Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In the beginning: Where the bullying started

Now that I've finally gotten around to the co-worker I'll call person #2, it's hard to know where to start.  What to say.  How to begin.

It was all so subtle at that time:  in the beginning.

I had no idea of the world of pain that I was going to experience for the next few years nor the amount of damage that was going to happen because of this person.  Because I was opting to move temporarily out of a bad situation with a co-worker I inadvertently ended up in a much worse situation.  Using an ole time-honoured cliche, I went from the frying pan to the fire.  But slowly, oh so slowly.

Before I go into more of the story, let me start with a couple of paragraphs from a resource I recently found on the web sight Introduction to the Serial Bully which describes in detail almost exactly what I went through in the office all those years ago,

Written by the Tim Field Foundation.
"Serial Bully" is a term that Tim Field coined to describe the character he came to realise was behind the majority of cases that came to his attention when he ran the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line between 1996 and 2004. His clients often described similar character traits, patterns of behaviour and events indicating that, in a given workplace, there was usually one person responsible for the bullying, for whom bullying was a modus operandi. He observed that when one target left the bully's environment, the bully would then focus their obnoxious behaviour on someone else; the new target would eventually leave and another would unwittingly take their place, hence the term "serial bully".
Although the above about the bully moving on to another target after the first one was removed would hold true in the case of person #1 in my scenario, it appears that with person #2 she simply chose a target shortly after changing jobs and coming into our office.  That target was me.

The article then goes on to say:
This is a bully who will move from one target to another, and whose depravity is only constrained by the realisation that they have to appear normal to fit in among civilised people. One consequence is that they rarely use physical violence on their targets, resorting instead to activities that are harder for onlookers to notice, such as emotional blackmail and underhand tactics to get their way.
To which I say:  Right on!
A serial bully could be anyone. They are attracted to positions of authority, but not everyone in authority is a serial bully, and not every serial bully is in a position of authority. They cannot be identified by their status, but by their actions.
Again, very descriptive of what I experienced in the workplace.  Both of the people I believe are serial bullies appear very normal, even likeable - especially at the beginning of the relationship.  Neither resulted to physical violence.  Their tactics were very much "under the radar".

Keep in mind that the excerpts I've quoted are only the very beginnings of the article.  The first page.  Tim Fields offers more, much more, insight into the phenomenon of serial bullying in later pages.  The who.  The what.  The where.  They why.  The how.

Of course, in the case of workplace bullying, the where is fairly self evidence:  it's in the workplace.

However, a serial bully can be anybody and can be any situation which involves people.

Here is an excerpt of some ramblings from my mind from the beginnings of a book which I've never been able to finish:
A physical description of the grown-up bully, would be a woman in her 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's with long, short, medium length blonde, brown, auburn or black hair – and anything in between.  She would be short, average height or tall, slim, average build or stocky and of average to high intelligence.  She has a high school, trade school (college in Canada) or university education.  In short, there is nothing to make her distinguishable from anyone else.  She does not have two heads, conspicuous warts, buck teeth or any other anomaly. 
Although the wording is completely differently, these thoughts penned in approximately 2010, bear a remarkable resemblance to what Tim Fields noted in the excerpts above.  There is nothing physical to set a serial bully apart from everyone else.  It is their actions, their tactics that should expose them.

I went on to say what I believed then, and still believe now, made these people what they are.
 What makes her (the bully) different from the average co-worker is not her physical appearance or description, but rather the baggage she's carrying inside her.  The insecurity.  The deep down emotional wounds and scars this person carries with her from way back, maybe even childhood.  These are the same insecurities and inner wounds that compelled her to bully as a pre-teen.  Unhealed and tended to, they are still there.  Motivating her to continue the cycle of passive violence.  Not only will the people around her not recognize these inner wounds, but most likely the bully herself is not even aware of what is causing her to behave in this way.  It's like the furniture in her bedroom.  It's part of the scenery.  It's part of her life. She may even say, “This is just the way, I am.”  She might even go further and say to the target, “I've learned one thing that you haven't.  You can't change people.  And this is just the way I am.”  Sad but true.  The target cannot change the bully, nor should she try.  It would be an exercise in futility.  Also a huge waste of time and energy.  The bully is in denial.  Denial about her bullying.  Denial about the pain inside of her that causes her to lash out at people she deems as weaker than herself.  Denial about the seriousness of her actions.  Even denial about her own part in the on-going workplace drama.  In her eyes, there is nothing wrong or abnormal about what she is doing.  Since she feels that she is doing nothing wrong, she feels further wounded and victimized if the target brings the behaviour up to management.
Although the paragraph above, written by me years ago while I was still struggling with being actively bullied in the workplace is written compassionately, much more compassionately than the writings of the Tim Field Foundation, it contains a stark truth which is later revealed in the articles I've accessed:  the bully is in denial.  Completely denial of what she is doing, of what the impacts on the other person are, etc.


Enough for today!  I've set the stage regarding pieces of information, facts if you will, about the serial bully before continuing on to more of the story regarding the presence of person #2 in the office. 

Until tomorrow....


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