It Takes A Village: To Expose the Bully

August 2nd, 2012

The old saying that it takes a village to raise a child fits just as well when dealing with bullies in the workplace. The essential meaning of this famous phrase relies on the premise that a parent cannot always have their eyes on a child to monitor every action they take or try to correct all negative behaviour to create a balanced and contributing member of society.

As we mature and turn into adults, legislation, laws and government replaces the role of the parent, as traditional parents lose control and influence over their child. I would say the exact same applies to the adult as to the child; it takes a village to raise an adult. What I am saying is that just as a parent cannot possibly follow a child every waking hour to discipline and correct, the same goes for the government. Just recently Unions Tasmania chief Kevin Harkins told a Federal Government inquiry that current laws were no match for a new breed of `workplace psychopaths.' As a former police officer I can recall countless times while on patrol and responding to incidents involving multiple witnesses where they would either decline to cooperate on grounds of fear of reprisal or a general unwillingness to become involved in the inevitable lengthy legal process. It was sometimes these same detractors that demanded that the police do something to curb the crime in their areas but were unwilling to either stand up and testify in court or report suspicious behaviours thereby preventing a crime whether it is an assault, robbery or a simple case of vandalism.

So must employees working in an environment where a bully cultures thrive stand up and be counted? Yes. And there may be consequences to being the one that makes the stand, in some cases it may be isolation from co-workers, further targeted bullying, or loss of employment. However living with constant bullying has its own set of consequences such as stress, sleep deprivation, onset of depression and in extreme cases there are clear links to the bullied person snapping and taking matters into their own hands. There are many examples of this but one of the more famous is the Ottawa shooting at the OC Transpo in the spring of 1999. Once the motive was dissected, it became apparent that the shooter, Pierre Lebrun, was the target of constant bullying to a point where he snapped and entered the workplace with a firearm and shot four colleagues before turning the gun on himself.

If there is one thing I have learned from both my childhood schoolyard days and my subsequent years in law enforcement and private security, is that the bully thrives on the ability to get away with their actions without interference or challenge. Standing up to the bully exposes their actions and focuses a spotlight on their behaviour forcing a change in the status-quo; which in my experience is a good thing. In fact I would contend that many individuals categorized as bullies are mostly unaware that their actions or management style amounts to bullying and only once confronted, investigated and sent for training do they realize the errors in their ways.

In my next blog I will give tips on how to exercise your rights as an individual in affectively dealing with reporting the actions of the workplace bully thereby minimizing your exposure to incidents of workplace violence, work related stress and other negative effects of being the victim of bulling or violence in the workplace.