Monday, November 18, 2013

A Working Definition of Bullying

Carrying on from the last posting, the first on a series of what bullying is....  What is bullying?  Why should it be a concern in the workplace?

After all, isn't it just a personality conflict between two people?  It doesn't really hurt anybody anyway, does it?

I mean, it's not violent. It doesn't leave marks or break bones.  It doesn't kill anyone.  So why are you fixating on it so much, Cassie?

First of all, bullying is not just a personality conflict between two people.  Nor is it a figment of the target's imagination.  It is not an assumption or perception.  And while it is not a form of physical violence (although it can escalate to physical violence if left unchecked),  according to Melanie Joy Douglas, in her article Workplace Bullying:
"Bullying is a form of workplace violence.  It is an offensive behaviour, a grab for control, and an exercise of power that attempts to undermine an individual through humiliation.   Bullying is vindictive, cruel, and malicious conduct that takes the form of verbally, social, psychologically, and/or physically hurting someone.  The attacks are unpredictable and irrational.
So far, this is by far, the best, most direct, most concise, and most objective definition of bullying that I've found.  She calls it like it is.  Pulling no punches.

She goes on to describe the difference between harassment and bullying citing Colleen Clarke, Monster's career advisor,
"Harassment is not necessarily ongoing.  It's not particularly meant to intimidate.  It could be that someone makes fun of the fact that you wear a turban.  It might only happen once.  ...  Bullying, on the other hand, constitutes repeated incidences, a pattern of behaviour.  It's intended to intimidate, offend, or humiliate a person.  Bullying is a form of aggression, and while the actions can be obvious or subtle - it's intended."
It's important to know the difference between harassment and bullying as most, if not all, companies by now have been compelled through legislation to draft harassment policies.  Harassment policies are based on human rights legislation.  For example, in Canada if I am being discriminated against or harassed in the workplace because of my ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc., then it is a human rights violation and I can petition to the Human Rights Board of Canada for redress.  Bullying is completely different.  It can be based on something so basic as "so and so" simply does not like "so and so" and wants to get rid of her/him.

Problem:  although I have reason to believe that what happened to me may have had its origins in my religious beliefs i.e. Christian and/or my country of origin i.e. U.S., yesterday's schoolyard bullies are all grown up now - and much more sophisticated in their approach.  They are going to take care to ensure that their behaviour does not carry any whiff of bias or human rights violations.

Working through the quotes above:
  • Bullying is a form of workplace violence
  • Bullying is about power
  • Bullying is about control
  • It is vindictive
  • It is unpredictable and irrational
  • It is not harassment
  • It is a form of aggression
  • It is a pattern of behaviour
  • It can be subtle or obvious i.e. overt or covert
  • And ... it is intentional. 
Writing this has exhausted me - and taken several days to work through.

Right now, it's enough - more than enough - to leave you, the reader, to chew through, to ponder on.

It's a first step.  A foundation stone in the process of understanding what bullying is.  Why it's important to understand.  And why it should not be tolerated in the workplace.

Until next time....

1 comment:

  1. It's so sad that people don't leave the Junior High behavior behind :( No matter how sophisticated their 'grown-up' approach, I still say they're acting like spoiled children an it's inexcusable!