Creating Hope for the Future Against Workplace Bullying: Awareness to Internalization
Welcome to the March edition of Bully-Free Workplace Monthly. This is our very first audio podcast. And all that is is a message with audio. Some of you had been familiar with our teleseminars, and we’ve decided that it’s a better way to do an audio podcast because you can listen to this at any time and as many times as you like. So, this is our very first audio podcast and we hope you enjoy this.
My name is Valerie Cade, and I’m the founder of How to Have a Bully Free Workplace. Today we are going to look at the difference between “bullying” and what most people would call “difficult behavior”. Many people who are being bullied have often been told “Well, that’s not really bullying. That’s just simply someone who’s difficult.” Yet, you are left with the feelings of being bullied and you’re not sure what to do in response to somebody who’s extremely difficult.
Today we’re going to create a profile of a workplace bully and clarify that there are many people practicing difficult behaviors that should be classified as bullying. So we hope to give you some insights in terms of what we would call chronic bullying, situational bullying, and people who are, what we call, unaware of bullying, who are simply unaware of what they are doing.
The other thing we will do is we’ll give you our 3 top statistics for this month’s issue of Bully-Free Workplace Monthly. Statistics often will highlight the fact that yes, bullying is a problem in the workplace. Statistics are proven and well-researched, and to me, they highlight the importance of taking note that this is not just something that happens to other people. For example, our very first statistic says that 1 out of 6 workers in North America, England, and English-speaking countries will be affected by workplace bullying – that’s 1 out of 6. So if you’re in a meeting tomorrow with 10 people or 12 people, two of you in that room will be affected by workplace bullying.
What do we do about that? How many of you in your workplaces right now have ever heard of somebody that has been bullied? Do you recall anyone doing something about it, or did the person simply leave the workplace? If they’ve simply left the workplace, then they are joining 80% of people that actually do. So our second statistic says that 80% of people actually end up by leaving their jobs. Now why is this? That’s what I’m concerned with. Why is it that people leave their jobs, as opposed to doing something about the bullying? The number one reason is that people feel a loss of hope. They feel that they are not powerful enough to do something. This is both true and untrue. Personally, if you do feel that your power has been zapped, well you might as well leave. And the reason for the power feeling zapped is basically that a bully is out to target someone. Why would they even do this at all? We’re going to look at that as well. But when you are the target of somebody’s bullying behaviors, the first thing most people would feel is, “Why me?” And the second thing they’re going to think is, “What did I do to cause this?” Well, as soon as we start thinking that way, we’ve lost our control, because usually you will never be able to figure out exactly why you were the target. The bottom line is that you are.
The next step is to say “What can I do about it?” and to not take it so personally. Well, this sounds really easy on an audio podcast, doesn’t it? In our book, Bully Free At Work, the whole concept of bully proofing oneself is to make sure that you get yourself to a position that, even though the bullying is occurring, that you are not taking it personally. Then and only then are you able to actually be in a position to do something about it with confidence.
Again this sounds so easy on an audio podcast. So we’re going to look at: What is it that causes the bully to even want to target someone? Secondly, we’re going to look at the different profiles of a workplace bully, and third, some of the bullying tactics that occur – the top five in the workplace, by the way. So if 80% of people end up by leaving their jobs because they have been targeted by a bully, then what are the other 20% doing? That’s what I’m interested in. And how could we decrease the number? Why is the number so high in the first place? I guess if you were to look at the American dream, it is to have freedom in one’s own personhood, to create their own career path and to live their dreams. Well, that’s a great thing. But basically, it’s survival of the fittest in that system as well. Sometimes, when you’re trying to live your dream, somebody else really wants to live their dream too. And so if they’re not able to live their dream, they might in fact want to try and take yours away.
So let’s look at the bully, the actual bully.
