Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bullying Affects Us All

Did you see the recent New York Times story about bullying in the workplace? For many people it's as if they are going through it all alone. Thank goodness for the Internet and the ability to read/post comments by others...see the end of the story. Fascinating stuff.

I have experienced this phenomena. And without proper support it can be tough to say the least. It's the antithesis of community, supporting one another, celebrating diversity and all that difference can bring to the table. Instead it becomes some people's abuse of power, a tactic too often employed to alienate or destroy. Maybe bullies been taught that's the proper way to rule, but it's bullshit. A true leader or co-worker for that matter should have respect for others--and themselves.

When placed in this situation, it definitely helps to stand up for yourself...if only to hold onto that sense of what is right. For many of us it's easier to defend a co-worker or someone we observe is being maltreated. It's equally important to stand up for yourself. Otherwise, the bully sees that you won't defend yourself and can be further abused. Beware the trap of blind obeisance to hierarchy. Just because someone is your boss or "higher up" doesn't mean you can't challenge or question them. You need to be able to question authority figures.

Don't blindly give authority over your own decision making to anyone. Be equal and alert to your situation. Trust your gut and speak your SOMEONE. Sometimes fighting back or at least standing up and speaking truth is all that you have.

That bullies are allowed to do their worst is a sociological dynamic. When there is no recourse for decent humans what amounts to a conquistador mentality is often rewarded from on high. People growing up in that environment learn that this is the "proper" way to treat others. Hints of fascism or entitlement here? I've even witnessed my cousin's husband teaching his son to do this to his daughter. Compounded by the child's challenge of ADD, this abuse smacked of misogyny.

Many bullies use this tactic to hatchet out a space for themselves. If others are silent then only the ones directly in their circle are targets. But the system is complicit when there are observers and the bully doesn't face negative consequences. Yes, it's sometimes easier to leave such a situation, but for those who have few options the potential for havoc is exponential. Depression or violence is not surprising. It's post-traumatic stress to the nth. Some people truly believe that only the few should have a decent life, whatever that is as those who bully must have low self-esteem. Anyone who needs to make themselves feel better by abusing someone else is not on an enlightened path to say the least.

Wake up! Slavery mustn't be one's lot in life. I liked one solution to this in Daughters of Copperwoman. The conquistadors thought they had willing victims...until it was too late.

Teach your children and theirs a few ideas: hierarchy/patriarchy deserves to be challenged; people must claim their democratic rights; the council circle includes everyone.

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