A cradle-to-grave concern
Bullying is a deliberate and recurrent action designed to hurt somebody physically or emotionally and is prevalent in every stage of life, from the nursery to the retirement home. Young bullies become adult bullies unless the underlying behaviour and reasons are dealt with.
Anti-Bullying Week is happening in schools throughout England this week. Indeed, school is usually the first time we encounter an archetypal bully: a person who seeks to control and crush the joy out us for their own self-gratification.
Child bully to adult aggressor
The psychology of child bullying is complex, but typically, every bully is searching for recognition because of some form of emotional neglect or physical / mental abuse at home. Child bullies act out frustrations by hurting others to even up the score and to feel in control and powerful. If respect for others is not learned, bullying will continue into their adulthood and the workplace becomes their new playground.
Four types of aggressor
Number 1. “The brawler”
The common playground bully: s/he revels in physical domination: a hair puller, a kicker; puncher; scratcher; or worse – a spitter – being spat at is one of the most degrading things we can experience.
In the office, as grown-ups, such bullies will use verbal abuse rather than physical violence, often screaming in your face to humiliate you in front of others. Such bully bosses or managers create a toxic office environment with an atmosphere of fear paralysing the work group. Restricted from using physical violence, such individuals may resort to sexual harassment as a “grown-up” alternative form of threatening control.
Number 2. “The teaser”
The boy or girl who takes pleasure in name-calling and pointing out physical imperfections or social stigmas: “Oi big nose! Fatty! Smelly! Spotty! Your shoes are cheap! You’re mum is poor! Your dad’s gay!”
In the office the adult version of the bully will carp and criticise your work performance and undermine your efforts. In HR, they will use their position to misuse performance appraisals to keep you from promotion.
Number 3. “The blocker”
S/he enjoys excluding you from a group or influences others to isolate you so you stay outside of the in-crowd. These bullies are often envious you might be cleverer or more popular than they are. They are more difficult to pinpoint because they subtly sway others away from your line of sight, so you can’t always figure why you’ve been excluded.
In the office, this bullying persona is usually in an admin role and responsible for sharing data or information you need to do your job properly. They may be a boss’s secretary or someone much lower in the pecking order who feels invigorated by abusing their area of control to withhold knowledge, finance or ‘other something’ from you. They do this to frustrate your role, causing you to be late for deadlines or sometimes blocking you getting the essential training you need to do your job.
Number 4. “The Janus”
This sneaky two faced creature is a friend one day, but side-lines you the next because they’ve found someone better to play with – a Jekyll and Hyde who plays ball and skips with you in the morning, but is sharing secrets and spreading rumours about you in the afternoon.
In the office, a grown-up Janus is a smiley sneak undermining you under your radar. When you raise suspicions they use the defence of ‘plausible deniability’ and will use phrases like, “What do you mean I blanked you? I didn’t ignore your email, I was obviously too busy to realise and under stress. I think you’re over-reacting. I admit I shared your secret because I was so burdened for you and wanted advice to know how to help you. Let me buy you a coffee and we’ll have a nice chat.”
In summary, workplace bullies employ:
- Hostility and rudeness
- Humiliation and criticism
- Put downs in front of others
- Sexual, racial, age or gender harassment
- False and malicious rumours to destroy reputation
- Impossible deadlines to cause you stress and failure
- Demeaning tasks; giving you inferior projects below your ability or role
- Side-lining to keep you out of decisions and discussions
- Training prevention and promotion blocking
Overt bullying such as shouting and humiliating someone in front of others is easy to recognise and deal with because other people can back you up; however, subtle bullying by a colleague who is envious of your talents; or a manager’s veiled sexual innuendos can be a case of your word against theirs. Bullying by a boss makes you feel powerless and vulnerable; especially if you know complaining could cause you to lose your job. It impacts your confidence and self-belief as well as overall team morale; communication; and productivity.
Workplace bullying can be so bad that workers suffer heart attacks, strokes, death and attempt suicide.
What can you do?
The most important thing is to report bullying to a person in authority. Such is the support framework for children in schools this is more straightforward than it has ever been; however, bullying in the workplace is rarely clear-cut and every organisation follows procedures and policies, the protocols of which may differ.
Tackle bullying through great work culture
My company, Carol Barwick Learning and Development (CBLD) specialises in leadership and management coaching, staff training, and mediation. Uniquely, we look at business challenges like bullying from a “behaviour” standpoint, and mediate using a powerful hands-on approach including hypno-coaching.
Book a “Behaviour Modification” Training Course
You cannot change a person’s behaviour if you do not address and change the cause of that behaviour. I focus on addressing underlying reasons for aggressive behaviours creating a culture of positivity, great leadership and communication building successful teamwork that benefits your bottom line.
Training, coaching and mediation related to bullying include the following four courses:
Managing Difficult Conversations
Understanding & Managing Conflict, Threat and Violence
Understanding and Managing Challenging Behaviour
Influencing Others and Developing Relationships
Contact me for full course outlines bespoke to your business.