You might be asking, Adult bullying? What is that? Aren’t adults able to take care of themselves?
Well, of course we can. However, there are circumstances in our lives that leave us at the mercy of people in positions of power that prevent us from fighting back when they do wrong — either at work or in a school/university setting or team sports — any place in which there is a hierarchy of power that you are involved in, even volunteering. The people in leadership positions in these places are directly responsible for any and all bullying. Yes, the buck stops with them.
Bullying in One Easy Step
Failed and/or corrupt leadership: Always, always where there is a bully, there is failed leadership. There wouldn’t be bullies if it weren’t for failed and/or corrupt leadership. Period. If you are an executive, a manager, a principal, a dean, a coach or even a volunteer coordinator, you have a responsibility to make sure that the people around you are not being bullied. Sadly, often times it is the people in these positions who are doing the bullying or have allowed others to bully.
The bully will systematically unload personal attacks, tell outright lies that damage reputations, sabotage your work or take credit for it, refuse to give you a raise for no reason, ignore or dismiss your complaints of mistreatment or even encourage their continuation and will put you down in front of others. They may even make outward threats. But I think we all know bullying when we see it. If you find yourself head to head with this kind of leadership, you have a problem.
Sometimes bullying is defended as free speech or by saying that it is just insults and therefore not harmful by the perpetrators, but make no mistake: Laws protect against bullying, harassment and discrimination in these types of settings. It is in fact not free speech and it is more than just insults.
And there are many high-profile examples of these situations — some that you might not recognize as bullying. Recently, we had the “Duck Dynasty” comments publicized and they were disgusting indeed. They were also staunchly defended by A & E and the fans as “free speech” and “religious freedom.”
I don’t see it that way.
Anytime you demonize a minority — in this instance LGBT community — and compare them to terrorists or their practices to bestiality, you are in fact encouraging hate crimes and violence against a group. I don’t know that this can be considered free speech. It is the same speech used against this very vulnerable community their entire lives by people who want to hurt them. And I would argue it is bullying an entire community because most people don’t have a television to broadcast their hate to millions — millions who might find that kind of speech as a license to hurt. And A & E supported that — again, failed leadership. Not good, or advisable.
Another one that caught everyone’s attention was the alleged case of rookie Jonathon Martin and veteran Richie Incognito of the Dolphins — Martin left the team, he claims, as the result of being bullied by Incognito. He said that he was being bullied since he joined the team. Until there was a voicemail that Incognito left in which he threatened Martin and his family and made racial slurs, the Dolphin leadership brushed it off the situation as “speculation.” After all, how could a big football player be bullied, folks? They can be bullied just like anyone else.
This clearly was a situation of failed leadership — nobody listened to Martin until he left the team and voiced his claims and he provided the voicemail. And then, all of the alleged history of bullying came out and Incognito was suspended because of the voicemail and the Dolphin’s owner came out and supported Martin. Martin fought the fight, but it certainly wasn’t easy. He did after all have to leave his job, and many who face bullying aren’t at leisure to do so. He has since returned to the team.
It is difficult to know what to do in these circumstances. It is tough to fight a person in a position of power, especially when you have none or when your bully has teamed up with others to make your life miserable. You should however persist even though you are afraid to rock the boat, because a bully will not stop until you make them. Don’t be afraid to use the police for help, just because there was nothing physical doesn’t mean you are not being threatened. We all have a responsibility to look out for these situations and do what we can to stop them — even if they have nothing to do with us personally.