Bullying: A Further Awareness – Key Principles We Must Follow as a Target
Welcome to the May edition of Bully-Free Workplace Monthly. I’m Valerie Cade, and I’m the founder of How to Have a Bully Free Workplace. Welcome to our podcast. Today we’re going to look at bullying and a further awareness.
Do you know, it occurred to me, most people at some point probably face the concept of trying to lose weight; or maybe even gain weight, if you’re lucky. But to lose weight, and many times when we try to make a commitment to something, we often think we have to have further knowledge before we can actually move in to action. For me personally, I’ve read the diet books, I’ve bought gym memberships, and I routinely walk by my exercise equipment; in fact I’ve tried to hang other things like towels and clothing on it, so I don’t feel guilty walking by it anymore. All of this gets in the way of me actually acting out on what I really desire, which would be to lose weight. I’m wondering if the same occurs with any behavior change that we might attempt, one of which is how to handle the bully at work.
Could it be, that if one person is being bullied, that they might be putting things in their way of actually solving the problem and moving on with their life? As with most things, I’m inspired personally when I hear the actual hardcore statistics of what bullying really does to people in order for me to be motived to actually consider new behaviors on faith.
So I’m going to start off with a few statistics and then we’re going to move into what ‘Bullying, a further awareness’ is all about, in relation to anybody dealing with adult bullies. What is it that we must know, and once we know, what is it that we need to do in order to act and solve the problem for good? For example, one statistic I recently became aware of was that 1 in 4 people have been bullied in the last five years. This is getting worse. And that is for two reasons. The first reason is that bullying is not yet legislated at work. It is not a legislative action to actually confront a bully and to have them be dealt with. Corporations are wrestling with how they should be dealing with adult bullies. We’re in a situation where the bully either will be purged (meaning let go of – good companies would do that) or promoted. And most companies end up by promoting the bully because the bully will get results. So where does that leave the target? Well, if 1 in 4 people are being bullied, what can the target do? We will look at that.
The second statistic that I want to bring our awareness to is: bullying is four times more prevalent than that of illegal behavior such as sexual harassment, which does have legislation behind it, or any kind of physical harassment. Bullying is four times more prevalent. And why is that? It’s like the secret cyanide of the corporate world. It’s very hard to pinpoint whether you are dealing with adult bullies or just difficult people. So we get confused as targets, thinking, “Well, am I difficult?” We start to look at our own behavior, question our own value, and then that’s the backward spiral.
The third statistic I want to highlight is that 7 out of 10 times when the bully is exposed; the target ends up by losing their job. So where does this leave the target? It occurred to me today, that as soon as the target can become aware, then it’s time for action. But maybe you need to be further convinced of what bullying is. I know sometimes if I’ve started a diet, I might fall off the diet when I forget that too much sugar and too much bread might cause heart failure 20 years later. I might forget that having all these desserts might cause ill health years later. I might forget. But if I see a show on TV that highlights the correlation between the two, I might be re-inspired to go back and pay attention to the way I eat. I think that is true with any fearful behavior change. I think there’s a lot of fear behind it, in terms of actually confronting the bully.
There is some good news. Many books will tell you “Here’s what you do to confront a bully”, well before you’ve even protected yourself. In our book, Bully Free At Work, it really is all about making sure that your self confidence is good, that you do not take this personally, and that can add to your enjoyment of life. And by the way, you’d be 100% in control of that path. But once you do that, what are the steps? I guess step one is: do take care of yourself first, and then deal with the bully. It has to be in that order. Maybe what we’re saying today, there are some tried and true principles of dealing with a bully, like there are tried and true principles of losing weight. There’s one principle that Jim Rohn has often quoted and I quite like it, it’s simple. It’s “Eat less, exercise more.” Well gosh, when I heard that, I was wanting to read another book. It would of course allow me to start reading instead of exercising. Why are we so afraid to move on with action?
