Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Behaviour of the serial bully: attention seeker, wannabe, guru and sociopath including industrial psychopath, corporate psychopath and workplace psychopath

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Constant criticism, nit-picking, no empathy, control freak, denial, charm, glib, compulsive liar, devious, manipulative? Read this

Serial Bully Character Traits

on this page...

The Bully's Underlying AgendaImmaturity
Guidance for readersInappropriate Body Language
Plausible Charisma, Charm and EmpathyLack of Conscience
Selective GenerosityUnreliability and Dishonesty
Contempt for OthersHypocrisy
Manipulation and ControlProjection
Facile Assertions

Self preservation

On other pages:

Serial bully attitudes to life and work
Serial Bully Introduction

The Bully's Underlying Agenda

In a work context, people who trust, rely on and confide in each other have needs, e.g.

  • to have some work done, service rendered or commodity supplied (especially in the case of a client or employer);
  • to be trusted and respected;
  • to be helped, supported and developed;
  • to develop and preserve a good reputation;
  • to be able to earn a regular income

Bullies see these needs as vulnerabilities which they seek out and exploit for personal gain and sometimes for gratification. Businesses, stakeholders and colleagues all have similar needs and are all therefore potential targets.

The sort of bullies we are describing are charlatans who use clever words and actions (rather than merit) to get into a position where they are trusted, relied upon, confided in and so on. Bullies find ways of appearing capable of being able to satisfy such desires or needs, but once they have the other person's trust and confidence, they take what they can for as long as they can, ditching people along the way, and then and walk away when there is nothing left to take. They can get away with it for years because of yet another common need: The need to trust the bully. People do not want to believe they are being exploited and so they tend to make up excuses for and put up with the bully. Sometimes it is out of genuine ignorance, and sometimes it is denial on the target's part, not wanting to admit that they've been taken for a ride. Bullies exploit this vulnerability, again with convincing explanations and by manipulating people's perceptions, to remain in a position where they are free to continue without any real prospect of being held accountable for their actions. Often, because they come out of disputes as "winners", their ability to get away with further exploitation is increased.

Guidance for readers

Tim Field revealed that the character traits below existed in people who were serial exploiters. Readers should note carefully that possessing some of these character traits does not make a person into a "serial bully". The purpose of publishing these character traits is not to provide material with which a reader can demonise, or render as untrustworthy, an innocent colleague. It does, however, help readers understand what they can expect to find in the character that is responsible for behaviour described elsewhere in this website as bullying. Even when dealing with the person you think is bullying you, do your best to avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken and remain objective. Even if you are certain that someone's behaviour is unjustifiable and unfair, still do your best to treat them fairly.

One practical reason for this advice is that you and the bully and the dispute will be observed by others. Their opinion matters most if the dispute is to be resolved fairly. It is therefore important that you outshine the bully in the single area that they cannot function: treating an adversary assertively, i.e. with fairness.

Another practical reason is that if your response to being bullied involves conduct that could be directly interpreted or twisted around and interpreted as bullying, you risk losing whatever moral advantage you had over the bully. Do not treat anyone, whatever they have done, in a way that would justify them using material from this website to describe your actions and character.

Plausible Charisma, Charm and Empathy

Charisma is a personal quality often attributed to leaders who arouse popular devotion and enthusiasm. Sometimes it is achieved through the leader's merit, and sometimes through the followers' fear of the consequences of not being devoted and enthusiastic. The more respectful people are of the charismatic leader, the less likely they are to experience the consequences of not being seen as respectful. Remember that some charismatic leaders are respected because of their genuine merit and integrity.

  • People have described serial bullies as "charming", and through this "charm", they can convince managers, employers, investigators and courts that they are wonderful people. When peers, superiors or others are present, they seem plausible and convincing. Of course, they are not charming to the people they victimise.
  • Some serial bullies may appear superficially competent and professional at their job. Much of their plausibility, normal appearance and apparently dynamic character is the result of mimicry, repetition and regurgitation. They extol the virtues of the latest management fads and use jargon to demonstrate that their way of doing things is en vogue.
  • Charismatic, charming serial bullies are capable of anticipating what people want to hear, and then saying it. By applying this skill, they convince others to follow and support them. They portray themselves and are talked about by their disciples as clever, successful, important, wonderful, kind, caring and compassionate people.
  • Although they usually have little concept of empathy, they can use charm and mimicry to compensate. However, their attempts at empathy are superficial, amateur, often inappropriately timed or over the top. Rather than being motivated by genuine concern, such attempts are to make the bully look good in front of witnesses.
  • Some serial bullies form or join lots of committees. This impresses followers and casual observers by making the bully look busy and important, and it allows them to pass the hours without being required to contribute much if any work.

Selective Generosity

Bullies are not exclusively mean, but they are selective about it, being mean, officious and inappropriately inflexible some of the time, but generous, relaxed and very accomodating at other times. They motivate some people with the prospect of reward, and others by manipulating their fear, anger and guilt.

  • A bully might be mean and offhand to the target one day, but disarmingly generous the next. This is a means of psychological control achieved by balancing the target's anger, fear, trust and respect of the bully.
  • They can respond to requests for help either with impatience and aggression (if no-one is looking), or with a fulsome and effusive attempt at empathy (if witnesses are present).
  • Bullies cannot be trusted with money. Even if they are selectively generous, their net aim is always to take, and never to give;
  • They are incapable of reciprocity, ie unable and unwilling to reciprocate any positive gesture.
  • They can be insensitive, often callously indifferent to the needs of others, especially when others are in some difficulty.
  • Bullies are by default ungrateful people and rarely (if ever) say "thank you" or "well done", except for show, as a means of control.


