Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Need to Address Bullying Behavior

I have been wanting to address the issue of bullying for quite awhile, initially thinking of the recent rash of suicides by teenagers in response to both in person and cyber-bullying.  I, of course, am concerned with two children in middle school, that they might be targets at one time or another of other adolescents seeking to assert their "dominance" or "coolness."  What I never expected was to be addressing bullying as an adult target.

I've spent a great deal of time over the last two months wondering both to myself and also online as to what exactly it was that I did wrong in the thirteen months I was recently employed.  After finding my blog, the humiliating treatment I received has continued in the guise of "helpful" advice from "anonymous" posters, with little inserts attempting to bait me and trying to make me feel even worse about what happened.

Knowing that the little barbs inserted into the negative blog comments being posted were the work of the person responsible for getting me fired, I decided to do a little research.  I wanted to take an honest look at myself to see if it was possible that the treatment I received was in any way my fault and if, as suggested in one of the snide remarks, I could use what had happened as a "learning experience."  Yes, I can, but not in the way that was suggested. What I found in my research was nothing short of astounding when I recognized a myriad of behaviors I experienced, both while employed and then in response to my online writing.

The following information comes from www.bullyonline.org:

What is bullying?
  • constant nit-picking, fault-finding and criticism of a trivial nature - the triviality, regularity and frequency betray bullying; often there is a grain of truth (but only a grain) in the criticism to fool you into believing the criticism has validity, which it does not; often, the criticism is based on distortion, misrepresentation or fabrication
  • simultaneous with the criticism, a constant refusal to acknowledge you and your contributions and achievements or to recognise your existence and value
  • constant attempts to undermine you and your position, status, worth, value and potential
  • where you are in a group (eg at work), being singled out and treated differently; for instance, everyone else can get away with murder but the moment you put a foot wrong - however trivial - action is taken against you
  • being isolated and separated from colleagues, excluded from what's going on, marginalized, overruled, ignored, sidelined, frozen out, sent to Coventry
  • being belittled, demeaned and patronised, especially in front of others
  • being humiliated, shouted at and threatened, often in front of others
  • being overloaded with work, or having all your work taken away and replaced with either menial tasks (filing, photocopying, minute taking) or with no work at all
  • finding that your work - and the credit for it - is stolen and plagiarised
  • having your responsibility increased but your authority taken away
  • having annual leave, sickness leave, and - especially - compassionate leave refused
  • being denied training necessary for you to fulfill your duties
  • having unrealistic goals set, which change as you approach them
  • ditto deadlines which are changed at short notice - or no notice - and without you being informed until it's too late
  • finding that everything you say and do is twisted, distorted and misrepresented
  • being subjected to disciplinary procedures with verbal or written warnings imposed for trivial or fabricated reasons and without proper investigation
  • being coerced into leaving through no fault of your own, constructive dismissal, early or ill-health retirement, etc.

How do I recognise a bully?
Most bullying is traceable to one person, male or female - bullying is not a gender issue. Bullies are often clever people (especially female bullies) but you can be clever too.  Who does this describe in your life?
  • Jekyll & Hyde nature - vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses; no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive nature - only the current target sees both sides
  • is a convincing, compulsive liar and when called to account, will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment
  • uses lots of charm and is always plausible and convincing when peers, superiors or others are present; the motive of the charm is deception and its purpose is to compensate for lack of empathy
  • relies on mimicry to convince others that they are a "normal" human being but their words, writing and deeds are hollow, superficial and glib
  • displays a great deal of certitude and self-assuredness to mask their insecurity
  • excels at deception
  • exhibits unusual inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters or sexual behavior; underneath the charming exterior there are often suspicions or intimations of sexual harassment, sex discrimination or sexual abuse (sometimes racial prejudice as well)
  • exhibits much controlling behavior and is a control freak
  • displays a compulsive need to criticize whilst simultaneously refusing to acknowledge, value and praise others
  • when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of others, responds with impatience, irritability and aggression
  • often has an overwhelming, unhealthy and narcissistic need to portray themselves as a wonderful, kind, caring and compassionate person, in contrast to their behavior and treatment of others; the bully is oblivious to the discrepancy between how they like to be seen (and believe they are seen), and how they are actually seen
  • has an overbearing belief in their qualities of leadership but cannot distinguish between leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, trust and integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness, aggression, distrust and deceitfulness)
  • when called to account, immediately and aggressively denies everything, then counter-attacks with distorted or fabricated criticisms and allegations; if this is insufficient, quickly feigns victimhood, often by bursting into tears (the purpose is to avoid answering the question and thus evade accountability by manipulating others through the use of guilt)
  • is also ... aggressive, devious, manipulative, spiteful, vengeful, doesn't listen, can't sustain mature adult conversation, lacks a conscience, shows no remorse, is drawn to power, emotionally cold and flat, humourless, joyless, ungrateful, dysfunctional, disruptive, divisive, rigid and inflexible, selfish, insincere, insecure, immature and deeply inadequate, especially in interpersonal skills
I estimate one person in thirty has this behaviour profile. I describe them as having a disordered personality: an aggressive but intelligent individual who expresses their violence psychologically (constant criticism etc) rather than physically (assault).

The unfortunate fact is that the above describes almost exactly what I went through for thirteen months and now continue to experience online.  The noted website gives a wealth of information on how to recover from being the target of this type of person, as well as how to recover from the post-traumatic stress disorder which often accompanies it.  (Not that I believe I have PTSD from this experience - far from it.)

There's always a question as to whether to address this type of behavior, because often bringing it to the attention of others or responding in any way will only make it worse.  But I think it's important for anyone (and the website estimates that 50% of people in the workforce - adults - are the target of this type of behavior) that people recognize this type of thing if it is happening to them and arm themselves in such a way as to protect themselves from psychological damage.

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