The Bully At Work
I always cringe when I hear the comment that bullying is “just a phase all kids go through.” But my belief, what you do not deal with as a child, so shall you deal with as an adult. If you are unfortunate enough to talk with an adult who was bullied as a child, it is sad what you will hear. “They have no idea what that has done to me in the adult life I lead.” My life proves such an example. While I credit my being bullied with my high tolerance for pain, the toughness to endure surgeries and treatments of life threatening illnesses, my inability to “quit” anything, there is a dark side that I do my best to conceal because it is not how I want people to see me.
The problem with school bullies is that they grow up to be adult bullies. And while the public physical abuse outside of the home may subside, the dominating behavior is brought into the workplace. It is not bad enough, that competition can force aggressive behavior between employees, but then certain environmental circumstances are used as kindling to start fires between co-workers at the hands of management. For instance, an employee is habitually absent due to a chronic and debilitating illness. A supervisor often finds himself scrambling to find people to do the work that risks not being done and is therefore inconvenienced. With no legal recourse to make that employee pay for her selfishness, the manager instead subliminally encourages discourse through other subordinate who in turn are being punished with the extra expectations. The absent employee is now getting abuse from both hourly worker and manager.
And if you are unfortunate enough to work for a large company, then you have the extra ladder rung of Human Resources which no manager wants to go through because HR does not want the legal ramification of harrassment in the workplace. So the manager instead churns up the activity against the employee, the co-workers fall in suit, until the employee feels they have no other choice but to leave. I have personally watched three other employees go through this process and have been watching two more currently. I realize that I am presenting myself as a helpless coward because I am doing nothing on their behalf to help them. And my reasons are quite simple.
One. They do not want the help, nor are they asking for the help. As far as they are/were concerned, nothing was going to happen. It was shocking to see how oblivious people are to the efforts of sabotage around them. But second, I have my own issues to deal with in this manner.
Imagine a worker who has been battling a crippling condition that over a dozen different disciplines of medicine have not been able to put their finger on. What starts out as an act of “cattyness” between two female workers has continued toward the most aggressive and time consuming effort to eliminate her from her job.
Imagine that, co-workers believe that they have the right to tell a person if they have the right to earn a living and how. It matters not if the employee has a family to support, a close relative battling a severe illness, or the employee themself, if your co-workers do not want you to work, they possess the power and believe they have the right to dictate your employment. Do you recall that “phase” that kids go through? This is what the continuation of that phase looks like. There is a lot more to this, and I will make that a different post.
But the downside to me having been a victim of bullying, is I do not pick my battles. I now fight everything, and everyone. If I even get a whiff that someone is trying to overpower me, I react in the most defensive posture and releasing a tirade of accusations which I can not only back up, but do so without worry of the ramifications to my employment. You see, I actually believe that some day, when someone actually sticks up for themselves, the right thing will happen eventually. But it has to start somewhere, and the best place for that, is where the behavior starts.
The playground bullying and school bus harrassment must stop. It has been decades since I faced that torment, yet the memories today are as destructive to my well-being as the bruises left behind. Today, the results of bullying carry much more severe consequences as the efforts to defend against the domination reach extreme levels of resolve too many times resulting in death.
Bullying has been a difficult conversation for Wendy and I to have as parents. We are both on opposite sides of the experience though we both agree, bullying should not be tolerated. I have insisted that my daughters do not tolerate any physical or mental abuse from another classmate or friend. If it is verbal, they have been told to walk away. If it is threatening, tell a teacher or another grown up right away. But if it is a physical shot, meant as anything more than a pat on the back for a job well done, they will defend themselves which I will completely stand behind them. They are learning self-defense tactics for this very reason, because I was bullied, not because they were.
My daughters have been taught to respect everyone, even if they do not like a person, they must still respect their right to be here in this world. They are never to throw the first punch and I believe in them not to do so.
We are fortunate in our school to have a strongly supported anti-bully program. And as a school board member if elected this year, bullying in schools will be a major platform for me. I hear of so many students being abused by classmates, and yet, nothing is done to correct the incidents. When all else fails within the school, a parent must understand, a child has civil rights. And if they are being bullied, those civil rights are being violated.
Look at the alternative. Continued tolerance will lead to only two things. A victim growing up skewed against society, trusting no one to do what is right, and an agressor who will lead companies by trampling the grown up rights of the youthful victims they began their reign over.