ARTICLE: The workplace bully 'Ambush' meeting - Know Bull! Australia :: Workplace anti-bullying website

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ARTICLE: The workplace bully 'Ambush' meeting

If you're experiencing workplace bullying there WILL come a time when you get called on to attend 'the meeting'. Knowing in advance what  this meeting is, and its purpose can save you a little bit of heartache. At the very least, expect this meeting...and do your best to prepare for it.

How it all begins...
You've been bullied for months. You're hard-working, love your job, and what's're good at it. But someone (probably a new boss), has been heaping all kinds of 'misery' on you for awhile. Your good work ethic and stellar results now aren't  good enough.

You find yourself berated behind closed doors, humiliated in company meetings in front of others, you've been castigated in public, your efforts are minimised, and you now have to 'justify' every choice, every decision, every action...and nearly always the most insignificant of things.

One-by-one the trust-based relationships you shared with your co-workers are dissolving. Deadlines get moved at short notice...task requirements change with little or no notice...resources are withheld...this only serves to make your job that much harder. Having been placed under so much scrutiny...having to re-do, alter, and sometimes scrap completed work...having to tolerate the months of words and statements that de-moralise and de-humanize...having to tolerate the 'soul crushing' and deriding personal attacks on your begin to question yourself, to doubt yourself and  your capabilities. The joy you once showed at work is now gone. Every interaction with the 'heaper of misery' now fills you with know any interaction will be bad...but you just don't know how  bad. Then your presence is requested at a meeting. You may have been told "there are concerns"...about you or your work...or you may be told nothing other than to "just show up".

If you recognise this scenario, what's about to come is far  worse than any of the treatment you've been experiencing for X amount of months. It's known as the Ambush Meeting...and it's used by every  single workplace bully on the planet.

You may not  have realised you're the target of a workplace bully...
Up until now, you may not  have even realised you were the 'target' of a workplace bully. Many people don't...they just put this kind of workplace abuse down the rigours of working with a 'demanding' boss. If that's the case, then this 'meeting' is going to be one of the worst shocks of your life.

So how do you determine if, in fact, you are the target of a workplace bully? The quickest way is to download and complete our 1-page questionnaire: Are you being targeted by a workplace bully?  This should give you a pretty good idea whether or not you're the target of a workplace bully.

If you determine that there's a good chance you are the target of a workplace bully, we recommend you download a copy of our Workplace Bullying Diary Form to your home computer. Either print and fill in the Workplace Bullying Diary Form, or fill it in on your computer and then print the completed form. There's a sample of a completed Workplace Bullying Diary Form for you to take a look at. The importance of recording workplace bullying events in a concise and consistent format can never be underestimated, so keep this information filed in your records at case you ever need to provide specific details of events.

You need to prepare for the bully Ambush Meeting...
In brief, there's a number of things to do prior  to the Ambush Meeting:

  • If you haven't already started looking for another job...start now.

  • Remember, this meeting is going to be an all-out 'assault' on you, your work, and your work ethic. There's no easy way to let you know.

  • Try and remain calm and collected. It won't be easy, but you need to keep your wits about you so you can understand what's going on...and to look for an opportunity to state your case that the workplace bully is too expensive for the workplace to keep.

  • Do not  refute the claims and statements made against you, one-by-one. Just know that they'll be based on lies. The workplace bully also knows their attack is based on there's no point trying to justify will just wear you out and side-track you from seeing the opportunity to present your  case.

  • If you can take a witness/support person into the meeting with you to take so. In the Australian context we've seen people being denied this request. Also remember that many of your co-workers will have deserted you already and out of 'fear' of bully retribution many, if not all, will decline to be seen as offering you support. If you're a member of a Trade Union, consider getting a Rep to attend the meeting with to your Union and see if they can assist. Don't bank on HR supporting you...their 'job' is to protect the organisation, and by default...the worklace bully. We've also known of people inviting their solicitor to attend these meetings as well.

  • Feel free to ask if you can electronically record the meeting for "accuracy of your own records". In the Australian context, this request has always been denied. We don't advocate electronically recording these meetings covertly, because it's against the law in Australia...but  it does occurs.

