Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bully in the Workplace

Earlier this month I wrote about Phoebe Prince and her suicide, which was supposedly brought about by Phoebe being bullied at school (Click here for the link).  Personally, I think there were other factors that are being ignored by commercial media and possibly by the criminal justice system – six students are facing criminal charges of various sorts.  Phoebe Prince is still in the news, the repressive State of Taxachusetts has its legislators busily arguing the finer points of a new law that will fix all this as well as paving the way for even more laws on the same subject, and virtually nothing is being done.  Many adults read about Phoebe's case and wonder why the adults in charge at South Hadley High School didn't act to prevent the abuse they knew was happening.  What they don't realize is that school bullying is not confined to the students; school teachers and administrators provide a good example for abuse.

Run an Internet search on bullying in the workplace and you'll get over one million hits.  Two organizations, The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI)  [] and the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention (WIVP) paid Zogby International for a study on workplace bullying.  The results are:

Zogby International conducted 7,740 interviews to create a representative sample of all American adults in August, 2007. The margin of error was +/- 1.1 percentage points.
  • 37% of workers have been bullied: 13% currently and 24% previously
  • Most bullies are bosses (72%)
  • More perpetrators are men (60%) than are women(40%)
  • Most Targets (57%) are women
I haven't read the study (shame on me!) but I'm going to speculate a little.  I think it's likely that the perpetrators of abuse have either authority over the victim, that is to say work place authority, or a decided size advantage over the victim, or both.  I think most men will agree that it's difficult to bully someone larger than you are, or someone that occupies a position of authority over you.  I couldn't find any cases of people being bullied by their subordinates, although a few might exist.

The thing about being a victim of workplace bullying is that legally there isn't much you can do about it.  Unless you're a member of a protected group of workers and the thrust of the bullying is directed at you because of your membership, and you can prove this – forget about a legal remedy.  It won't happen, and with good reason.  That leaves a few other solutions.

Surfing around the Internet, the site Bully Free at Work offered the suggestion “Keep an encouragement file folder with great cards, notes, letters, inspirational sayings, quotes and poems.”  Advice from most other sites on the Internet are easily interchangeable and center around group hugs, love and understanding, acceptance and tolerance for other people's idiosyncrasies.  One site, The Take Away is notable in that it offers a more pragmatic approach, What You Can Do When Bullied At Work courtesy of Dr. Gary Namie, but warns that following their advice is very likely to get you fired.  What Dr. Namie doesn't point out is that the victim will very likely lose their job anyway, so why not control the exit?

The topic that isn't discussed in conjunction with bullying or abuse in the workplace is workplace violence, or maybe just plain violence.  Note that bullies, whether the schoolyard variety, the domestic wife beating variety or the workplace variety are rarely (if ever) the victim of violent behavior.  Put in plain language that anyone can understand, you never hear about the bully getting his ass kicked.  There's a reason for that, and it begins with self-preservation and ends with a broken nose.  Shortly thereafter whatever bullying was taking place ceases to be an issue; or more plainly, the moron stops acting like an asshole.

Consider this excerpt from Kim du Toit's essay, The Pussification Of The Western Male.
There was even a time when a President of the United States threatened to punch a man in the face and kick him in the balls, because the man had the temerity to say bad things about the President’s daughter’s singing.
I have no idea which President Kim is referring to, or even if the anecdote is true although I suspect it is.  Consider that US Presidents have been involved in duels and many lived fairly rough lives.  Mind you, these are United States Presidents and Vice Presidents we're talking about here; highly respected and successful men.  At one time or another, they saw fit to hand some particularly obnoxious asshole a traditional hay maker to snot locker, and they did so because they knew it would work.

I can just hear the howls now.  “Oh no, Mad Jack, violence never solved anything!”  The hell it didn't.  Ask any man who has ever retaliated against his tormentors and see what he has to say.  Then we have the true pacifist, “But I don't want to hurt him!”.  Maybe not, but he (or she) wants to hurt you.  Think about it.  Then there's the realist.  “He's bigger than I am.  I'll get killed!”  Okay, you've got a problem.  The solution is to get an equalizer, such as a hefty length of wood about the same size and weight as the lower third of a pool cue.  Hold it firmly in both hands and smash it across his legs – from behind, not from in front where he can see it coming.  While he's busy dancing around smash his hands, arms and shoulders.  If your enemy really looks like he knows what he's doing, add a can of pepper spray and a Taser to your arsenal.  Apply the pepper spray from a distance, follow up with a hickory massage and finish with the Taser to the nuts.  Then there's advice from whatever legal beagle is reading my diatribe: This is against the law and possibly constitutes felony assault, maybe more.

Oh, does it now?  Tsk, tsk.  Our criminal justice system is a wonderful thing if you know how to use it.  Consult your attorney about what to do immediately following a good shoot (using a legally owned firearm for self-defense) and apply the same things here.  Now granted, giving your tormentor a beating in front of a dozen eye witnesses is a big mistake; confronting him in a dark parking lot is not.  If you're arrested, ask for your attorney.  Once the tormentor's record of abuse is brought to light the tormentor will be lucky to get off with 5 years in prison, and it's very likely you'll be an office hero.

The reality of our society is that men fight.  Some of the men have been pussified to the extent that they think fighting is not only wrong, it is a response that is truly disgraceful.  They've been taught this by women who have never had to face a schoolyard bully.  The bully doesn't want to reason with you, talk to you or get to know you.  Bullies don't think that way, and if you try asking a bully to please leave you alone in the future you'll get a lot of laughs.  Now, if you precede your polite request with the aforementioned pepper spray, hickory massage and Taser test, you will be absolutely amazed at the amount of enthusiastic cooperation your solution for mutual non-aggression will receive.

I advocate that any victim make up his mind to stop being a doormat.  If you're in lousy physical shape, start going to the gym every day and while you're at it, start boxing or MMA (multiple martial arts) lessons.  In six months you'll confront your attacker, you'll win and your very next day at the office will be enjoyable.

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