big bully, small person
November 22, 2011 § 21 Comments
Bullies come in all shapes and sizes and ages and colors and from all walks of life.
What many people overlook is that a bully is not often the rough and tough brute they are depicted to be.
Sometimes, their workings are not as apparent as one who shouts and shoves and shows explicit disrespect.
It took me a very long time to understand this — there was a bully at play in my office. And not an obvious bully, right? I’m talking about a person with charisma. A person so affable. Winsome. How can someone so…charming…truly mean harm?
In my first few months of work, I was not a target. I was merely a witness to one person singlehandedly destroying the reputation of everyone else around him.
What was difficult to swallow is that his manner of approach is pleasant. BUT, strip the syrupy sweet delivery from all the gossip, underhanded comments, and malicious anecdotes and all you’re left with is distasteful manipulation of information.
Taking candy from a baby
After a while, I was no longer amused. He was not amused that I was no longer amused. One day, after a typical daily anecdote, I put flatly, “It’s not nice that you say all these negative things about so many people in and out of this office.” To which he replied:
My, you should be canonized (and not the kind they do to saints).
But I made it clear: “I think time could be better spent. And I’ve noticed work (and blame) get passed to me or others quite often”.
Oh, the aftermath — bully’s wrath!
Things were not so sweet anymore. Suddenly, certain individuals at the office became distant. I noticed projects were no longer being delegated to me. I was often left with nothing to do.
It was like this for months. I was rendered mute. Useless. Excluded. I could not imagine what was said about me to make things this way. But I know I didn’t imagine when, within earshot, he said to another:
It was the most undermined I had ever been.
I finally drew the line after he went into my emails when I was away on holiday. From my emails, he forwarded work I had pending, carefully weeding through the depths of my emails, shrewdly selecting the out-of-date and skipping over the more recent threads that actually show I’ve done my share of following-up. Despite all passing of the buck and all the blame that had happened for months, he worked on my pending work — and excluded me from the correspondence. Have I been thrust into a person’s showcase of my supposed incompetence? Is this Operation: Intimidation? Or Operation: Elimination? It’s hard to tell. But I wasn’t going to wait.
I went to the highest I can go to and I spoke up. I got moved cubicles. But it wasn’t over.
The day following my move, I was approached by a gentle, elderly man from our lottery group: “I’m sorry. I can’t accept your money in the lottery this week and won’t anymore. You are no longer in our group. I was told if you stay, others will leave the group.”
Point taken. Bullying is not just an epidemic among children. And it’s not just in the confines of the playground.
For many months, I didn’t know the word to describe this person is “bully”. And that I was a target, among others. How could I be bullied? I am confident, assertive, diligent, and outgoing. Then I read about workplace bullying and the typical Jekyll and Hyde, charming/monstrous personality of a bully and their internal feelings of inadequacy which cause a person to bully and the types of targets they choose and why. Bullyonline.org is a very useful site which allowed me to recognize what was happening and to report it. The site’s header is “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, bully.” I couldn’t have said it better.
Like children, many witnesses and bystanders often say nothing, and are likely to side with the bully (as did the gentle man and others in the lottery group) for fear the target will be turned on them. But as adults, we should have the courage to stand up for ourselves and each other. It is the only way to get the message across.
I do my best to empathize with this person. Perhaps he behaves this way because he is unsatisfied with his job, or is unhappy about his personal life, or ashamed of his personal and professional shortcomings. Perhaps behavior such as this is compounded by years of regret. He is much, much older than I.
I know in me, he sees a person with hope and opportunities to be better, to do more, and to achieve my fullest potential. My brighter future is something that I have that he cannot take away. Sweet days are ahead!