Bullies in All Shapes and Sizes

With the upcoming release of the movie “Bully,” due out on March 30th, I have been interviewed on 20 plus radio shows over the last couple of weeks, being asked about my opinion on what we can do in our schools about bullying.

Bullying is a real problem for many young people. I believe we should be doing a better job of addressing the real issue around bullying, instead of trying to legislate mean behavior. Our kids should be learning communication skills, and how to understand people, starting at an early age. This should be part of the annual curriculum just as English, math and science are now.

But as I speak on the topic of school bullying, always in the back of my mind is – to me – the bigger issue people are facing every day: that of workplace bullying. I became fascinated in this topic because I have personally experienced bullying from a number of bosses I have previously worked with and for. I started to explore just how widespread this problem really is.

I was astounded at what I learned. People have been writing to me from small, private firms and from some of the largest, most well-recognized firms in the world, telling their tales of being bullied by a co-worker, a boss or a customer. The stories are amazing, but what’s most amazing is how many people have said, “Thank you – it was so good to have a chance to tell my story.”

Bullying of this kind – once we reach adulthood – is something I believe is unrecognized by most businesses, by the media and by our culture in general. We’re told to “buck up!” Or we need the job, so we don’t want to rock the boat. But bullying takes its toll on us over time: People get sick. They lose confidence. They get depressed. Businesses lose untold amounts of money because their employees just don’t want to get up in the morning and face another day being cowed and afraid.

Why does this go on? Why don’t businesses take steps to deal with the bully and correct a situation? The answer brings me back to where I started with this blog. We are simply not taught how to deal with other people, and communicate effectively and problem-solve throughout our lives. It is baptism by fire, and on-the-job training for most of us. We make mistakes with one bully, and then we take from it and learn to deal with another.

Bullies are everywhere. As I say in Secret #5 – “I’m okay, but you are most definitely not okay”; many people don’t have a solid sense of inner core. They derive their feelings of self-worth from diminishing the value of others. “If you are an idiot and a jerk, than I must be the smart one,” so the thinking goes sometimes. The more I berate you and put you down, the higher I am raised up.

Of course we know that this isn’t true. And many times bullies don’t even realize the havoc they are wreaking on others. They would adamantly refute any accusation in a lot of cases. “It’s their problem, not mine.” We know they are there, though – the person who yells because you aren’t doing what they believe you should, the person who criticizes everything you do, the person who can’t speak respectfully but is always sarcastic, the person who makes fun of people, the person who judges and labels and assumes something about others, the gossip, the tattletale who doesn’t bother to get the facts right, and the person who won’t speak to you because they are upset with what you have done.

We may have all been this person at one time or another, but the reality is that this behavior is a form of bullying. We aren’t going to mend relationships by treating people this way, and we aren’t going to earn the respect and trust of a co-worker if we approach them like this.

Pay attention this week to behavior you might show that could be termed as bullying. I know I will be doing so, too.