Isn’t it a terrible word? Just the word congers up so many things. In our growing years we would have seen it, been party to it, done it, ignored it and defended it It starts almost from when we want to get things others have. The classic line being “You’re not my very best friend anymore, she is and she’s coming to my house to play” or earlier still, “you can play with me in the sand pit”. How our older peers dealt with these things would have significant in the way in which we behaved as young teens going into adult hood then into our working career.

I think if anyone tells you they were not a bully, it may not be as accurate as they think. Pushing in to get to the front of the tuck shop line can now be classed as bullying. In my day it was to get in the  front of the line, pushing others was part of the course. Being a tuck shop mum later in life, there was tuck shop monitors, tuck lunch collectors and tuck shop purchasers, it all became very structured and probably good for the little ones who were dominated by the older ones. But the bullying was taken away from the line ans there is always that child who waits and jumps on the purchasers cache, taking the best lollies, getting the first crisp and or complaining if their friend didn’t share.

Later in life there was the work place bully, the ‘older’ supervisor who would give you the worst jobs. I worked in a local retail store and despite the fact I loved check out, I worked for a compnay who had the first computerised cash register in South Australia. There were no scanners and it was more like a glorified calculator but I enjoyed it, I was ordered to go out back and help wrap lay-bys, do stock take and pick clothes of the floor that people had pulled off coat hangers, or worst still have to go to the exchange counter and collect old stock or tell an ‘older’ person we couldn’t take their 2 yr old worn out tracksuit back. It was terrible, but I did it, it gave me an opportunity to earn my own money and have independence. This was the time that Saturday morning trading had just commenced as well. I didn’t see it a bullying but took it that perhaps I was a bit more competent than others at putting clothes back on coat hangers correctly (as silly as this sounds, I took pride in my work.

Moving into my big girls career i chose nursing, now here is where bullying, sexual harassment and glass ceilings are hidden under the veil of being a caring professional. I was once at a work Christmas party just after the anti-discrimination laws came in and sexual harassment laws were being implemented and an anaesthetist said ‘well they have taken sexual harassment out of the operating theatres so it’s time for me to retire.” I was shocked at this not because it was said out loud but we didn’t consider things like ‘dirty jokes” to be sexual harassment. But we all moved on, these laws gave some of the bullies a louder voice. I worked with one nurse (actually many) who believed it was her/his “turn” for a promotion as she had been there the longest, despite job promotions asking for qualifications or to be working towards them if your face didn’t fit you were not selected for the role. I did extra curricular study and worked towards all the promotions I applied for and I never got one, I was loud, I was opinionated (still am) and I realised that I was never going to get one. The last role promotion I applied for I was acting in (and felt for sure I would get the position) and the Director of Nursing called my home where my younger brother happened to be babysitting for me that day and without asking him who he was she told him over the phone I didn’t get the job. He didn’t tell me straight away he just said she had called, so imagine my surprise (as I KNEW I was going to get the role I had been in) when she had to awkwardly tell me in person I didn’t get the job, OVER THE PHONE. I jumped in my car and fronted her, it didn’t end well and I left the institution not long after.

I have tried from that day not to bully people, to be conscious of their needs and assist them. I worked as a medical rep for years and in one of my last full time paid roles I worked in an office with other staff members. No matter how many times I would ask if there was anything wrong, I would not get an honest answer “nothing’ or “I’m having a bad day” it took me a long while to work out that this staff member would never tell me anything. As with a lot of bullies they hide behind “I can’t speak to you.” “I find you unapproachable” or “I need help to have meetings with you” or worse still you start hearing the complaints that are being made behind your back and when you try to address it, they take sick leave, deny it or go over your head to more senior staff and drag as many people into it without ever addressing the issue. As I said I am not perfect but if you can’t address the behavior and how to have a good working environment then everybody looses.

I have witnessed another form of bullying in my recent days, and have felt very sad and powerless to assist the person on the receiving end. Corporate bullying takes many forms from many people and can involve committee members, staff members & Board members. A group or posse of people can willingly make or break a career for no other reasons other than they make dislike the actions of others, they may not agree with them and they may been seen to have more power. Without a strong Chair or leader this will go unchecked and leave no protection to the person at the receiving end. It is these types of events that divide people and never good for any organization or workplace. Staff become divided, it can then become an us versus them group and leaves everybody feeling terrible, without good mechanisms to address things they become whispers, rumors and also sends people underground, fearful for their own jobs. They become silenced as speaking out can bring attention to ones self and a swift reaction from the upper powers and comments then go into the community, warranted or unwarranted.

There are no real studies on corporate bullying, if anyone knows of any please feel free to post. If there are articles on how to handle the bullying leader I would also love to have them, it may help being able to start to put things into perspective.