My son is in school now and having to face bullies. I am not sure how to help him handle this.
I know that most of us have dealt with or are probably still having to deal with bullies in our relationships at home, at work or socially. In trying to figure out the cause of the problem, I’ve done some reading. It would appear that this is not only a big problem, it is a problem faced by many kids, at schools around the world and even in the workplace.
What I have learnt :
1. You cannot solve the problem for the person who is being bullied. You can certainly help to bring it to notice and being a support to that person but the victim himself needs to address the issue.
2. This issue has wider ramifications. Failure to address this in your youth, just means you bring the same face to your social network and your work network. I think that there is a great risk that if you were bullied at school, that you may very well be a target for bullying at the workplace.
3. If the problem is big, then schools, the government and the media have a role to play in addressing these issues.
4. The things that drive bullying at school are still the things that drive bullying in the workplace. Things like fear, insecurity and jealousy. In many instances, bullying is coming from a place or a situation that the bully has had to deal with at an earlier age and who may not want to/nor know how to confront these hard issues.
Andrea Matthews in Traversing the Inner Terrain argues that we should not wish the bully dead, feel pity for him or try to get him to see the error of his ways. These are apparently typical responses, none of which work. What is therefore effective, she says, is recognition. Recognition that the bully thing is a mask put on to survive and that it is his response to his situation or his environment. If we can get recognise that, these bullies can then “see the powerlessness they felt as children for which they’ve been compensating ever since with this big, bad bully identity”.
Ross Arrowsmith who has had more than 20 years in security and investigations and personally assessed and managed thousands of cases of threatening, aggressive and inappropriate behaviours spends most of his time delivering Preventing Violence at Work programmes. In an article he wrote on dealing with workplace bullying and creating a positive workplace culture, he cited :-
- the National Bullying Helpline which states that “80% of managers know that bullying occurs in their workplace, and despite this, 37% say they have had no proper training”.
- the Andrea Adams Consultancy developed a fact-sheet on Bullying Statistics, which states “43.5% of employers do not even have a policy to deal with workplace bulling, and 82.2% say that weakness in management is the prime reason for bullying”.
There are some of us who are consistently being bullied. There are others who get bullied sometimes. We all need to learn how to deal with this and take proactive steps to manage our situation. By learning to confront the issues we face, by learning to think through the problem and by learning that we can and should take the action needed, we get closer to solving our problems, of making progress for ourselves and feeling fulfilled.
When do bullies win?
1. When you choose not to stand up for yourself.
I am not talking about workplace violence here, that is far more extreme and doesn’t happen as often as the other pervasive yet subtle form of coercion. Believing in your position, your argument and your decision is the first step. You have rights – the right to be heard, the right to have an opinion and the right to express that opinion. If you allow yourself to be bullied or coerced into thinking that it is not your place to speak, that others provide more value, that you don’t know much anyway, then in effect, you give the bully the chance to push you over. No one can make you believe in what you believe in. It comes from you.
2. When you choose not to put your case forward.
Silence is good sometimes and really depends on the occasion. However, you cannot expect others to read your mind, at school or in the workplace. You cannot expect others to see things from your perspective. What you need to do is to articulate your case and make that known clearly. It takes practice. Victims not only feel unable to stand up for themselves, they fail to articulate their point of view. Thus making it harder for others to see what they are going through or to understand their perspective.
Organisations have a role to play in addressing these issues. Unaddressed, talented people will leave. We’ve read how it’s not the money so much that motivates us but the relationships we have. How many of us have heard of people leaving because of issues with a particular person/s in the organisation? Organisations fail if they don’t recognise the deeper workplace issues and will sustain losses of both the financial and non-financial kind if these go unaddressed.
3. When you are in a new situation.
When you are faced with a new set of circumstances, new set of colleagues or manager, this can create a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty for you. It adds to the other issues you might already have to deal with. Recognising this will help you to see that regardless of the ambiguity, you know whether action taken is right or wrong, at its most fundamental level and how you can best address the situation.
4. When you believe that silence and putting up is ok.
Bullies win when no one stops them, when no one responds effectively. They gain traction from there and worsen, gaining confidence with each successive blow. Silence and putting up is not ok. Certainly not for you and not for the bully. But you don’t need to deal with this alone. This is a big problem that not only affects us as kids; untreated, it also creeps into the workplace. Why would you believe, even for a second, that if you failed to deal with bullies at school, that you would able to deal with bullies at work? We carry it with us everywhere we go. We can address this by bringing it to the notice of the authorities, the organisation’s leaders and others who can help and support you. Many heads together can help deal and address these issues, some of which go deep.
5. When you are scared.
Fear is crippling and letting it take you over, only makes it worse. It will move from a mental state of being into a more physical manifestation. Fear will work itself up, gathering speed and momentum and before you know it, you’ve considered possibilities in your head that may not even be. The first step is to recognise that you are scared and deal with that. Embrace the fear. Then, find a way to overcome it. I feel the best way to do so is just to jump headlong into it. Nothing quite matches. Facing your fear will only make you stronger. You have to accept that things may go wrong, you have to accept that you may fail. But once you do, and you move ahead, there is a liberation to be felt. The first step is the hardest.
You are not alone in this.
You have the capability to examine the problem yourself and find a way to overcome.
It takes time, it requires support, it demands distance from the issue.
You can talk about it. Talking about it brings closure and helps bring insight to others.