  • Your 'mission' during the meeting, is to present a financial breakdown of the cost of 'keeping' the workplace bully. Calculations include the salary of the amount of staff who have left...and the salary of replacement staff. And because workplace bullying lowers the productivity of existing staff, and new staff take time to come up to include the salaries of both  staff for each financial year the bully has been operating. Also include the cost (daily pay rate) of days taken off by all staff in sick leave or 'mental health' days to get respite from the bully, and include the cost (hourly rates) to do or re-do the work of the workplace bully. Obtain (if you can), the amount of payouts to those who left the organisation (or estimate), and also any litigation or court costs. At this point you can also state you have a chronicle of bullying events (this is your bully diary information) to back up your claims...but don't provide it, because you may need it later for legal reasons so keep the contents priavate...just allude to it and state some of the key points.

  • Before  you go into the Ambush Meeting...type up an email to the workplace bully and include the email addresses of key Board members like the Chairman, Union Rep, your Solicitor, Human Resources. DON'T send it just yet. You write this email while you still have some clarity, and before  you come out of the meeting where you'll probably be reeling. In this email (in dot point...keep it business-like, and leave out any emotive statements) you write something like:

"As a follow-up to the meeting requested by (name of bully) requiring my attendance (date and time of meeting), I'd like to clarify the contents of the meeting:

1. Various spurious claims were made about the quality of my work such as (detail the lies here). Note that these claims were not substantiated when requested.

2. Further, 'ad hominem' statements such as (detail the personal attacks) were made during the meeting, these were not substantiated when requested.

3. In response to the claims outlined during this meeting I provided detail about a number of bullying events that had occurred in workplace and were instigated by (name the bully here) such as: (include dot points about the bullying events you mentioned during meeting - If these events weren't investigated include that too).

4. Additionally, at the above meeting I provided a financial analysis of the 'cost' to the organisation of keeping the workplace bully namely (name the bully here) over X amount of years. I have included this breakdown of costs as an attachment to this email.  

5. In support of the above I also include the following (list other relevant details and dates such as when you first drew attention of the workplace bullying to others in the organisation)."

6. Sign off email

  • When you leave the meeting...fill in the blanks then  send the email. This is known as leaving a paper trail. What you need  to remember is that the 'goal' of the Ambush Meeting is to either dismiss you on the spot...or force you to quit after some period of time. Either way, you won't be keeping your job...that's the purpose  of these meetings. Don't forget to BCC a copy of the email to yourself at home.

  • Realise that even if you're not keen on sending this email...the workplace bullying ALWAYS escalates after the bully Ambush Meeting.

  • The goal of this meeting is to get you to leave the organisation i.e. quit 'voluntarily' (a.k.a constructive dismissal). And the 'tool' workplace bullies in Australia where you're forced to sign some type of 'performance improvement' document, where you have a certain amount of days to 'lift your game', or you'll be dismissed. NEVER under any circumstances, should you sign this document willingly. Most, if not all who are presented with this document are told if they don't sign it...they'll be dismissed. If this is the case, amend, or strike through the block that say's "Signed/Signature", and replace with words similar to: "Forced to sign", "Co-erced into signing", "Signed under Protest", or other similar statements. This document will become important should you proceed at some point with legal proceedings against the organisation...make sure you get a copy of the statement that you 'amended' to include in your 'bully files'.

  • Once you've signed this document, EXPECT the workplace bullying to increase. This document is NOT about improving your 'performance''s to apply so much pressure on you that you'll leave the workplace of your own volition. EXPECT that the 'job sabotage' will increase exponentially, EXPECT that you'll be increasingly micro-managed, shadowed etc, EXPECT that deadlines on tasks will fluctuate wildly with no notice, EXPECT that your workload will be increased substantially or will include so many additional 'redundant' tasks that you will find it impossible to complete your 'normal' workload on top, EXPECT that if you miss completing so much as one 'redundant''ll be hit with the '3-strikes and you're out' speech.

Finally, listen to the following (excellent) podcast by Dr Gary Namie from the Workplace Bullying Institute (link opens small popup window), 33mins in length:

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