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Question re Workplace Bullying: Who Decides If Someone Is Being Bullied?

By Valerie Cade CSP

We receive many email questions from all over the world. I thought this one was most important to address:

Who decides if someone is being bullied at work? Wouldn’t a target just over-react and label the behavior as bullying?

This question is an interesting one.  It has to do with the reality of the target, and the reality of the bully (the bully knowingly targets an individual with their disrespectful behavior repeatedly).

In my book, Bully Free at Work”, I ask each target to keep a detailed journal of observed behaviors from a bully, or bullies (i.e.) mobbing.  This is done to demonstrate a pattern, as opposed to a one-time occurrence.  In addition, it also shows the intensity of disrespect.

One aspect to consider is the impact of the bullying on the target.  Some people who may suffer from lower forms of self esteem may experience bullying as more severe.  However, many individuals with healthy self esteem also experience bullying behavior, and the experience is severe, causing harm to the target.

Separating the experience of the target from the bullying behavior is also important.  For example, you could have a resilient person who handles excessive verbal abuse attacks, is denied promotions ‘without any cause’, and is purposefully left out of meetings in order to decrease the information power necessary to do their job; and yet he or she somehow manages to rise above all this.  Just because the target is able to rise above this does not minimize the behavior of the bully.  It is still bullying.

Bullying is deliberate disrespectful and repeated behavior toward a target always for the bully’s gain.  The word ‘disrespectful’ has to be defined in order for each workplace to have a sense of allowable behaviors and non-allowable behaviors.

There are people who exhibit difficult behaviors and who are not targeting anyone; this is not bullying.  There are people who are very sensitive and suffer from lower levels of self esteem and may not take responsibility for their situations at work, who are victims, so to speak.  Although this victim’s personal experience may feel severe, the behavior directed may not be bullying.  And there are good people working diligently, who are being targeted repeatedly and trying to cope as best as they can.  I will repeat once again:  anyone who is knowingly targeting another in order to cause harm is bullying.  Understanding the difference is key.

Respectful behaviors are best.  Any alternative should be held accountable.

Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of “Bully Free at Work:  What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!” which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide.  For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to http://www.bullyfreeatwork.com

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2 Responses to “Question re Workplace Bullying: Who Decides If Someone Is Being Bullied?”

  1. stronger in faith Says:
    December 14th, 2011 at 8:44 am

    There are those who exhibit difficult behaviors but do not ‘target’ anyone; this is not bullying.

    I agree. There’s always the person who wishes to show how important they are (and have yet to learn the social graces of including others in talk; be it at lunch table or family table) They just talk of all they know; hogging all conversation. This isn’t a bully. There’s those at work who knock off 15 minutes early and go wash up in restroom. It can be a problem but they aren’t trying to make you the worker fail, There
    are those who come into work 5 minutes or more late; simply by reason of the title on their door nameplate. It’s inconsiderate; especially if you rely on them to begin your day…but it’s not being a bully. (rudeness, inconsiderate, self centeredness is not a bully)

    YES…when we try to zig and zag around those who will not communicate properly, when they attempt to pick a verbal fight (knowing they have the power of ‘office’ to win) when they stand over a female clerical worker with hands on hips and say “hiya Missy” hoping we react, when they do all that they ‘saw’ when they were children of the parental authority to one who is mutually adult like them (finger wave, crossed arms while talking, foot tapping, slapping their facial cheeks in phoney exasperation) They are trying to demean us as being THE LESSER to they…to gain control. Emotional manipulation for their purpose rather than adult to adult communicating. RESPECT is not present in such situations and it never will be…no matter WHAT we do. We can hang in as long as possible (for our benefit) then speak…
    and we can expect that the employer will side with the one who has a nameplate on the door. ALWAYS. Particularly if said employee provides firm some ‘benefit’ besides their work. (ie: fills a quota for ‘tax’ purposes)

    That’s the way it is. Nothing to do but carry ‘our cross’ knowing that there is more than ‘this life’ and He that suffers for doing good reaps the greater reward SOMEDAY.

    Of course, the power is always with us. Stay always ‘knowledgeable’ of new technical info on one’s own, gain additional education, improve self for yourself while enduring the bully, find a new job and leave. (or quit…if that’s possible) If a new job can’t be found and it’s
    getting impossible to do what one was hired to do;
    ‘take the risk’ talk to management – they will be in their own way of thinking – merciful to you and terminate your employ. FINE. You stated the case; they terminated for ‘irreconcilable difference’ and you will find work where you are appreciated…eventually. If you have a strong support in the home area (spouse, or relative)
    it works fine. Stay as free of debt when working and you are free to stand up for yourself.

    AND THEY? they lost a good worker.(they won’t say it …but they will miss you) OH WELL.

    When enough good folk get up and say ENOUGH… I
    don’t have to be treated like a less than… businesses will take notice. They need good workers. Left with only mediocre bullies…they will soon come around to setting standards again.

    the power is always with THE GOOD. Don’t let them convince otherwise.

  2. Mary Says:
    August 3rd, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    I am an experienced nurse but a new employee (4 months) at a long term care facility. The place is worse I’ve seen to “eat their young alive”. I am given sarcasm: a fax transmittal is messed up, I ask a fax person, “what is wrong with the fax machine” I get the answer “I guess its messed up” and then they turn their back and carry on a conversation. Supplies I need take hours…the patients are the ones that suffer. What do I do?

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