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Beating the Workplace Bully: A Tactical Guide to Taking Charge

Bullies aren’t limited to the playground. These days, they roam our offices and can be found everywhere from break rooms to boardrooms. They don’t steal your lunch money, but they can make your work life a living hell – and even ruin your career.
Whether the bully is a boss or a coworker…whether you’re the target of manipulation, intimidation, verbal abuse, or deliberate humiliation, Beating the Workplace Bully will show you how to fight back. Filled with exercises, assessments, and real-life examples, this empowering guide helps you recognize what’s been making you a victim…and reveals how to:
1. Avoid typical bully traps
2. Remain aware and in charge
3. Move past your fear
4. Calm yourself in any confrontation
5. Keep your dignity intact
6. Build confidence
7. Handle sneak attacks
8. Strengthen your resolve
9. Understand the steps that your employer or supervisors can take to address the issue
10. Combat cyber-bullying
11. And more
With this practical, personal coaching program in your corner, you can reclaim your power – and defeat the office bully once and for all.

Reviews for Beating the Workplace Bully by Lynne Curry

If you haven’t encountered a workplace bully, you’ve been incredibly lucky. Or, more likely, you haven’t been working very long. In either case, be thankful you’re one of the few who haven’t had to suffer a bully’s manipulative and malicious behavior. I worked for a bully for two years, 20 years ago, and my gut still knots up when I think about him. I remember the dread I felt every time I pulled into the employee lot and saw his Audi tucked into its parking space. Walking to the door, I would ask myself, “What will it be today? Another pointless assignment with ridiculous deadlines? A new wrongheaded and hurtful policy to implement? A browbeating for not solving a problem that never existed?” The staff had a nickname for him. They called him “El Loco.” I thought about El Loco this week as I was reading a new book, “Beating the Workplace Bully,” by Lynne Curry. I’ve known Lynne for decades, both as one of her coaching clients and as her editor. After reading her book, I realize now, I should have gone to her for help with my bully. At the time, I didn’t understand what was happening or why, or have a clue what to do about it. Now I do, after reading the book. Lynne is well equipped to help the victims of workplace bullies. She has a doctorate in social psychology and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. She founded and runs Alaska’s largest management and HR consulting firm, with 3,500 clients in 14 states and five countries. More personally, she acknowledges that she herself was the victim of a bullying relationship. As more and more desperate victims of bullying bosses, co-workers or even subordinates came to her for help, she developed a series of strategies for her clients. She saw that most bullied employees found very little relief from either their employers or the law. And her clients reported back that her approaches worked. That led to the idea of a book that would catalogue the types and styles of bullying, tactics for coping with discrete types of bullies, and exercises for victims to make the mental adjustments to become less inviting targets. She also offers advice to workers who see bullying but aren’t sure what they can or should do to stop it. She defines three types of bullying in the workplace: -- Verbal bullying, meaning slander, ridicule, name calling, offensive remarks, -- Physical bullying, like pushing, kicking, obscene gestures, threat of assault, and -- Situational bullying, through sabotage, interference or acts of humiliation She describes the characteristics, behavior and vulnerabilities of seven workplace bully types: the Angry Aggressive Jerk, the Scorched Earth Fighter, the Silent Grenade, the Shape-Shifter, the Narcissist Manipulator, the Character Assassin and the Wounded Rhino. Most people who have spent much time in an office of any size will recognize at least some of these types. If you recognize all of them, you have my sympathy. Lynne explains that people bully for all kinds of reasons: because they grew up with bullying, as a way coping with feelings of inadequacy, as a strategy for job security and advancement, and more. She says bullies rarely stopped bullying; they just find other victims. The book combines readable, anecdotal accounts of real-life situations — “case studies” — with social psychology research about the behavior of both victims and bullies, especially as seen in the workplace, followed by step-by-step coaching on how to either side-step, minimize or defeat the bullying behavior. She reviews the physiology of human stress reactions and explains how victims of bullying can get control of their reactions, using visualization to help them to listen and respond effectively to attacks that otherwise might stun or intimidate them into shamed silence. She addresses relatively new but increasingly problematic cyberbullying (which is not confined to school kids), and concludes with a quick review of the law, as it does and doesn’t apply to bullying. (I learned, for example, that California is the only state that specifically outlaws bullying in the workplace.) When I sat down with “Beating,” I assumed it was a book of relevance only to current victims of workplace bullying. But after finishing it, I see a broader value. Everyone who has a job or is planning to get one ought to read it. It will prepare them to recognize bullying for what it is and give them the tools to address it, whether they’re the victims or simply find themselves on the sidelines of a bullying incident. Maybe I’ll send a signed copy to El Loco.
