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I’m gonna hit you with all I got – Al Jarreau

In 13 Reasons Why, Asher presents readers with a gripping tale of teen suicide. The protagonist was “bullied to death,” by fellow students. Through a series of callous acts that snowballed, Hannah felt she had no other option. She left a series of tapes so those responsible would know the extent of their actions.

Because reporting bad workplace behavior is infrequent, bullied targets may find themselves similarly situated. Isolated and alone, they are left flat-footed. If bullies can “finish the job” (by leaving targets with the aftermath of mental illness), then bruisers are even less likely to face repercussions. What are the odds that someone suffering from PTSD, OCD, anxiety, and/or depression will be believed? The bully gets off scot-free, and the target ends up silenced, jobless, or deceased.

Although some targets may be unable to find work, individuals do recover their wits and move forward. What if there are employees whom bullies are unable push around?

Like crusaders, anti-bullying activists see themselves as part of a larger operative. They are able to view events from a different perspective – one which is not so personal. In the words of Marianne Williamson, “There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”

Bullies shine a flashlight on what they see as opponents’ weakness. What we need is to position a floodlight on company practice which sanctions peer abuse. Like Hannah, workers are tormented by backbiting, rumors, and false labels that become self-fulfilling prophecy. Zero tolerance (and a sterling example from top management) is the only mechanism to prevent human assets from falling through the cracks, and, from getting trampled by colleagues turned rogue.

Like weeds, abusers multiply in the absence of deterrent. In a world turned upside down, they convince managers that they’re the wronged party, and the accuser is in fact deranged. They create a topsy-turvy scenario where only bullies have rights. Bullies try to exterminate their nemesis by sullying their image. With this state of affairs, it’s no surprise that more potential activists don’t step forward.

What is the common thread among Mandela, the Freedom Riders, Martin Luther King, and other leaders of resistance movements? What it boils down to is a matter of resilience, and a battle of wills. Injustice compels some people to fight back; not against the instigators, but against institutions that allow sophomoric behavior in the first place.

Those who take on the establishment should use a show of non-violent force. Violators need to understand their shenanigans will not be rewarded with a free pass, but with an incessant campaign to bring awareness and to change practice.

I’m reminded of antibiotics and resulting mutations. Viruses that survive the initial blast are deemed unrecognizable. They return more powerful, deadly, and uncontainable than before. If bullies fail to eradicate their intended targets, they may be faced with someone insuppressible on their hands – a person who can see past them to a system that’s stalled.

Bullies do not break resistance. They make it stronger. Abusers may think they’re safe if years pass, and they hear nothing. Those who perpetrated misdeeds may subsequently think they’re forgotten. What they don’t realize is that dings to one’s self-image are difficult to dismiss.

It takes time to build a network of like-minded souls. Bullies simply haven’t heard the other shoe drop. If they could see the precarious position in which they’ve placed themselves, I don’t think they would be so smug. Remember that it took time for Samson to regain his strength.

Flex your muscle, and let others see what you can do. Then lower the boom.

Bullies beware. You’re about to hear a loud “thud.”


Related posts:

Why Respect is Crucial to Management Success

Corporate Bullies Beware of this Prof

Professor Fighting Workplace Bullying

Rudeness hurts performance and willingness to help


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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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One Response
  1. Yes, I agree that you in regards to workplace bullying and the need to place the floodlight on the bully, as well as the action. Your perspective is one from an internal view. I would also challenge us to think about this topic from another view. Many workers who are on the front lines and deal face to face with customers know that bullying can take the same form but from a different direction. Customers have been known to bully front line employees in an attempt to get that they want and will use any tactic to accomplishment their mission. Management must be prepared for bullying from that angle and apply the same zero tolerance in those circumstances. My experience has shown me, however, except in rare circumstances, that employees and managers are very tolerable of customer bullying largely in part because of the fact that they do not want to customer to move their business elsewhere in a very competitive environment where every dollar counts.

  2. Paula Mansfield on January 26th, 2014 at 4:56 pm