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February 20, 2022
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Bullying: Workplace bullying is a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes either physical or emotional harm. It can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, and physical abuse, as well as humiliation.

Today’s blog recognises Stand Up to Bullying day because bullying happens to adults too.

It is not easy

Bullies learn early on how to get their needs me, how to manipulate others. A schoolyard bully uses another to express something the bully themself cannot.

Through bullying by speech and by action the bully obtains power over you. They control you, make you feel a particular way. Through that control they cause you to act in certain ways. Career bullies do this consciously. They are abusers who hurt and gain pleasure from hurting. There is intent.

We have all caused unintentional harm

But we have all been guilty of bullying behaviour.

We have spoken meanly to someone or failed to recognise something important to them. Given a subordinate too many tasks and not enough time. Did you shout at a colleague or accuse a friend of some unkind way of thinking or being? Have I unfairly applied a procedure? Did I not respond in time? Your actions, my actions have caused harm.

When we realise what we have done we feel guilt, remorse, we may attempt an apology or other way to make amends. We want to show our good intentions.

Bullies manipulate all of us

Bullies manipulate our good intentions. Bullies, and trolls, exploit the knowledge gap between actions and intentions.

Bullies lie about their intentions. They say, “I didn’t mean it like that.”

Allies by their very nature are people trying to do kind things. That kindness spreads into thoughts as well as actions. This traps allies between wanting to prevent harm to someone they know is vulnerable and not wanting to cause offense.

But what can I do?

How can you tell the difference? When and how should you step up to be an ally? A question often asked of us during training. The worst choice is to do nothing.

My response is to encourage you to use your skills and knowledge to identify intent and use that understanding to inform your next steps.

Decide if it is OK to challenge someone directly or refer to someone else, your manager or even the police.

I have given some examples below. Do they feel familiar to you? How would you act in these situations?

Family dynamic

Mum got my sister’s pronouns wrong again, is she being transphobic?

Ask yourself: how did mum react when my sister came out to her? Was she generally accepting? Then it is probably a slip of the tongue. Could you have a conversation with mum about whether there is a way you could be of assistance in helping everyone get sis’ pronouns right? You may not need to take any action. The more your family get your sister’s pronouns right the more natural they become to everyone.

Stand up against banter

Philomena and Agamemnon were laughing in the locker room about a trans person they passed in the street, you heard them saying “of course we could tell it was a man,” Are they being transphobic or are they just unaware of what being trans means?

Ask yourself: is this the first time I have heard them talk like this or on reflection are they rude about other protected characteristics? Is there a trans+ person on our team? What if there was a trans+ person on our team and they heard this conversation? Time to be an ally and call them out. You too can change workplace culture.

Be a ‘llort,’ not a troll.

A friend posts on social media and uses words which you *know* to be wrong, what should you do?

Ask yourself: does this person habitually use transphobic, racist, or other offensive slurs and if so, why am I still following them? Consider whether you wish to continue the relationship. Do you need trolls in your life? But if you typically find this person erudite, charming, and kind then how about sending a polite private message advising them of better terminology and instead become that best of friends, the ‘inverse-troll’ or ‘llort’ for short.

Bullies work in stealth

Remember the bullies work to isolate their victims from all sources of assistance. If you are feeling you want to say something, but you are afraid to do so you fear you will make the situation worse for the victim then the chance of this being a bully is quite high.

It is not you; it is them

When you know someone well and they are acting out of character use your love language skills to check in with them and see how they are doing. Often offering someone the opportunity to talk about their intent, their motivation, is enough to shift the dialogue to a kinder, more respectful space.

Together we can change

When was the last time you recognised that you are amazing? Have you said thank you to past you recently for an action you took which has smoothed the path for you today?

We all strive to be the best version of ourselves. Remember what I said at the start of this piece? Bullies manipulate us into thinking the best of them, so we excuse the worst of their actions.

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