If you are familiar with the story or the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” then you are very likely acquainted with the idea of flying monkeys. Put simply, flying monkeys are those people around toxic individuals who continue to support them, even when they know of or have seen how poorly the bully or toxic individual treats you or others. They are enablers, but they typically can do nothing to stop the toxic person from their behavior, instead, they are used to try to manipulate you to back down from your accusations or they pretend to be your friend, while they report your thoughts and plans back to the bully, very much like the flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Before I learned about flying monkeys I was never silent about feeling like I was being abused by toxic people; not as a child, not as a working adult. But, I had to learn the hard way that not everyone will keep your confidence and, even worse, they will still remain friends with the bully, even when the toxic individual mistreats them, too.
It is usually pretty easy to uncover a flying monkey; when a coworker approaches you with an issue that they are having with with the toxic co-worker and you end up swapping war stories of shared abuse. You both agree that this person does not deserve your friendship, but every time you run into the coworker, they are bragging about all the fun and games they are up to with the toxic co-worker.
Flying monkeys love to brag about how they could never be friendly with someone as toxic as your workplace bully, but whenever you walk in on them, together, they seem to be having a great time. Later, the coworker has the perfect excuse to justify why they are still friends with your workplace bully; maybe they are owed something from the bully or they are afraid for their own job.
Flying monkeys love to meddle. My favorite flying monkey incident was when a coworker came to me to tell me that our toxic coworker was willing to offer me an apology, if I’d only give him a chance to explain. I did go and speak to my bully, at her suggestion, and the apology amounted to, “I’m sorry if you were offended by how I spoke to you.” In other words, “Sorry, I’m not sorry.” In any case, it was less than a day before he was up to his old bullying tactics.
If the workplace bully has seniority over your coworker, in order to save their own job, even when they have a chance to admit to management that they are being bullied, just like you, they will lie and give the toxic individual a glowing review, in hopes that the favor will be returned, even if it means hanging you out to dry.
Flying monkeys are not your friend, if they are still being friendly with your workplace bully, especially if they admit that they are also being abused. They cannot be trusted. Essentially, they are the toxic individual’s eyes and ears. If you have a complaint about your workplace bully, be aware that, no matter what confidence they share with you, even if they swear you to secrecy about their feelings, they will not honor your request to keep your feelings confidential, as well.
Flying monkeys will be used against you, with management, to “prove” that you are the problem and not your workplace bully. With threats or bribes; promises of quid pro quo, toxic individuals are skilled at manipulating people, that you thought that you could trust, into betraying you, even if you have ample proof of your bully’s toxic behavior.
Flying monkeys are not worth your time. For toxic individuals, they are only worthwhile, so long as they can help keep the bully’s victims in line. Otherwise, flying monkeys are no more worth your time, than the workplace bully is. They should be considered just as toxic as your workplace bully and treated with just as much disdain.
The way to deal with flying monkeys is not much different than dealing with toxic individuals and workplace bullies:
1) Trust no one. Do not share your miseries with your coworkers unless or until management comes to you to share that they have heard negative things, from other people on staff, in regards to your workplace bully.
2) Keep your thoughts to yourself. Even if your coworker comes to you with their complaints about the workplace bully, do not share your opinion. Encourage them to go to management, instead. If you have already gone to management, yourself, having one or two more people validate your experience to your boss will be extremely helpful. But, if you swap war stories and they do not go to management, you can be sure they will share your comments with the workplace bully, leaving you to look like the bad guy.
3) Use the Gray Rock Method . Once you have established that one or more of your coworkers continue to maintain positive ties with your workplace bully, despite having evidence of their toxic behavior, it’s time to focus your energy on your exit and not encourage any discussions outside of any, strictly work-related, activity that you need to perform together. Do not engage in the topic of the bully or any other idle chatter that doesn’t have to do with your job.
How do you handle flying monkeys in your job?
Other posts in the series:
On this site, I will continue sharing my experiences with a toxic workplace and offer advice, based on my own practices, on how to stick it out, if you can’t leave, right away. So watch this space, as I hope to make it a permanent feature.
Feel free to send email to Contact@dizzydezzi.com with questions, comments, concerns or to share your own story or to get advice.