Bullying: Not Just for Children Anymore

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A new viral video by the geniuses at ThinkModo is making the rounds. It's actually a promo for the movie Dead Man Down disguised as a videotaped prank. Watching it made me think about human behavior and why some witnesses to crime do nothing. Nobody can say for sure how he/she would react in such a situation, but I'm sure most people would like to think that they would do something heroic. Anything.

But, too often people step aside and do nothing.

An article in Psychology Today refers to the Bystander Effect where onlookers are more likely to intervene if there are few or no other witnesses. It also explains that social influence plays an important role, too. Individuals in a group tend to monitor the behavior of those around them to determine how to act. The Bystander Effect refers to situations where individuals do not offer help in an emergency situation when other people are present. The greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. The mere presence of other bystanders greatly decreases intervention. Experiments have shown that the mere presence of other people actually inhibits folks from helping.

This brings me to the topic of Workplace Bullying. According to WorkplaceBullying.org:

Both workplace and schoolyard bullying usually involves common underlying principles: the desperate grab for control by an insecure inadequate person, the exercise of power through the humiliation of the target. School-age bullies, if reinforced by cheering kids, fearful teachers, or ignoring administrators, grow up as dominating type people. If it works for them, there is no reason to change. At work as adults, they do what they do best -- bully others. An unknown percentage of workplace bullies have a lifelong record of disrespecting the needs of others. 

If you think you are being bullied at work, consider taking this is Workplace Aggression Research Questionnaire developed by researchers from the State University of New York in New Paltz and Wayne State University. Occasional insults don't count, but if you feel you are a victim of consistent bullying, you can take action.

We can all agree that bullying is awful and should be stopped. It's easy for adults to tell children how to react in bullying situations, including those where the child is a mere witness to such events. Right?

What about when witnessing other adults being bullied?

Are you guilty of using euphemisms intended to trivialize bullying and its impact on bullied people: Incivility, Disrespect, Difficult People, Personality Conflict, Negative Conduct, or Ill Treatment?

Are you guilty of ignoring the "office jerk" who dominates the conversation and/or makes sarcastic, or belittling comments to others who try to contribute? Is it OK to just roll your eyes when in the presence of the "office jerk" who is putting someone down in front of us?

In a Workplace Bullying Institute study (2012), participants who claimed they were bullied at work were asked why workplace bullying happens.  "Coworkers stand idly by and fail to stop it" was ranked fourth. It is understandable that workers not only fear for their own jobs, but are often worried about the bully turning on them. Does this make it OK to remain silent?

First they came…” is a famous statement attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the fact that too many German people failed to act following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets.

Have you ever been the victim of workplace bullying? Are YOU a workplace bully? What are your thoughts on this?

This article was crossposted here.