Why does bullying actually occur? Well there’s a very famous psychologist who in fact is called “The Father of Self-Esteem”, and his name is Nathaniel Branden. He says that the higher one’s self-esteem is, the more likely one is to treat others with respect, kindness and generosity. Knowing this in your mind, body, and spirit is key. If people are truly self-actualized and do have higher self-esteem and self worth, then they end up treating people with respect, kindness and generosity. So, when somebody exhibits bullying behaviors, it’s usually because they have such feelings of low self worth in their own personhood. In fact, they might even feel like they loathe themselves. So what can we do in this case? Understanding that the bully is the bully because of themselves, not you, is key. Again, it’s hard to actually take this all, in especially if you’re being bullied; but Job One is to know that it says more about the bully than it does about you.
So let’s look now at our third statistic. Our third statistic says that 80% of the bullies are actually bosses. Now, a friend of mine said “Then you’ve got the people who think that they are your boss and they’re not”. That’s true. You could be working with some peers, and somebody all of a sudden decides that they are the boss of everybody. That also contributes to what we call the boss bully behavior. But it is interesting that 80% are bosses. Well, who is a boss? Ideally, a boss is someone who you go to when there’s something wrong, or you are incapable of getting your performance issues completed in the workplace and therefore you need further empowerment. Ideally, a boss is supposed to unleash those things for you. The other thing is that a boss has been given certain power and authority to carry out certain duties and responsibilities, one of which is to empower you. But there are some bosses who do not understand the concept of being a boss. Instead, they misuse their power and authority, and they try to take power and authority away from those that are under them. They end up targeting individuals; and in doing so, they somehow think that they will gain control and power for themselves. So yes, it gets very messy.
I guess you could say that workplace bullying (which by the way was a popular phrase that started in England) has become a silent epidemic; and that is unfortunate. The person who finally bully-proofs him/herself and gets the confidence to actually share that they are in fact being bullied, is sometimes turned down by their peers. So what can we do?
Well, there are the 3 types of bullies. Like anything, there is a continuum. When we hear the word bullying behavior or workplace bullying, the first type that we want to bring to mind is the concept of chronic bullying. This would be the most mean-spirited and cruel form of bullying. This is someone who will manipulate anyone, any time, anywhere. They actually behave with an intention to harm, and even get pleasure in tossing out these types of behaviors. Some chronic bullies have personality disorders. This is a smaller percentage of the bullies out there. Most of the literature written, by the way, has been defined in looking at the chronic bully. But the chronic bully might only represent about 20% of bullying situations out there. Not to minimize the fact, but what are the other 80% doing? How did they behave?
Well, there are two other types of bullies. One is called the situational bully. This is very very common, and is based on competitiveness. This is somebody at work who applies their bullying behaviors for the main need of controlling competition. And basically this kind of person can stop this kind of bullying behavior if it is in their favor to do so. If it is in their favor in a meeting to look like the hero and the good guy, they can turn on the charm, and that will gain them favor. But as soon as they can see there’s a need for competition, and they want to go out and win, they can turn on you like a dime and then apply the bullying behaviors. Why? To get what they want, which is to win. They are what we call a workplace politician. Now this is what I would call extreme difficult bullying behavior. Many types of literature will indicate different personalities and different situations where somebody is being difficult. This situational bully will target certain individuals in their way and it may or may not be the same person.
The third type of bully is what we call the bully who is unaware. My mother used to say, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” And now the Bible is quoting her. So if somebody is not aware, it really does say more about them than you. They might not be aware of the effects that you are facing. In fact, with the person who is unaware in their bullying tactics, when confronted, they are most likely to either stop or apologize. Some will become defensive, because they do not want to own up to the fact that they are coming across as a bully. But ultimately they will feel some kind of remorse as a result of being confronted. So it is very important to make this note, because I am not sure exactly where you might be on this continuum, in terms of being a target; or if you’re listening today because there is somebody that you know that is being bullied. But it is important to break these different types of bullying behaviors down in order to be able to then know how to proceed in actually dealing with the whole situation.