So I want to highlight what bullying is. Maybe this will re-inspire you to act on the problem that you might be facing. Bullying is constant nitpicking, fault-finding, and criticism of a trivial nature. And it’s regularly done, and it often is done in such a way that you don’t recognize it. In fact, others don’t recognize it. You might want to try and confide in somebody and they think you’re crazy or you’re off base, or they kind of know you’re on to something but they don’t, by any means, recognize it as anything overt. You are left feeling alone. So this is bullying. In fact, the criticism that you face – you often turn to yourself and you wonder and doubt about yourself. You feel like a fool and you actually start to believe the criticism has validity, which does not. Often, the criticism is based on distortion, projection, misrepresentation, or fabrication.
Bullying is also constant. It might be constant attempts to undermine you and your position, your status, something that you’ve worked very hard to attain, your worth, your value, your potential. They are comments made that are very hard to disprove, but when you hear them, you start moving backwards. How about if you’ve been in a group at work, have you ever been singled out and treated differently? For instance, everyone else can get away with murder, but the moment you put your foot down wrong, however trivial, action is taken against you. How about being isolated and separated from colleagues and you are excluded from what’s going on? You are not permitted to know certain information. Well, if you don’t know about it, you can’t care about it. And if you don’t know about it, you can’t act on it. Of course, this situation leaves you looking like a fool. But, being the target, you might wonder, “Oh, did I miss the email? Maybe I should take my spam filter down.” You start owning the problem instead of seeing it for what it is: an attempt to actually single you out.
How about being belittled, demeaned, patronized, especially in front of others? How about being humiliated, shouted at, even if it’s once or twice a month, and threatened in front of others? How about being overloaded with work, or having your work taken away just as you’re about to complete a task, and it being replaced with other menial tasks, or with no work at all? It takes away your momentum. How about finding that somebody else has signed their name for your work – they’ve stolen your ideas or plagiarized your ideas, or taken credit for it? How about having your responsibility increased, but your authority taken away? You’re responsible to solve the problems but you can’t have any wiggle room in which to deal with the problem. How about if you legitimately take a sick day, you were criticized, questioned, and people start to talk because somebody started a rumor? Then all of a sudden you start thinking, “Gosh, I better not take that sick day.” Well, remember you’re entitled to it just like anyone else. Do you see the challenge? The key here, and another principle to highlight, is as soon as bullying behavior occurs, it’s very important to not doubt oneself too long, but to actually start to protect oneself right away.
How about some further awareness, like how do you recognize a bully? Here’s some further research that was done. A lot of bullies, and it’s hard to recognize this, have a Jekyll & Hyde nature. They’re vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses. Sometimes, no one can actually believe that the person you are questioning would even be a bully. The bully already knows this and throws on the extra charm just to protect themselves.
Bullies also can be experts at lying, convincing, and when called to account, will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at the very moment. How can you compete with that? Some bullies will use a lot of charm, and they will also try to be very convincing to their peers and superiors, charming them all along the way, lining their thoughts with the fact that they are very productive, charming and the perfect employee. Imagine when you go to confront your boss or your peers about a potential bully, what these people might think. Now, you might think, “Gosh, you know, it doesn’t matter. I’m a woman or I’m a man of principle and it’s a matter of principle to deal with this bully.” That’s excellent.
I believe until we have legislation from employers, there will be the chosen few that will go through the narrow gate, so to speak, and actually attempt to deal with a bully through the right channels. I’m saying, be prepared – it will not be easy. If you expect to still keep your job, you might be in for a surprise. I guess sometimes we think it’s not fair. I had a recent email from somebody saying, “I’m 54 years old. I have 8 years left until I can retire. I’ve been here 30 years. I’m entitled to my pension. What can I do for the next 8 years in order to deal with this bully?” When I read an email like that, as I’ve read so many emails, it’s as if the target, this person who’s being bullied, is outside of the situation. They’re waiting for somebody else, or something to happen in order for it to be fair, in order for them to feel better. I think another principle to recognize here, and it’s unfortunate, is that if you’re a target and you are being bullied, there is no easy way out. There are but maybe two choices. You can leave the situation, and yes it might be very hard to leave 30 years with a pension, but you will have your mental freedom. You can stay and fight the bully, but be strategic about it. You could be the 3 out of 10 that actually don’t leave their job. It depends on your energy level, your stamina – but again, remember to take care of yourself first.