Patrick Dougherty
Former managing editor, the Anchorage Daily News
Bullies are bad; you won’t get any arguments there. What folks may not know though is how rampant this scourge is. Lately, they’ve been germinating like weeds in a garden run amok. News accounts are replete with example after example of internet bullying, classroom bullying and workplace bullying. An article in The Guardian, listed details from a VitalSmarts report “that 96 percent of their respondents—out of 2,283 people—experienced workplace bullying.” Further, they add that “Psychology Today refers to the increase as a ‘silent epidemic’.” In Beating the Workplace Bully: A Tactical Guide to Taking Charge, Lynne Curry tackles this insidious problem head-on. Curry has fashioned a solid how-to manual that succinctly, via anecdotal stories, illustrates how bullies wreaks havoc in all of the organizations they work within. She peppers her exposé of corporate America’s virulent virus with real life examples, spanning the spectrum. By confiding her own personal experience with bullying, her reader feels confident they are getting sage advice from someone who has confronted bullying directly and learned how to grapple with it. She introduces us to composite characters, inspired by real people ensnared in real life traumas. We witness firsthand bullying encounters and how these players deal with the quandary. She wraps every chapter with a Q&A section where readers are encouraged to probe— which for some may be painful. For example, one question may ask: “are you currently entangled with a bully?” Then, “Describe the bully.” By asking thorough questions about bullying behavior and helping readers analyze their own issues she breaks down the fourth wall, transforming the reader from a passive observer to an active participant in dissecting and addressing this malady. One theme echoed time and again is that too many organizations do not address bullying with formal policies or even tenets of recommended behavior. This regulatory vacuum extends across the country. California is the only state to enact anti-bullying legislation. As a result of these legislative lacunae it is incumbent upon the affected individual to learn to handle it independently. Curry shows the way there. Before going any further, it’s worth noting that while Curry does an excellent job of presenting viable tools designed to benefit all those caught in the web of bullying, her books suffers from stylistic flaws. It’s the dialogue. On the believability meter of “does this sound real?” it falls flat. Maybe it’s because her characters are representations of several individuals rolled into one and often it’s challenging to create dialogue that mirrors the world we work within. Regardless, what she has to say about these matters remains pertinent and her savvy advice, invaluable. One of the more critical services she renders is identifying the bullying types trolling our business hallways. This is especially important as there’s not a “one-size-fits-all” solution to successfully maneuvering with these hostile individuals. Her categorization of these bullying broods quite colorfully snaps pictures of these easily detectable archetypes. Odds are, as you peruse these labels, you’ll recognize them immediately. Here they are: “The Angry Aggressive Jerk,” “The Scorched-Earth Fighter,” ”The Silent Grenade,” “The Shape Shifter,” “The Narcissist Manipulator,” “The Wounded Rhino: Malevolent and Powerful,” and “The Character Assassin.” Once you determine the nature of your bully Curry offers insightful clues on how best to arrest their malignant behavior. The bottom line is to find ways to stand up to these bullies, whatever their brand. Sometimes that entails getting third party support, be it from a senior executive or HR team to help resolve the dilemma. Curry encourages her readers to regain the upper hand by managing the situation rationally, not succumbing to the bully’s emotionally charged atmosphere. Pinpoint your strengths, and then rely upon them. Never let a bully’s demeaning comments enter your consciousness and drag you down. Curry reminds us constantly that bullies do not fight fair. That doesn’t mean you sink to their level, it’s just an admonishment to remain cognizant of the sort of individual you are striving to manage. Toward the end of her book, in a single statement, Curry crystalizes the over-arching idea to guide her audience: “By setting goals and creating plans you have the opportunity to live your life by design rather than by default.” Clearly, this concept applies to challenges other than bullying. It is the key to success within the business world. And, perhaps that is Curry’s most salient contribution—treat bullying like any serious business threat and you’ll be well on your way to victory.
