Bullies are known for being boisterous with “look at me,” “I’m powerful,” and “I’m important” attitudes. Oftentimes, this behavior leads to a bully receiving attention, influence, power, validation, and too many times unchallenged control. Therefore, a bully’s ability to dominate and intimidate others usually occurs and continues because individuals become complicit (directly or indirectly) in various ways.
Loyalist and outsiders – at times – have fears about being a target of a bully’s attack. There concerns are related to a bully’s potential ability to retaliate, cause someone to be chastised, or influence having someone ousted from an organization. It’s appalling that anyone can or would act in ways that intentionally attack or abuse others. Furthermore, it’s concerning and alarming that workplace incivility, hostility, and abuse appear to be on the rise.
Related to the President, Trump’s outlandish and egregious behavior isn’t surprising. He was raised in a life of luxury, disconnected from the daily struggles of most people, and perhaps treated like royalty. This bullying behavior is reflective of a spoiled child who as an adult didn’t become accustomed to having their power or authority challenged. It’s also reminiscent of the childish behavior that occurs in schoolyards in which a bully’s strategies are to call names, use physical attacks, attempt to discredit their targets, or take actions to eliminate a potential threat (real or imagined).
Bullies who are threatened act and behave in (fairly) predictable ways, which are to dismiss accusations, deflect attention, distract by creating new issues, and dismantle any perceived threats.
This operating method is consistently and predictably used by Trump:
- As with any bully, whenever Trump doesn’t have a viable defense, his initial reactive response is to dismiss allegations;
- Trump’s next step is usually to deflect any allegations toward another focal point;
- Then, he normally follows this behavior with efforts to distract unfocused individuals on various levels to remove or minimize the negative attention directed his way;
- Finally, if all other efforts aren’t successful, Trump extracts potential adversaries from his organization/environment --- many times unwillingly.
This sinister model was masterfully implemented several times during Trump’s presidency, for example:
- Preet Bharara (former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York) was asked to resign – along with other U.S. attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama. However, Bharara refused to do so citing a previous agreement with Trump to remain in his position. Nevertheless, he was fired. The timing of Bharara’s termination is suspect because the previous day he refused to return the President’s phone call. Based on accounts, Bharara wanted to avoid a conflict of interest because he strongly believed that a president’s direct contact with federal prosecutors violated governing ethical protocols.
- Sally Yates (former Acting U.S. Attorney General) was fired after she refused to defend Trump’s travel ban which she believed to be unlawful. Furthermore, she provided direction to the Justice Department attorneys to not defend it. Based on these actions, she was terminated days before she was to retire. Since Yates’ refusal to enforce the travel ban and her subsequent firing, several Federal Courts have validated her position by ruling that the President’s Executive Order exceeded presidential authority and included discriminatory intent.
- James Comey (former Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)) was unceremoniously fired during a visit to a FBI facility in Los Angeles. While speaking with employees, Comey shockingly learned that he was fired from a television news report. The gall in which this termination was handled was undeniably meant to publicly embarrass and humiliate him. Moreover, it’s peculiar that Comey was reportedly fired due to mishandling the Hillary Clinton private email server investigation, especially since his actions were previously praised by Trump.
The issue with allowing this type of behavior to go unchecked, unchallenged, and unquestioned is that it normalizes unethical workplace bullying. Unfortunately, during the era of Trump, the ole’ adage as President Nixon said, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal” seems to be ever-present. This type of mentality cannot be allowed by the President or anyone. There must always be checks-and-balances to ensure that there’s accountability, responsibility, and consequences for everyone’s actions --- including and especially the President.
If an unethical action or behavior occurs, then there must be open, timely, and decisive consequences; otherwise, a bully can become emboldened with a sense of invincibility --- along with operating with impunity for their actions.
Additional information on workplace bullying can be obtained in Mr. Young’s solution-oriented books “Bullies… They’re In Your Office, Too: Could you be one?” or his mini-book “Management Spotlight: Workplace Bullying.”
This post originally appeared on S. L. Young’s blog on his website at: www.slyoung.com