Bullying remains a very emotive issue. I have a few friends who openly admit that they were bullies at school, and that they didn't mean any real harm, and were "just teasing". Comments that people overreact, and that the victims often bring it on themselves are also made. It is a reality that the bullied person's reaction can lead to further bullying, or their lack of reaction can move the bullies to a new target. These former self styled bullies have grown up into nice people who are really fun to be with. Who would have thought?
But the people I know who were bullied have not grown up nearly as undamaged. In fact, it is my unscientific opinion, that bullies grow up to be happier and more successful than the bullied, because their sense of self is more entitled. (Other than in the entertainment industry, where almost all of them claim that they were misfits and excluded from everything.....)
Moving from the classroom to the boardroom, what is bullying at work?
There are so many different, and subtle, ways of making people feel less than valued, that sometimes the bullied person simply feels more and more inadequate at the job, without realising that they are, in fact, being bullied.
How regularly do we hear "Everything I do is wrong!" and it seems to be true. There is often the perception that the bullies are senior people with power, or men who sexually harass women, another type of bullying.
But there is the other side, too. There are employees who use passive/aggressive behaviour, constantly making small mistakes or not checking their work, so that their line manager never feels safe using their input without double and triple checking etc. This can impact on the relationship, making the line manager less patient, and it becomes a negative circle, where the employee feels undervalued, blames the manager for making him nervous, the manager becomes harsher in his criticism, and so it goes on. Is there a bully in this pairing, or are they simply incompatible work partners?
Power shifts happen in relationships, and sometimes it is the person in the less formally influential or powerful role who is the bully.
The wonderful (in my opinion) Ellen de Generes finishes each show with the words "Be kind to one another" and bullying is very much the opposite of that. During the next few weeks, I will try to unpack what is bullying, what it isn't and how do we introduce more kindness into the workplace, without sacrificing productivity, growth and effective business practice.
References & Links
Shambolic – it simply sounds better to me than chaotic.. Do lots of people have favourite words or just a few of us nerds? As everybody is starting to think holidays (or maybe you prefer to vacation), it seemed a good time for a different type of blog. Have you noticed how many words with pleasant associations sound more attractive than those that describe the negative. Watching a TV quiz show the other night made me wonder. The contestant hated bulbous and gusset! There have always been some words that appeal to me, triskaidekaphobia being one. I now know that I had the meaning wrong! I thought it meant fear of Friday the 13th, but it is simply a fear of the number 13, so how does paraskevidekatriaphobia grab you? That is the real word for fear of Friday the 13th. Love it! Now I prefer rural to bucolic, but Robert Beard (see below) selected the latter as one of his favourites. Effervescent is a gorgeous word, so descriptive and onomatopoeic while ethereal makes me think of gossamer and fairie…