Arrogance is having, or displaying, a sense of overbearing self-worth or self-importance.

  • Serial bullies are frequently self-opinionated and display arrogance, audacity, a superior sense of entitlement, and appear to have a sense of invulnerability and untouchability. They take risks that others would regard as foolhardy.
  • They can have an unhealthy need to feel recognised and wanted, which draws them to positions of power, which they then go on to abuse.
  • Serial bullies holding positions that require leadership qualities appear convinced of their superiority and have an overbearing belief in their qualities of leadership. In simple terms, they are often haughty, high-handed "know-it-alls" who are not ashamed to tell others how good they are.
  • They often act out of gratification and self-interest only, often using and hiding behind the employer;
  • As leaders they are autocratic and dictatorial. Most of their actions, most of the time, are dictated by self-interest, self-aggrandisement and self-preservation.
  • Extrovert bullies tend to be shouters and screamers, are highly visible, and bully from the front.
  • Serial Bullies sometimes display a seemingly limitless energy, especially when engaged in attention-seeking activities or evading accountability.

Contempt for Others

Bullies look out for and exploit others' vulnerabilities for personal gain or gratification. Other people are seen as objects to be exploited. Also:-

  • Serial Bullies often hold deep prejudices relating to others' gender, sexual orientation, culture, religious beliefs, race, and other personal characterisitics, but where they know it is unlawful to exhibit such prejudices, they strive to keep them under wraps. This prejudice can extend to a hatred of sectors of society, e.g. ethnic minorities, disabled people, etc, or to departments in their organisation, or of professions that are aware of and doing something about bullying, such as the police, psychologists, psychiatrists, charities, social workers, counsellors, therapists etc.
  • Bullies that are in a job that they cannot do will resent anyone who makes demands on them, and that can include clients, suppliers, superiors and subordinates. They attempt to conceal their resentment but every so often they will make a gaff that reveals disdain or contempt for their colleagues. The frustration arising from general self-restraint may be a reason for venting open aggression on one target at a time.
  • When called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of others, they respond with impatience, irritability and aggression.
  • Serial bullies detest anyone more competent or popular than themselves. They are unable (or refuse) to praise or value others' achievements, ofen being scornful, and sometimes refuse to acknowledge other's existence. Thier compulsive need to criticise anyone or anything extends to finding fault with the things other people have done right.
  • When in a position of power, Serial Bullies appear to gain gratification from denying people what they are entitled to. They are unwilling to conform to societal norms, thinking that rules, regulations, procedures and laws don't apply to them, but reprimanding others for perceived failures to comply.
  • They see others as a threat; the threat seems to comprise a fear of exposure of inadequacy, and often borders on paranoia;
  • They despise anyone who can see through their deception and their mask of normality;
  • Bullies are unforgiving and often seize on and exploit others' mistakes or perceived mistakes. If crossed or unwittingly criticised, bullies can hold grudges for long periods and act on them later, eg by denying their transgressor a promotion or by picking them for redundancy - sometimes years later.
  • When addressing perceived shortcomings in others, bullies use criticism and humiliation. This approach limits people by controlling and subjugating them, but it does not bring about any performance enhancement.

Manipulation and Control

Serial bullies survive and bully people by managing others' attitudes and allegiances, by indoctrination to an extent, but mainly by manuipulating emotions, especially (in targets) fear, anger and guilt and (in others) fear, anger and greed. This is achieved by being untruthful and drawing people into believing their fabricated version of reality which, in its most basic form, is achieved by:

  • using intimidation and criticism to make targets feel isolated and hopeless;
  • using gossip, back-stabbing and falsehood to undermine and discredit targets and others;
  • plagiarising and taking credit for others' work, denial, retaliation and feigned victimhood to make the bully look good.

Sometimes manipulation of minds requires manipulation of documents and records. A bully may (or may have someone else) alter, delete or create as necessary any document or record, especially if doing so would damage someone else's reputation or protect the bully from being held accountable for his or her actions. Serial Bullies are often perceived as "control freaks", wanting to control not just events, but what others say, do, think and believe. This can emerge if a person raises a controversial topic and is immediately attacked for doing so and restricted or prevented from continuing. They may impose rules, regulations, laws etc and insist on adherence thereto, regardless of their relevance or efficacy.

Manipulating perceptions of intelligent people is not easy and demands constant effort, which can include:-

  • being a divisive and disruptive influence so that their department becomes dysfunctional and inefficient, and then "reorganising" it. In the chaos, no-one knows what is going on and relies on the bully for information.
  • provoking a target into giving an emotional or irrational response, and then seizing on it as evidence of the target's impropriety.
  • being unpredictably and disarmingly pleasant, especially if being unmasked in front of witnesses - this plays on people's sympathies and exploits people's guilt;
  • introvert bullies - the most dangerous types - tend to sit in the background and recruit others to do the bullying for them.


In trying to be popular, Serial bullies like to be perceived as having a superior intelligence. However, by trying too hard, they can appear intellectually dysfunctional.

    Elyssa D. Durant © DailyDDoSe™ © 2013

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