Article Comment – ‘The Sister Act’, by Shelley Gares, January 31, 2009 Article from: The Australian: It’s the corporate stereotype – the ruthless alpha male. But is the real bullying going on among the women in the office?

I just finished reading the above feature article on women bulling at work. Plain and simple, they’re just grown-up “mean girls”.

The story mentioned “a young features editor who had been working in a magazine office where one of the higher-ups had taken a dislike to her. The superior deliberately started excluding her colleague from the information loop. She organised office drinks or lunches but didn’t include the young editor. Others would be invited with an admonishing shush: don’t tell you-know-who. The young woman, whose desk was placed so that her back faced the office, used to sit at her computer and silently weep, thinking no one could see her. She sat there for another six months. When I first heard this tale, I felt terribly sorry for this young woman. I was repelled by the cruelty and that it had happened in a workplace supposedly devoted to helping women enjoy being women. But there was also a tiny bit of me that thought … well, she was an adult. It was a few women being immature, but she had her job. All she had to do was get through each weekday until 6pm and then she’d have her”

There’s a sentence later in the article that really got me:

“I wouldn’t go as far as saying I was suicidal but I was a nervous wreck,” says media and events manager Niki Waldegrave, who ended up in hospital from stress fallout after what she says was a relentless daily diet of ostracism and game-playing. “Later on, someone told me it had been like watching a puppy get a kicking every day. But at the time you think you must be a failure.”

I truly believe we teach people how to teach us. So if you’re being bullied it’s because you didn’t set boundaries or communicate what is or isn’t acceptable to you early on. But I also know that if you don’t stick up for yourself after the first or second incident, your self-esteem is eroded after each bullying episode and you’ve basically taught your bully to treat you like crap.

If you’re at the stage you’re going to need professional help. Check out the links on my post below:

Bullies – from politics to the world of modelling « Madisen’s World: “Bullying is extremely serious, so here’s some information on bullying in the workplace and how to manage it:”

>> The Harassment Stops with You

But I want to talk about the “Like watching a puppy get kicked everyday” comment. If you’re watching someone get bullied and you don’t report it, you’re as bad as the bully.

You’re probably thinking, “That’s a bit harsh. It’s not like I’m the one being a tyrant.”

You can just add that to your list of excuses. And I know you probably have a million reasons as to why you shouldn’t get involved:

  • they’re my boss, I don’t want to get into ‘trouble’ or ‘fired’
  • if I say something the bully will then turn on me
  • I should just mind my own business, it will get handled
  • as mentioned in the article, they’re adults, they can sort it out
  • it’s a small industry, I don’t want to be known as a troublemaker, I’m not their parent
  • ADD whatever excuse you can think of to convince yourself that the behavior you’re witnessing is OK with you. In fact, you’d even be OK if it was happening to you…

The victim doesn’t have the strength, esteem or confidence to help themselves right now. So they need someone to step in, and here’s what you can do:

  • talk to the victim and let them know they need to take control of the situation and report it to the HR Manager, their boss or any other person they feel comfortable with, given them this information on how to handle bullying or these great tips from Blogger Stephanie:

For individuals

  • Wherever possible, express your feelings to the individual, in a calm manner, without getting too close, tell them to stop.
  • Immediately say it’s not ok – once behaviour is established it’s a lot more difficult to remove. Not only do people get used to behaving that way, but they may think you feel it is okay, and wonder why you are ‘suddenly’ complaining.
  • Log all incidents of bullying, whether you experience or witness the act
  • Keep copies of all annual appraisals and letters/memos/emails relating to your ability to do the job
  • If you cannot confront the bully, try writing a memo/email to make it clear why you object to their behaviour. But wait a couple of hours before you send it, to give yourself time to ensure you have expressed yourself clearly and not said anything you will regret. Sometimes just writing it down can help you to get a better feeling about what needs to be done.

For organizations

  • Have a clear policy and procedure (formal and informal) to deal with all cases.
  • Protect everyone (especially both the complainant and accused). That may mean moving someone in the short term – make sure it is the higher level person who is moved.
  • Train all employees to recognise bullying, deflate, deflect and avoid the conflict escalating.
  • Be seen to be fair and consistent – often the target gets moved. You cannot risk a culture where even some bullying is allowed. On the other hand, managers must be trained to be able to tell people to do their job without being accused of bullying.
  • Communicate your policy and the values it represents. Use it. Monitor its success. Review regularly to ensure you are achieving your aims.
  • if they can’t do it, you can take action, using the same advice outlined above

There’s nothing else to say, the solution is that simple.

If you’re fearful of the reprecusions of speaking up, then the environment isn’t a healthy one for you either. And no excuse or negative situation is worth robbing you of your worthiness, confidence and personal power.