There is much literature written on bullying. But like anything, if you’re going to change behavior, there is an element of confidence that is needed. And I guess I want to say, from many people that I have talked to, just know that you’re worth it to actually continue to search out information and inspiration in order to make a change. What ends up happening when somebody has been targeted is that they actually feel the opposite. They start to take this so personally, that they may end up unconsciously convincing themselves that it’s their fault, and that if they can change their behavior and be nicer, maybe things would change, (which of course we know is not true). Then when things don’t change, they probably feel much worse about themselves. “Nicing” a bully to death will not cause the bully to change. It’s a matter of recognizing the bullying behavior and realizing that it’s not your fault that you are a target. When you realize that, you know that you’ve got every right to have a boundary, and to come back with certain behaviors; not at the expense of the bully, but what we’re saying is we don’t want it to be at the expense of yourself.
So what can you do? It’s very enlightening to know about the problem. But, there’s no hope unless we understand that there are some solutions. So here is our solution for March. Let’s say you are in contact with a situational bully, or even a chronic bully or a bully who’s unaware. There’s much literature written about humor. How can we use humor in this situation? Now, I’m sure the last thing you feel like doing is laughing. But for those of us who can laugh – and all of us have laughed at certain times in our lives – they say that people who have the ability to either laugh, or smile, or show some peace, then exhibit confidence. When somebody exhibits confidence, they are less likely to be a target. When we have lower confidence levels, lower self-esteem, then we actually attract somebody to want to target us. But it is very hard to keep your confidence levels up if you are in the midst of being targeted. So what could we do?
Well, in our book Bully Free At Work, we write about humor. And by using humor, we are actually on our way to preserving the dignity that we want for ourselves. Let’s use an example. Let’s say the chronic bullier is nit-picking away at you, and they’re fault-finding and making critical remarks. The first thing you can do is to take a deep breath and say to yourself, “Wow, you know my life would not be complete without this person’s criticism.” Now that might not sound very humorous, and of course you’re going to say this to yourself, but if you’re able to look at the humor in this, then that allows you to separate yourself from this attack. Sometimes a simple phrase like that can be used as a tool to actually separate you from the bully. Using your own wit and sarcasm – in a safe and unspoken way, of course – gives you a protective distance that can’t be taken away.
So, what else can we do when we feel that we are being targeted? Well, I’m a big believer that awareness is everything. They say that one of the top types of bullying in the workplace right now is somebody that finds constant fault with one’s work. Which brings us to the types of bullying tactics; pointing out mistakes and being blamed is the number one bullying tactic right now in the workplace. So if you find that you are probably doing your work very well, and yet there is somebody targeting you and pointing out your mistakes, or blaming you for things that might not even be your fault, this is bullying behavior. As soon as you recognize this, then you can start to put a protective distance between you and the bully right away; and not spend one more moment doubting yourself: How can I do it better? How can I gain more favor with this person? How could I be nicer? Stop that right now and notice that the criticism is bullying behavior.
The second bullying tactic is when somebody is making unreasonable demands of you. Have you seen the movie The Devil Wears Prada with Meryl Streep? Well, there was a boss that exhibited extreme – in fact chronic – bullying behavior . She would make unreasonable demands of her staff. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie already, she would ask her staff to order her a steak, or a Starbucks coffee; and Starbucks may not even be open yet, and maybe the steak was impossible to go and retrieve and bring back warm; yet each of her staff would jump as high as they could in trying to meet her demands. Only to bring the steak or the Starbucks coffee back to her desk, and for her to say “No, thank you. In fact, why did you bring that to me?” She would change the directive on a whim and the staff person was left shaking her head, wondering what she had done to cause this problem. Again, if you stop and look that this kind of unreasonable demand as bullying behavior, then you’ll separate yourself from the bully’s behaviors and you start to gain your own power. That is step one.
The third bullying tactic is criticism of your abilities. Very often, targets are people who are very smart, very capable interpersonally, and they are team players. Well, this is exactly what the bully wants for themselves. So sometimes bullies will target certain people who exhibit these wonderful attributes, and they’ll become very critical on your abilities and your capabilities. And you’ll be left wondering what you could be doing better. Again, stop – because that is not the way out of this. You are to notice that this is bullying behavior, so that you can then distance yourself from the bully.
