With Friends like those...
One of the interesting turn of events when dealing with bullies is watching them turn on each other.
Even as they ignore and deny their own bullying behavior, supporters of bullies condemn the bullying behaviors of their fellow bullies. Members of the bully's group have told me, "Yes, I agree that was completely unprofessional and they shouldn't have done that,” but then they say they’re not going to stick their neck out and say anything about it. As an Administrator said about a bully at the college, "Stay away from her. She's dangerous."
A long-time co-worker and happy hour buddy of my bully told me early on, "Don't try to be her friend. She doesn't have any friends. She doesn't know how to be one." I asked him, "Aren't you her friend?" which was met with an icy stare and the words, "She doesn't have ANY friends."
One of her closest friends said, too late to help me, "She will do anything and say anything, including lying, to make herself look good." Many people who the bully thinks are her friends warned me about her when I started this job and, surprising me, they described her with the words, “mean”, “cruel”, “XXXX”, “a XXXXXX”, and a “XXXXXXXXX.” (It seems too mean to actually tell you some of the words. Even the target of a bully can have some empathy for the bully's feelings.)
A Director in my department who has befriended the bully, tells everyone in our department to be careful around the bully and her best friend. He says to always get everything in writing when dealing "with those two."
Unfortunately, I ignored all the warnings I received and tried to be her friend anyway. If anyone sounded like she needed a friend, she did. But, of course, I got burned and bullied for daring to ask her to wave hello and say hi to me in the hall, and occasionally have a friendly conversation (she replied that if that is what I want, then we can't be friends). I should have listened to those who knew her nature far better than me. I won’t make that mistake again. I'll listen to the warnings next time and steer clear of the bullies at the college.
I don't really feel good about publishing this information about bullies turning on each other, it feels a little mean to the bully, but I feel it is important to show that when a person is being targeted by a bully and their group, their supporters may not be as supportive as they appear. I hope this will give comfort to the targets of bullies that what seems to be a united front of co-workers mobbing them may not be as united as it appears.
Later the bully asked me to exclude this co-worker from a couple of happy hours when she wanted to meet and get to know some other guys from the office without him noticing. I invited him anyway -- I don't exclude people from gatherings of our colleagues.
Often bullies are surrounded by people who pretend to be their friend to avoid being targeted themselves. Bullies don't have real friends. Even when they are surrounded by people at a happy hour, they are not surrounded by friends.
It's a sad situation to watch, even for the target of a bully.