I’ve seen a lot of posts over the last few months about bullying, specifically in the workplace; with facts and figures, and others commenting that, for whatever reason, think they’re qualified to pass comment on such things with their, I’m sure, well-intentioned words of “Just report it”, “Stand up and stamp it out”. You get the picture.
One of the biggest issues I have, personally, with this is that I know that some of those people have been bullies themselves; with one, in particular, having bullied me in the past. They might not see it like that and indeed, they probably don’t even recall the situation and their comment, but that speaks volumes in itself, doesn’t it? I mean, if someone can tell you that they “…would fire you in a heartbeat”, that’s pretty unsettling, isn’t it? Though, does it count as bullying?
Let us start with the definition of bullying, shall we?
Gerund or present participle: Bullying
1. Seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone percieved as vulnerable)
So, from that, I would ascertain that this would indeed count as bullying. I mean, I was a lot younger and a lot more nieve and newer in the role at the time. This scared the hell out of me, to hear that I could be fired without so much as a thought as to what the consequences would be for me. There would be none for them. That much was made abundantly clear. I find the ‘flip’ here amusing. I wonder if they’ve had an experience of it and now realise how worrying and horrible it is to go through?
Another occasion that comes to mind is having my job threatened because I wouldn’t “date” the person in charge at the time – with them stating that “if they thought I decided to go out with someone else on purpose then I wouldn’t be there!”. I’m sure that this is probably more sexual harassment, but I’m not a lawyer or anyone in a position to call on this. All I know is that it’s still bullying; whatever form it’s in. Weirdly, I’m friends with the person that said this. I was before this and I am now, after, but this still sticks with me. Maybe it’s because I know them that I understand the “why” behind this, though I still didn’t and don’t like that it happened. They’ve also probably forgotten this incident, too. Both of the above must have happened over ten or even twelve years ago now, but they’ve stayed with me throughout my career.
Does this also make me an enabler?
I think though, that the worst case of bullying I’ve had was from a manager that wouldn’t even tell me the truth of what they said; with me having to find out from others in a different team! When someone asked where I was one day, they were told that “they (my manager) had given the queer the day off!”. Suffice to say that this is again very obviously bullying, but it’s more the cowardice that when confronted, they denied it and just went bright red throughout the conversation I had with them to call them out on it.
The thing is that not all bullying is that obvious and I don’t think enough is made of those that enable the bully to be a bully in the first place.
Some examples that come to mind are: people not doing anything, or bullying without realising that that’s actually what they’re doing, turning a blind eye, not standing up for fear of their own position without caring for those that are supposed to be in their care. A blind eye can have just as much of an effect.
I’ve had managers (and colleagues and friends) know what’s going on with me. With the way that I’ve been treated by other managers’, or persons in positions of power/authority and done nothing about it; for fear of their own jobs or otherwise. And yet, in some cases, these are the very people telling us to stand up and call out bullying. If we’re all too afraid to do something out of fear or otherwise.
In this instance, the bullying was purely psychological. Not that that means it doesn’t leave marks. Scars take many forms and in this instance, they’re just not as obvious. For me, this set me back a long way with other things that I was dealing with and going through at the time.
I think the main thing I’m trying to say is that this happens to and can happen to anyone, in any position, whatever and whoever they are/identify as/can’t help but be – and that’s what’s really wrong. We shouldn’t, whoever we are, feel that we might be bullied, for any reason. And yes, I guess we should call it out, but those that want us to and tell us to really should enable us to do so.
Don’t just talk the talk…