David James
Originally published in the Anchorage Press
Lynne Curry could have called her book "Navigating the Workplace Battlefield." Instead it's dubbed "Beating the Workplace Bully: A Tactical Guide to Taking Charge." Regardless, its detailed anecdotes across a wide spectrum of problems that God knows we've all faced in the workplace — or life — present a grim assessment of what it's like to be a grown up. There's Molly, the head nurse at a medical practice, who discovers in new hire Pauline evil incarnate. Pauline's the new manager who upends everything Molly has done and flusters her so much Molly retires 10 months early. There's Mike, the silent grenade, ready to blow and send shrapnel into whomever irritates him that particular moment. There's Geoff, the passive-aggressive dirtbag who declares war on the co-worker who got the promotion he wanted. There's the cyberbully who posts false but anonymously incriminating and rather vile lies about the new hire, just because. Curry is the master of the relatable anecdote. She said the names in her books and situations are nonspecific, mostly compilations of stories grouped from her work as a management consultant (but way more than that) at the Growth Company Inc. "They and everybody else are collages of people I've worked with over the years," she said in a recent phone conversation. Curry is also a columnist, which is how I met her so many years ago, and all-around super cool person. What she does in her book, in easy-to-digest language no less, is outline terrible situations that seem to fester in one guise or another in every office, job site or electronically interconnected workplace. And — at least at the start — the picture she paints is grim. Some of the images she conjured reminded me of a boss who did in fact scream at me for something she told me to do and insisted that I lie to the federal government. Seriously. I wanted to head butt her. But I bit my tongue. Curry says, according to the advice laid out step by step in her book, I did the right thing. Choose your battles, and one of those is handling your own anger, she says. Better to channel that outrage to better effect. Is her advice earth shattering? In the proper situation, hell yes. Curry is extremely practical. She's addressed so many problems and obviously learned to steer through the workplace battlefield and its constant shelling, small arms fire, roadside bombs and craters that her answers appear ridiculously simple. My wife would say common sense. But her approach to dealing with situations is measured, calculating and careful. Don't forget to document. And she repeats her points in a totally entertaining way so the lessons sink in. I remember some teacher telling me to count to 10 when I got mad. It worked for me. I used to be the new kid at schools, all the time. I had bright red hair and apparently a sign that said kick me. Physically fighting back did no good. (Sometimes it did get respect but usually alone time with the principal.) Curry's got the good kind of advice. I wager her book should be on the same reading list as Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends & Influence People," a similarly short and easy-to-digest workplace navigation tool that basically says, "Put yourself in the other guy's shoes." I remember reading that at 27 while going through a bout of serious depression (cancer treatment has that effect), and it turned off the gloom. Curry's book packed a similar wallop. Like I mentioned, the first part is a bit of a downer. Curry is presenting problems. And anybody who listens to problems sometimes takes them to heart. Maybe it's just me. Dammit Scottie! I want a solution! Now. But Curry, like the chief engineer on the USS Enterprise, is going as fast as she can. She rounds back on every anecdote. I must say, I needed the closure. But she also provides a detailed analysis of how to punch that jerk figuratively in the face. And, oh yes, eliminating the problem is so rewarding. No violence, of course. Curry's solutions are even better. They're still putting a smile on my face.
Mike Nemeth
Verified Amazon Purchaser
Great book. Terrible stories. Wow, where did these people come from? I have to say these are some of the worse workplace stories I have ever read or even heard about. There’s the woman whom cons her co-worker into buying her coffee on the first day and then made it a daily event. Or the boss who was always threatening to fire his staff and telling them that “There’s blood in the water.” Or the supervisor who sat her new employee down on the first day to let her know that it was not her choice to hire her because she had only worked in a small firm and “did not have the sophistication, this corporate position needs. You don’t even dress properly.” My personal favorite is the very first story in the book about a nurse Molly who is ten months from retirement when she gets a new supervisor who does everything she can to undermine her. She told her that the system she had set up was “antiquated” and then told Molly that she would make it better without her help. At the first staff meeting the new supervisor told everyone that Molly’s system was “pitiful” and then next started a stream of negative emails to Molly denigrated all of the work she had been doing for the past twenty years. This woman just about ruined her self-esteem and self-confidence. I could go one with these true life stories about people who I consider nothing less than social monsters and yes mean beyond belief. But the whole point of the book as the title indicates it to learn how to handle these kinds of people., How to counteract them and as a last resource know when it is time to give up and get the heck out of Dodge. My favorite chapter was Five which talked about the basic steps to handling some of these situations. From the book: Step 1. Control your initial reactions: Take time to truly evaluate the situation. Step 2. Control your response: Ask yourself: • What is going on? • Is this the way I want to be treated? • Is this situation or bully worth taking on? • If so how? Step 3. Assess the situation Step 4. Determine why you are the target? Step 5. Analyze the pros and cons of taking on the bully. Step 6. Take back the power: (this is the key step in my estimation) How you handle your self is in your hands. And if you feel that this is a job you want to keep then go up against the bully. This is your job and it is within your power to keep it. Step 7. Decide on your game plan. The rest of the book will show you how to do this. How to implement and execute your plan and handle the bully and the situation. I was not sure I was going to take the time to read this book and I approached it tentatively. But once I got into it I understand and came to appreciate its’ value. This is one of the few books that talks about business from the human aspect. Yes there are bullies out there and yes they can really mess up your chances of having a successful job experience. Bullying in the workplace is a real problem and this book offers real solutions to solving those problems. A must read for the real work we live in. And one last thought, this is a great book for all workplaces and organizations from businesses, to non-profits and yes even including religious institutions everywhere and so this book is valuable whenever you are in a spot where you have to deal with shall we say less than gracious co-workers.
