I was reading a trending article in People Magazine online yesterday and it said, “Tori Spelling Says Daughter ‘Has Endured Enough Bullying for a Lifetime’ and Son ‘Had to Leave’ School Over Being Bullied.” It made me think of the power of the #MeToo movement, and just this week Harvey Weinstein – a massive bully on so many levels – was found guilty of two sex crimes.
It got me thinking about why bullying is still an epidemic in our society, and what needs to happen to stop what I’ve always considered it criminal behavior.
Having said that, I’d like to address bullying in the workplace. In my experience, I’ve come across three types:
The Passive Aggressive Bully: The passive aggressive bully might just be the worse. It tends to be more nonverbal like the way they walk by you, or how they use their body language to let you know they don’t like you, or use it to try to intimidate you.
Once I was in a staff meeting, and this passive aggressive bully called me out in front of everyone. “Erica, what is it that you do here? How long have you been here?” She acted all playing dumb and innocent. I had been transferred to a new unit and didn’t really know my place yet, so her comment was a passive aggressive way to point that out in front of everyone. I didn’t respond but promised myself if she targeted me again, especially in front of everyone, I would come back and say, “Debbie, I don’t appreciate you singling me out. It feels like passive aggressive bullying.” That should shut her down. She might not like it, but I’m not going to continue to be harassed in a passive aggressive manner. Passive aggressive bullies also tend to use email to bully you with language that is not abrasive per say, but can be written in a way that takes passive aggressive jabs at you yet comes across as if it’s innocent, or they aren’t doing anything wrong. The Passive Aggressive Bully. They use discrete, back handed comments with body language that can unleash toxic energy.
The Teaser Bully: The teaser bully is annoying cause they try and use teasing to mask their underlying bullying tactics.
I recall once there was a breakfast party for some celebration in my office, which was just an excuse for people to stuff their faces with tamales for breakfast. I don’t do office parties, not even Christmas office parties, so I didn’t think this was going to be an issue. Then the teaser bully rolled up to my office and applied undue pressure, “Come on, come join the breakfast.” I respectfully declined, and she kept pushing me to the point that I felt like I had to make an excuse, “I’m on a strict diet for my blood pressure.” I shouldn’t have to do that, but I thought that would be the end of it. Nope. The following day one of my co-workers offered me an orange, which I accepted, and she said, “Is that allowed in your special diet?” She said it almost light heartedly with rude undertones like a slight dig. It ignited me, and I approached her and said, “Actually, I’m on a liquid diet, so I can have juice.” She came back with a tease, “Ok Erica, whatever you say!” Like it was funny or something, and I couldn’t let it go. “Do you want me to be hospitalized for high blood pressure?” I said it in all seriousness and shut it down. She turned back to her computer. The next day I was bantering with another co-worker and she walked by and said, “Glad to see you’re in a better mood today!” I took a moment to take a breath, and she was already off to the kitchen to probably to stuff her face. I told myself if it happened again I’m going to confront the matter and tease back, “Are you the office bully, or is it just me that brings out the teasing bully in you?” The Teaser Bully. They use teasing to bully you and think it’s ok cause they’re just, “joking around.”
The Flat Out In Your Face Bully: The flat out in your face bully is directly mean. They can be hostile, rude, inappropriate, intimidating, belittling, it can be a nightmare and tends to be a boss.
My first job out of college I came face to face with a flat out in your face bully. My boss was a neurotic nightmare that would yell at me and directly insult me to my face. He was a Hollywood producer who was starting his own company, so there were no checks and balances for his toxic behavior. It was a long time ago, but I remember enduring the abuse cause it was my first real job out of college, I was on my own living in New York, I was desperate to prove myself in the real world, and I had no one to turn to. During that time I lost a lot of weight, I cried a lot, I felt like I was walking on egg shells on a daily basis, and I obsessed about the job outside of work. It was terrible. Since that experience I have never, and will never, tolerate a flat out in your face bully again. The good thing about a flat out in your face bully is, unless they own their own company, it’s easier to report them. You can document specific things they do, or say with dates and times and keep a record of the abusive behavior, so if you decide to go to HR you are prepared with evidence to defend your case. If you don’t have a system in place to protect you, try and do whatever you can to get out. I my case I didn’t opt to get out. I was fired. I went to visit my sister in college, and when I returned all my stuff was outside of my apartment door. Turns out, when I was away, he went through all my emails and saw an email that his competitor send stating they wanted to meet with me. I never replied to that email and didn’t think to delete it, but he assumed they were trying to recruit me, and I was going to jump ship. Looking back, I should have left on my own terms, but sometimes your circumstances make it difficult to do what’s best for you, all you can do is try. The Flat Out In Your Face Bully. They will physically, mentally, emotionally break you down to the point where you might feel trapped, but find a way to take back your power.
Now, maybe these examples aren’t on a “criminal” scale, but it’d be nice to coin a universal movement similar to the “MeToo” movement that has legs that are strong enough to try and put a stop to all forms of bullying, which continue to abuse generations across the board on multiple levels.