position of power before the new manager arrived, they’ll try to undermine and derail the new boss to exert their dominance, maintain their power base, and perhaps try to get rid of the new boss. If this occurs, give the bully a warning and terminate them when they violate the agreement post haste. It shouldn’t take very long; bullies are repeat offenders. They cannot not bully.

2) Can’t we all just get along? More often than not, the answer is a resounding, “No.” If the change in management is big enough, it may warrant transferring to another department or finding a position at another company. Sometimes, you can’t “just get along,” which means you have to move on. It’s unfair, but that’s how it goes. Some differences are too great to resolve. Create a strategic career plan to begin this process.

3) On the down low. If you decide to stay at your current job due to financial restrictions or because an alternate job isn’t readily available, find ways to protect yourself and keep a low profile. It’s more difficult to become a target if you stay off the radar.

Don’t openly disagree with or challenge the bully. Don’t offer suggestions that differ from their agenda. Don’t offer constructive criticism. Become a “yes” man or woman or stay silent when you disagree. Get assignments done on time, smile, and don’t go above and beyond.

If you do outstanding or highly creative work, bullies will find that threatening. It seems counter-intuitive, but if you do something that makes you look good, bullies believe they look bad in comparison and turn on you. If you can find a better or comparable job opportunity, please do so as quickly as possible. This strategy should be a temporary solution, not a long-term one. Over time, it can become just as stressful and demoralizing as being bullied.

4) Play it cool. If you’re prone to anxiety, try to mask it as best as possible. For example, minimize anxiety behavioral signals like fidgeting, leg bouncing, nail biting, constantly apologizing, and nervous laughter. Predatory bullies pick up on fear, so “never let them see you sweat.” Exude quiet confidence, even if you have to fake it at first.

5) Look ’em in the eye. This is related to keeping your emotions in check. While it doesn’t pay to directly confront or challenge a bully, don’t make the mistake of backing down or running away when they verbally attack you. Look them in the eye, remain calm, and politely state your case, being sure to stick to the facts. This is easier said than done. Bullies are masters of baiting people into losing their cool.

6) Develop and practice conflict management skills to minimize the tension. A hallmark of bullying and/or mobbing is continuous conflict. Finding ways to manage conflict and anger before it becomes a problem will be to your benefit. Practice deflection with humor. Learn how to detach yourself from the emotionality of tense situations. Try to remain unflappable. If bullies see you flinch, they’ll move in for the kill.

7) Know your rights. Study your organization’s HR employee handbook and harassment policies. Research your state’s employee’s rights. If you belong to a union, find out what resources are available to you. Good news! Several states are “considering laws that would make workplace bullying an ‘unlawful employment practice’ and give victims the right to sue an employer that fails to prevent it.” About time if you ask me.

If you work for an organization where bullying is tolerated or condoned, it’s only a matter of time before it’s your turn. With every target a bully successfully eliminates, you’re on an ever increasing short list of potential new targets. And, quite frankly, if you participated in making someone else’s life hell at work out of self-preservation, you probably deserve a little karmic payback.

Bullying isn’t just a problem for the targeted individual. If bullying and mobbing are permitted in an organization, it’s everyone’s problem because it means no one is safe. Bullying in the workplace is a form of systemic abuse. It takes more than one person to say, “Enough,” and end a bully’s reign of terror. Start by educating yourself and co-workers. If you see a colleague is being bullied or mobbed, reach out to him or her privately and offer your support.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to

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