Dan's Business Books
I’ve never run into an office bully I couldn’t handle but being the boss for the last 20 years certainly helped. However, I wish Lynne Curry’s book, “Beating the Workplace Bully: A Tactical Guide to Taking Charge,” had been around 50 years ago for my mother; for the afternoons she came home crying, sobbing her eyes out. It might have saved her years of misery. When my mother landed her dream job in a government agency, working for a woman, she liked and respected, she was thrilled. Within a week, however, she was a miserable mess at the end of every work day. I can still hear her sobs, carefully hidden from the family, of course, but not from a precocious pre-teen who was skilled at listening through vents. My sassy, beautiful, self-confident mother who did everything perfectly and whom everyone admired was beaten down by the office bully, a woman as ugly on the outside as she was on the inside. It was frightening. Mom was a rock. But this woman reduced her to tears on a daily basis for something like seven years, hiding her true self from their boss, a woman much like I became — an adult who lived in her head and missed a great deal of what went on around her, expecting the best of everyone she knew. Professionals such as my mom were reluctant to go ‘tattling’ to the boss, my dad explained, as he comforted his wife and tried to counsel her on how to handle the situation. But he didn’t have the skill set and experience of Dr. Curry, whose wisdom would have given my mother the tools to fight back. If Dr. Curry’s book had existed back then, I would have given it to my mom. I hope others will do the same — for themselves and people they love. This one ugly bully brought years of pain to a strong and valiant woman who had just lost her brother and mother to painful deaths, and who was raising three children and running a flawless household. I’m sure Ms. Ugly was tormented in her own way and would have benefited from Dr. Curry’s wise words. But to a kid, she was the monster who made my mother cry.
Kay Cashman
Publisher and Executive Editor of Petroleum News
Many thanks to the author Lynne Curry for this book. It just happened to come at a time when it was badly needed. After facing the deaths of my grandmother and mother within a month of each other to make matters worse my supportive work environment was taken over by a new manager and one with a reputation. The only bright spot about that was knowing I wasn't the only one. And so along came Beating the Workplace Bully. I have read other similar books and while informative they could get dry reporting stats and figures and often the end didn't give many useful suggestions on how to actually deal with bullies. In this book there are suggestions, tactics and exercises that help clear your mind and to help change your ways. Don't ever expect the bully to change. Step by step it's laid out before you, avoid direct confrontation, know your enemy. The reader is given the opportunity to set their own goals and targets for how they plan to deal with bullies and conflicts, whether it's direct face to face, through management, or by simply not allowing them to set up house in your mind. By the end of the book and the part I liked most the scenarios changed and finally the bullies were shown the door, which proves that sometimes you can get rid of a bully. This will be a book I am sure to continue to refer to and use throughout the years. Filled with great advice and real life solutions to real life problems I wish this was required reading for management and employees alike every where.
Verified Amazon Purchaser
Lynne Curry’s book reminded me why I hated middle management in some of my jobs. Not every job, but enough that a pattern does develop. The bullies she described in her book were real to me. I had a real name and face for each type. Sometimes due to circumstance beyond your control, you stay on a job below your experience and education for your family. You will invariably end working for someone who is working their way to the top at everyone else’s expense. Her comments on the “go along to get along mentality” hit home. Some employees are mighty warriors after work in a bar but are Caspar Milquetoasts at work. Mortgages, kids’ braces, and extended family tend to do that to you. She points out that this paints a target on your back. If you are stuck in middle management because you can’t afford to uproot your family and move to a better job, then buy this book. Keep it close and read a little each day. You too will be able to put faces and names to each type of bully. Lynne's resume gives her the experience and education to compose a comprehensive workplace masterpiece like Beating the Workplace Bully. I recommend this to anyone who has or have had a boss that is a bully.
Stephen M. Dryden
Verified Amazon Purchaser
Well, this should be required reading before ANYONE ever enters the work force. It has immediately helped me effectively and efficiently deal with others that were "bullying" me in "passive" ways. It also includes a chapter on how to determine if one's self is a bully, albeit they are unaware. I'm impressed with this book enough that I've committed to re-reading it at least once a year. AND I'm impressed enough with the author and the quality of content on this book that I'm heading IMMEDIATELY to one of her other books.
Book Purchaser
Verified Amazon Purchaser
Book is extremely informative and well written. A ton of practical advice and tells it like it is. Excellent for people who are targets. Very thorough. I will read it through several times. Wish I had discovered it earlier. It is a jewel.
Mary DeSantis
Verified Amazon Purchaser
This book was incredible. I finally feel like I can breathe at work.
Rebecca Charlton
Verified Amazon Purchaser