When I first started the How to Have a Bully Free Workplace initiative, I had a dream. Just like anybody would have a dream in terms of making justice occur. And it occurred to me, we have a system of law, not of justice. And sometimes laws occur because of injustice, but it does take time. With sexual harassment, we started off with the injustices, and it did take some time, but now there are laws in place and it is against the law to sexually harass somebody. It’s still a grey area, because it’s very subjective. With bullying, as we’ve mentioned, it is more of a private nature, more insidious, and is very hard to prove. But I do fully expect legislation will occur. However, between now and then, what do we do? If you are a target right now, you have to make that choice: to leave or stay. If you stay, this situation is not outside of you. You ARE part of the situation.
Early in my career, I had a very good boss named Jack Lewis. He said, “Val, when you get a job, start looking around for another job.” I said, “Jack, that’s not fair. And I’m working for you.” He said, “No Val, that’s just smart. Always have a choice and an option ready for yourself.” I thought “Well, that’s funny. I’m working for Jack, why would he say that?” As soon as he said that, I knew then that every day that I came to work, it was my choice. I knew that he would know in my head that I would have another option lined up. Now what Jack was really saying is, all employers should be prepared for people to exercise their choices. At the same time, all of us should have choices in the back of our mind and never feel beholden to a certain work situation. If we do, it’s up to us to make sure that we have the extra choices.
Now that might sound great on a podcast. The good news is you don’t have to actually make a choice right now; but you can work toward having a choice made. Don’t stay in limbo too long. Don’t say, “Well, I’ll try and tough it out for another 8 years.” Either go into full force, or leave. Don’t be in the middle. Don’t be lukewarm. Be at least hot or cold.
Remember, bullying will have its effects on you over time. You will start to notice the side effects from it. First of all, you will doubt yourself. Some of you might be already feeling anxious and extreme physical symptoms from bullying. Remember, you can actually stop this by leaving the situation. And just because you leave the situation doesn’t mean that your thoughts will stop. It’s important to get a hold of your thoughts as well. Anybody that has come out of being bullied has benefited from at least being acknowledged for the fact that it wasn’t their fault. And sometimes that very simple statement has to be said time and time again, over and over again, because their self esteem has taken such a beating. It is perfectly acceptable to reach out for help to the right people: a therapist, a coach. You’re boss may not be the right one to go to, a spouse may not be the right one to go to; but someone who is trained and able to coach you along to better health.
So when we look at bullying, a further awareness, an in-depth awareness, maybe even very complicated issues like bullying become more simple when it’s very clear. Jim Rohn said “It’s clear – exercise more, eat less.” What would it be for the target? Make a decision to protect yourself first. Decide to stay and fight the battle, or to go and move on. Those two principles might just save you some time and energy.
I will conclude with a reminder that a lot of people who are bullied are the highly talented, very coveted, smart, nice people of the world – of which the bully wishes he or she was. Remind yourself, it’s an odd form of compliment – probably one that you wished you never had – but the target really does want what you possess. Let’s make sure that the bully does not steal from you the very qualities that have made you the wonderful person that you are, because the world needs those wonderful qualities. Good for you for bringing them forward!
I hope you’ve learned from this May edition of How to Have a Bully Free Workplace. And if you, at anytime, in your growth, in your walk with being bullied, have a question, we want you to know that you can contact us anytime at info(at)howtohaveabullyfreeworkplace(dot)com. Let us know how you’re doing. Let us know your insights. We’d be very happy to hear them. And let’s together walk and stand in our awareness and our desire to actually bring legislation about, so that we might have a freer workplace. But in the meantime, take care of yourself.