When Teddy Roosevelt was president, he referred to the White House as the “bully pulpit” meaning a platform from which he could speak out on topics of importance.
This month’s offering is an opportunity to speak out on a topic I hold near and dear-bullies in the workplace. It is as it were a “bully pulpit” on bullies.
Few behaviors in the workplace are as damaging to moral and productivity as bullying.
Taking the following quiz will give you the forum we need to learn about bullies and what you can do about them.
The Bully Quiz
True or False
1. Bullies select their targets carefully focusing on those who can’t or won’t fight back.
2. Most bullying is psychological consisting of shunning, excluding, humiliation, innuendo, shouting, insulting, and belittling.
3. Bullies are simply looking for attention. Ignore them and the bullying will stop.
4. Bullies suffer from insecurity and low self-esteem. They pick on others to make themselves feel better.
5. Males bully more than females.
6. Once a bully always a bully
7. Confronting and reporting people who bully is critical to insuring their behavior stops.
8. The main goal with a bully is have them “tone down” their aggression.
Number one is true.
Bullies like to prey on those who can’t or won’t fight back. Some of the people with whom you work are passive. They have a hard time with confrontation and are easily intimidated. They are natural targets of bullies and need help defending themselves. When I want to know the real values of an organization I first look to see how the least powerful people are treated.
Number two is true.
Most bullying is not physical. Bullies don’t tend to physically abuse people. They are much more likely to intimidate psychologically. They prefer this method because it allows them to deny their behaviors or claim their behavior was misunderstood, or misinterpreted. Victimizers love to play the role of victim.
Number three is false.
The research indicates bullies are looking for control and rarely stop if they are ignored. The level of bullying increases unless someone in authority addresses it.
Number four is false.
Most bullies have average or above average self-esteem. Many think quite highly of themselves. They “suffer” from aggressive temperaments, a lack of empathy, and poor parenting.
Number five is false.
There is no evidence male’s bully more than females.
Number six is false.
“Once a bully always a bully” is a myth. Bullying is learned behavior, it is selective and bullies can learn appropriate ways to deal with their behavior.
Number seven is true.
Confronting and reporting people who bully is critical to insuring they stop the behavior. There is ample research that confirms when bullies are confronted and penalized, their behavior changes.
Number eight is false
The main goal with a bully is not to have them “tone down” their aggression.
The behavior is not acceptable in any form and must stop. Imagine you had a friend who slapped his wife around everyday. You told him the behavior had to change. The next week he came to you and said, “I’m really making progress, this week I only slapped her around a couple of times.” You wouldn’t say, “Good job” you’d tell him he had to stop completely! The same is true with people who bully.
The Bottom Line
Bullies are narcissistic cowards who bully because they can.
People, including bullies, know the difference between kind and unkind.
Don’t believe for a second they “don’t know they’re doing it” or “people are just out to get them.”
Bullies are mean.
They’re not stupid.
Also don’t delude yourself into believing a really talented bully should be allowed to stay because you “have to take the good with the bad.”
No you do not.
When the bullying starts, the bully must be confronted immediately and made to understand in no uncertain terms that kindness to others is a condition of employment.
If you are consistent with this behavior and if you let employees know they can safely report bullying yours can become a “bully- free” workplace.
The bully pulpit is yours.
What will you do with it?