Friday, April 19, 2013

What Makes a Workplace Bully? #OPINION

Spotting a Workplace Bully (1)
This Post is based on personal experience, observation and opinion. Therefore, the only thing that qualifies me to able speak about bullying is because I have been at the receiver end of this behavior at one level or another sense childhood. The most brutal was in the workplace. There are literally thousands of stories and books/articles written by men and women that have studied extensively on this subject matter but I have lived it and survived.

I am first going to try to define what bullying is to me with a little support from the professionals. Second, I will discuss the three types of bullying that affected my life and last but not least, I am going to attempt to give you a victim’s perspective on whether or not bullying behavior can be changed.

1.) Definition – Bully (2):
“Bullying has been defined as (an aggressive, intentional act or behavior that is carried out by a group or an individual repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself) (Olweus, 1993). This definition stresses the intentionality by the author of the aggressions, in order to provoke physical or psychological harm in victims. Moreover, the difference between ordinary disputes among children and acts of bullying consists also of the repetition over time and of the imbalance of power between the bully and the victim, with the affirmation of the supremacy of the bully on the victim (in terms of age, physical strength, etc..) (Cullingford and Morrison, 1995)..Sharp and Smith (1994) highlight the following forms of bullying according to the type and intensity of the aggressive behavior:
physical bullying (thumps, pushing, being physically overbearing),
verbal bullying (injuries, blackmail, intimidation, oppression, insults, calling people,
indirect bullying (social manipulation consisting in using others as a means rather than attacking the victim directly; for example: annoying and offensive gossip, systematic exclusion of a person from the life of a group, etc.).
physical bullying and verbal bullying can be considered as forms of direct bullying, since they imply a face-to-face relationship between bullies and victims.”

2.) Definition – Workplace Bullying (3):
Who gets bullied? You can be anywhere on the corporate ladder; a woman or a man; blue collar or white collar—workplace bullying can happen to anyone.
What does workplace bullying look like? Workplace bullying might include getting ignored, put down, left out, talked about, or humiliated and although workplace bullying tends to be subtle, when men bully, it is often more aggressive or physical. With women, it might be more backhanded.
Signs of workplace bullying: The following signs of workplace bullying are adapted from research from the State University of New York and Wayne State University. While some of these behaviors may be isolated, if they form a pattern over time and are extreme, they may indicate workplace bullying:
Being left out from work-related social events
Coworkers storming out of the work area when you enter
Others regularly arriving late for meetings that you call
Being given the “silent treatment”
Not being given the praise you thought you deserved
Being treated rudely or disrespectfully
Coworkers refusing to help when you ask
Spreading rumors about you that aren’t true and that nobody denies
Being given little or no feedback about your performance
Others responding slowly to requests that were important to you
Being yelled or shouted at
Receiving put-downs about your intelligence or competence
Your telephone calls or other communications are ignored
Your contributions are ignored
Someone interferes with or sabotages your work
Being the recipient of mean pranks
Being lied to
Being denied a raise or promotion without a valid reason
Being given bigger workloads or shorter deadlines than coworkers
Being accused of making a mistake on purpose
A coworker throws a temper tantrum when you disagree with him
Being put down in front of others

The story begins: I was the first daughter after three boys and loved my daddy. Looking back, I think my existence in the household created an imbalance with the boys at least from my prospective and of course there is another side to this story (theirs). There were subtle hints of bullying behavior, like one of my brothers giving my sister and I, fist knocks/thumps on the head (coscorones in Spanish) when things were not going his way. They were annoying and based on the above definition this was “physical” bullying. It was a bothersome behavior and I remember it to this day; however, I don’t think it marred my personality at the time. It did make me feel out of sorts and different.

My parents sent me to America when I was twelve years old to live with my grandparents and attend a Middle High School located in North Dallas. This was all an effort to remove me from my first “Love” experience and or situation. My parents, I guess, were mortified about my entrance into puberty. Remember, I was homeschooled, in Mexico, up until this point and just the removal from my home was traumatizing enough but then I was enrolled into Middle High School, in America.

This is where I was introduced to some serious “verbal” bullies and they came in all shapes, sizes, race and gender. They called me a “Mexican Greaser” and tormented me, daily, because I was socially awkward. I just hated going to that school. My grandmother forced me cut my long hair, as a solution, so that I could just blend in. This action just broke my heart. I loved my hair and was proud of where I came from. This period in my life weighed heavily on my heart. This was when I started to doubt and question myself.

Looking back, my first question, today, is why do children or better said teenagers learn to behave in this manner? I honestly believe that bullying is a learned trait replicated by their environment and this environment includes the parents. Yes, parents are responsible for instilling the proper social behavior, etiquette, and moral values in their children. As a community, we are responsible for letting parents know when this behavior is observed. As a community, we are also responsible for teach our children how to be good parents. Now this is not to be confused with those children that stand-up to their aggressors. Long story short, my parents, listened to my painful incantations and moved me to a private girl’s school where the culture was 100% more congenial. This is where I flourished. I became my class’s parliamentarian and played on the basketball team.

The last place was at my job and this was the most challenging because everyone needs a job to survive and pay the bills. It is definetly not as easy to find a new one. Don’t get me wrong, for the first twenty years in the work place, I thrived and moved up the latter. Then I got a government job and this is where I experienced “indirect and verbal” bullying. I was confronted by someone that for one reason or another believed that supervising required controlling every move; playing fear tactics, lying, setting you-up, isolating you, manipulation through via group “think” (i.e. The practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility) and so many other negative mannerisms in an effort to deem, micromanage and control. They were very good at covering up the truth and developing a purpose (i.e. mission) for their behavior. I was XXXX and XXX!

Yes, first my hair started to fall out because of the stress and then I got very sick. I went to the hospital, had emergency surgery. Looked for other jobs, however this person was in my life for a reason and their behavior was going to STOP, at least with me. No one has the right to place a hold on your life like this and I began to stand up for myself. I do want to add that bullies in charge and or supervisors do not change their mannerisms because they feel justified and have convinced management this is the case. Their bad behavior hovers on the surface, just waiting for that justified attack on their victim!

It is a journey to understand why someone justifies bad behavior but also remember you must look inward, adjust yourself in order to TRY to change the situation. Remember the only thing I could control was how I behaved. To this day, I believe my failure was not having confidence in myself and trusting my instincts. I have changed this reality. Finally, believe and support your loved ones going through this type of situation. It’s a struggle to gain back your self-esteem, power and control.

PEACE OUT, DIANA!
(c) copywrite by Diana Mary Sharpton

References:
2.     Definition: Bullying. Bullying & Cyber. Bullyingandcyber.net. http://www.bullyingandcyber.net/en/definitions/

3.     Definition: Workplace Bullying. The Emotional Life. pbs.org. http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/bullying/adult-bullying
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