Bullying is killing people. I hope that got your attention, because it is. Bullying destroys lives.
To clarify, my focus in this post is not about those who troll the social media pages looking to denigrate those above them, nor am I talking about school children being ridiculed by their peers. While these bullies are also killing people, the focus of my work is in the workplace, it's where my expertise targets.
Supervisors who place their subordinates (I hate that word) under unnecessary pressure to perform to an unfair or unknown set of standards.
Those being bullied should also understand the difference between being asked to perform to the same expectations that others are being asked to and to which you have resisted, as opposed to those being treated unfairly for whatever reason. Being held to account to achieve a set of agreed standards, provided it is conducted according to policy, is not bullying unless it is done so in an overbearing manner.
Human behaviour, and the way in which we interact, has matured over recent generations. The way people spoke to each other around the workplace in the 1970's & 80's is no longer appropriate, if it ever was so. Humans have evolved to become more aware of what is and isn't appropriate. People have also become more 'sensitive' to the way in which we interact, emotionally caring for ourselves and for others, social media does have its advantages.
I have met many bullies, unfortunately, most of whom have similar characteristics - a distinct lack of social skills, the inability to communicate effectively, having a sense of self-importance, immature in their thought processes, low emotional intelligence - the list goes on. All of them believe that they are doing a great job and getting the best out of people by their behaviour. 'My way or the highway' is their favourite mantra.
If you recognise any of these traits in yourself, you need to change because you are causing real harm to others.
What should you do if you believe that you are being bullied, regardless of the reason;
- The bully MUST be held to account - ignoring behaviour does not change it. By ignoring the behaviour, the bully may believe that they are treating you fairly.
- Never confront it at the time - if you confront a bully at the time of the incident it often won't end well. When emotions are heightened we become defensive and find it difficult to discuss things rationally. Instead, write down what occurred, what was said and how you felt. The latter point is important should the incident go further.
- Talk with someone - ask a trusted colleague or friend what they think about your situation, they will bring perspective. When relating what occurred, leave emotions to one side and focus on just the facts. If the colleague or friend believes you are being bullied, you must take action to bring it to the bully’s attention.
- Can you do it - I am a firm believer that you, the one being bullied, should talk with the bully in the first instance. This shows that you have strength and will not tolerate bullying. Meet with the bully the following day and remind them of what occurred, tell them how it affected you, and ask them if they thought what they did to you was appropriate had it happened to them. If they react negatively, warn them that next time it happens you won't wait a day, you will bring it to their attention at the time.
- If you can't do it - bullying is an emotionally confronting event, if you feel that you cannot talk with the bully, have a colleague, support person, or a union delegate with you or to talk on your behalf. Employment courts generally take the approach - was it brought to the person's attention at the earliest opportunity and at the lowest possible level - hence the need to take a measured approach.
- One chance is enough - if the bullying behaviour occurs again, bring it to the bully's attention immediately. If they do not accept what they have done as inappropriate, it's time to step it up.
- Seek skilled help - if the behaviour continues, it is now time to go outside of the organisation and seek employment expertise. Why outside, because of the independence. Unions are a good start, or an employment advocate/lawyer.
This might seem like a lengthy process, it isn't. Here are the reasons I believe it is the right process;
- It is a controlled, measured approach.
- Courts will look favourably on you should it go further.
- Meeting anger with anger never works, the harder you push on someone the harder they will push back. Additionally, your conduct might be seen as bullying.
- Humility is not weakness, it is a true strength that empowers.
I am a firm believer that doing nothing in most situations is a valid option, not with bullies. Doing nothing is tantamount to acceptance and in some instances, may be viewed as an endorsement. If we see someone being bullied, it is incumbent upon us to also take action.
As to children and bullying, the same rules can apply. Bringing the inappropriate behaviour to the attention of teachers or parents to do something about it may not work. The actual bully needs to know that what they are doing is wrong, hurtful, and destroys lives.
As for trolls, they require a different approach. In this instance you should do nothing, biting back will only excite them because they want a reaction. Ignore them.
The media also have a part to play in bullying. Heightening rumour, gossip and scandal is a form of bullying. While it might sell, it also destroys.
Finally, don't treat people the way that you want to be treated, treat people with respect. It's that simple.