"Our challenge today is to explain how Congress evolved into our national nutcase." So says Gail Collins, in her excellent New York Times piece "Congress Cracks Up."
I'm not sure how many ways I can say I agree with Mrs. Collins, but suffice to say, I agree. Some of the members of the 113th Congress are acting probably more irrationally than any we've seen in decades. But, from what I see and what I've learned over the years, I'd say they aren't acting just like "nutcases," they're acting like what they are... workplace bullies.
In October of 2012, I wrote a piece on The Huffington Post, called "Who Did You Bully Today?" In it, I listed types of adult bullying that are not only getting in the way of efforts to keep kids from brutalizing each other, but are actively giving these kids full on bully lessons. Among the groups I listed was the United States Congress.
This is some of what I said then about our elected officials:
There are some great politicians out there, dedicated and devoted to the public good, and many are active supporters of violence prevention. But, as a group, "hired" by us to work together in essentially a two-party system, they would earn a great big "dysfunctional" label and earn it easily...
I'm hoping they'll gaze into their collective mirror and look at what's not working in their own halls. I think many of them would like to see more civility in the process of legislating.
I still await this civility, and have a feeling I will be "awaiting this civility" for a long time. We currently face a government shutdown and the tactics being used by the "shutdown" gang are textbook bully tactics.
Here's what I've learned about the types of workplace bullies from years of working with our Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention partners, Workplace Bullying Institute founders Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie, and from studying the work of the late workplace bullying activist Tim Field.
See if the behavior of our people on the Hill doesn't sound like the types of schoolhouse nemesis we've all faced.
1) The Screaming Mimi -- These are the specialists in "the outbursts." Some of the rants are well timed, and some are just uncontrolled. Either way, it's not the most effective tactic, although they rarely know that. They're the classic "slam them into the locker" types.They tend to lose their temper at each other and sometimes the host in double screened news show interviews. It's fun to watch for a few minutes, until you change the channel because really nothing of value is being heard or said.
2)The Constant Critic -- Haven't we all experienced the "know it all"? They rarely know it all, but they'll let you know they do, both on the floor and on the networks. Like Downton Abbey's dowager countess, "I am never wrong," and the elementary school tattle tale, it's always someone else's fault. Always.
3)The Two-Headed Snake -- I like to think of these folks as the "divide and conquer" champions of the playground. The "enemy of my enemy is my friend" tactic is at work here. Backstabbing is their game and they do it well.
4)The Gatekeeper -- This one is my personal favorite when it comes to Congress. If you can't do something yourself, then keep someone else from doing anything at all. Obstruction, obstruction, and more obstruction. Nothing gets done, and they like it that way.
5. The Attention Seeker -- The "grandstanders"! The speech makers that everyone starts to tune out are in it for themselves. They love the attention, they love the press, they love to be noticed. They're the class clown with a mean streak, and the show off that no one likes. They don't play well with others, because it's all about them.
6. The Wannabe -- These are the Hill dwellers who just aren't very competent. Knowing this, they'll make sure others look as clueless as they are. It keeps the focus off their deficiencies. If little Johnny isn't the best student in class, he'll make sure little Susie and little Bobby look worse than he does.
7. The Guru -- In their minds, they are above all criticism and above reproach. They may be experts, but in their minds, they're the only experts. Possible "teacher's pet." This is the kid with their hand raised-all the time.
8. The Sociopath -- This is the most dangerous type of bully, with no empathy, no loyalty, no bonds. Like many sociopaths, they are master manipulators, and can be charming in getting to their goal, which is always to look out for themselves. Period.
And we want our children to stop bullying each other? Ms. Collins asks in her excellent piece, ""So, what do you think is wrong with these people?" I would simply answer, see above.