There are two more bullying tactics. Number four is changing the rules. You thought that the staff meeting was at 9 o’clock Monday. So you go in at 9 o’clock Monday, but everybody’s already leaving. And they say “Well, didn’t you get the memo?” And you say, “No, I didn’t.” And the boss says, “Well, everybody got the memo.” And you said, “Well, no I didn’t.” And then your boss might criticize you and say “Well, you did receive it.” Now you’re into a war of “He Said, She Said”. Basically, you’re going to be going back to check your email to find that notice of the meeting; but just know right at that point that you were probably never sent that email. As soon as you can realize that this is a bully tactic – where someone is trying to change the rules on you – then you can gain back your own power and again distance yourself from the bully.
Number five is insults. Well, we’ve all been subject to insults over our lifetime, but this occurs when you might be trying to do something good for example, and somebody will call you down on it. Let’s say that you baked a nice cake for work – long gone are the days when we do that – but let’s say you did that. And somebody says, “Oh chocolate? I like vanilla.” Well, you could make the vanilla one the next week and someone says, “Vanilla? I like black forest.” You could go through the whole lineup of different types of cakes in the world, and I’m sure you’ll never satisfy this one person. If you bring white, they will want black. But again, what do people do? They will try to figure out what that person wants and try to please them. As soon as we notice that insults are a form of bullying behavior, then again you can distance yourself by regaining your own power.
The real message of today’s podcast is to really understand and internalize and be able to notice that there are certain types of bullying behavior, and that it says more about the bully than about yourself as the target. You know, it’s a crime that 80% of people feel like they have to end up leaving their jobs when faced with bullying behavior. I think that number can decrease. How can we make sure that it decreases? The first line is to make sure people are educated about bullying. In my opinion, there are not enough people that are educated about bullying. It is only the targets that maybe are educated about the effects, but are they really educated about what they can do? Are they educated about the power that they can gain back? I say no, they are not.
Secondly, I also think that we somewhat reward workplace bullying. Competition is a way of life in most corporations. And when competition occurs, you get better products, better resources, a better output; but competition at the expense of a people’s personhood (i.e. bullying), is not classy in my world. I would not advocate for that. It is the bosses who will stand up for a world-class environment that is free of bullying that will make the difference in people’s lives and companies. That is what we must all strive to do. If a company condones this kind of behavior, it means they are really accepting it. And we must have policies within companies that do not allow for behaviors that are bullying. What do we do? What is the very first step? Your first step is to become aware. Share this podcast to your newsletter, any kind of resource that you have with others.
I’ll leave you with this story. My mother and father were talking one day. My mother had read the book, “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” – you may remember that book. One day Mom was talking about how this is such a great book. So she left a sticky note on the book and wrote, “Ken, you need this.” I looked at the sticky note, and thought, “Gee, I wonder if my dad will pick that book up and read it.” My brother changed the sticky note and he wrote down, “Ken, I wouldn’t mind your opinion on this.” Well, guess what happened. My dad picked up the book, feeling needed, and he read it from cover to cover. In fact, he read it right from the first page, with an open mind, thinking, “Hmm. They need me. They need my opinion.” My suggestion is, that with any bullying material that you have or that you come across, take a little yellow sticky, and write something on it that says, “I wouldn’t mind your opinion on this.” It invites an open mind; it invites people to actually explore this, and it invites conversation after the fact. You might not have all the answers, but at least getting informed is stepping in the right direction.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s edition of Bully Free Workplace Monthly. And just know that we’re going to have one of these each and every month. And we’d love to hear your feedback. Feel free to email us or call us. Our email is info(at)howtohaveabullyfreeworkplace(dot)com and we would just love to hear any of your suggestions or thoughts for further audio podcasts. Thanks for joining us today and let’s join together in bully proofing the world.