Seventeen Guidelines About Workplace Bullying
by Rick Brenner
Bullying is a complex social pattern. Thinking clearly about bullying is difficult in the moment because our emotions can distract us. Here are some short insights about bullying that are easy to remember in the moment.
Bowling pins for ten-pin bowling. A standard bowling ball is 8.5 inches to 8.595 inches (about 22 cm) in diameter. A standard ten-pin bowling pin is 4.75 inches (about 12 cm) at its widest point, which is 4.5 inches (11.5 cm) above the lane surface. That's a little more than the radius of the ball. The pins are spaced exactly 12 inches (about 30.5 cm) apart. That means that the space between pins at their widest point is about 2.5 inches (about 6.4 cm). In other words, the ball diameter is about 3.5 times the space between the pins. If the bowler can roll the ball so it stays out of the gutter, knocking pins down is a certainty.
Conventional conflict resolution makes certain assumptions about conflict, including the assumption that the parties to the conflict would prefer a healthy relationship to a relationship burdened with toxic conflict. That assumption is not valid for the bully-target relationship — at least, not from the point of view of the bully. Trying to resolve a bullying issue with conventional conflict resolution techniques is like bowling with golf balls. Photo (cc) Stefan Grazer.
When we must make quick decisions about emotional issues, we're more likely than usual to make mistakes. It's helpful in those situations to have distilled what we believe into guidelines we can easily recall when we need them. Here are some memorable guidelines for dealing with bullying.
- Letting yourself be bullied without end isn't a success strategy.
- Ignoring bullying won't cause the bully to get bored and find another target. It's more likely to convince the bully to do something you can't ignore.
- Hiring an attorney won't stop the bully, but it will make your employer aware that you're a threat. Your employer must then decide which threat it fears more — you or the bully. If you do hire an attorney, be certain that your employer will fear you more than the bully.
- Trying to end bullying by avoiding the bully is as likely to succeed as trying to survive while swimming in shark-infested waters by avoiding sharks.
- Humor can deflect a bully's attack if the attack is public and the bully doesn't want to be seen as a bully. Otherwise, humor is unlikely to help.
- Bullies fear harm, just like everyone else. To make the bullying stop, convince the bully that if the bullying continues, severe harm is inevitable.
- Someone who has never been bullied can't really understand what it's like to be a target.
- Someone who has never been bullied by this specific bully can't really understand what it's like to be a target of this bully.
- The trouble between the bully and the target isn't a "personality clash." There is no such thing.
- Targets cannot end the bullying by trying harder to "get along." The bullying isn't about the target's misbehavior.
- Bullies don't bully their targets to "get even" for their targets' past offenses. They bully their targets because of inner compulsions that the bullies don't yet know how to control — or don't yet want to.
- Bullies cannot Bullies cannot be persuaded
by rational argument to stop
bullying. Their inner compulsions
aren't rational.be persuaded by rational argument to stop bullying. Their inner compulsions aren't rational.
- Being bullied isn't the target's "fault."
- Letting a bully abuse someone else without end isn't a way to avoid becoming the next target.
- Bystanders who are aware of the bullying and don't act to stop it share responsibility for the bullying. They aren't innocent.
- Many organizations claim, "We don't hire bullies." Horsepucky. All organizations hire bullies, mostly unintentionally. The key word is "mostly."
- Trying to resolve a bullying issue with conventional conflict resolution techniques is like bowling with golf balls. You might knock a pin down here and there by chance, but it would be a freak occurrence.
If you're a target, keep these in mind. If you know a target, keep these in mind. Top Next Issue
Are you being targeted by a workplace bully? Do you know what to do to end the bullying? Workplace bullying is so widespread that a 2010 survey indicated that 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand, and that bullying is about four times more prevalent than all other forms of illegal harassment combined. Yet, there are few laws to protect workers from bullies, and bullying is not a crime in most jurisdictions. 101 Tips for Targets of Workplace Bullies is filled with the insights targets of bullying need to find a way to survive, and then to finally end the bullying. Also available at Apple's iTunes store! Just USD 9.99, Order Now!
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See also Conflict Management and Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming Issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 29: Quips That Work at Work: Part II
- Humor, used effectively, can defuse tense situations. Here's Part II of a set of guidelines for using humor to defuse tension and bring confrontations, meetings, and conversations back to a place where thinking can resume. Available here and by RSS on April 29.
- And on May 6: Compulsive Talkers at Work:Part I
- Incessant, unending talking about things that the listener doesn't care about, already knows about, or can do nothing about is an irritating behavior that harms both talker and listener. What can we do about this? Available here and by RSS on May 6.
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