The news is full of it: North Korea bullying it’s own people, Germany bullying Greece, Russia bullying the Ukraine and the USA and China bullying anyone that’s left to be bullied!
Bullying is part of life and considered completely natural in the animal world as a way of passing on stronger genes through time. The more aggressive males get the best females, who in turn have the stronger children. But the ‘more aggressive’ human male has to play a very different hand in a more vigilant society; a society where bullying is considered very ‘uncool’, by almost everyone.
What is bullying?
A country can bully another country, a bank can do this to a company or another bank, but most of us recognise it first at an early age, in the school playground. As a young Irish boy with a strong accent, I witnessed it first hand in its simplest form at the age of 5. The school bully, Adrian Webster, would come up to me and punch me to the ground, for no reason. Then all the other kids would stand around chanting and ridiculing me for a few minutes until they got bored. Not crying and not reacting was the key to survival at the time, but becoming friends with the other school bully proved the best plan. I thought of punching back but I saw the results on others who’d had that courage, and believe me it wouldn’t have been worth it.
Bullies now have to be far more sophisticated because we live in times where this practice is considered extremely anti-social. So in the office, the bully probably won’t go up and punch a person, he may just wear them down psychologically, just picking away every day, almost a form of entertainment to him, but with a devastating effect on the victim. I say ‘he’ because bullying is mainly a male trait fuelled by testosterone, but I have seen it ‘woman on woman’ and even between the sexes
Should we confront the bully?
Yes, for sure but be prepared for the consequences! In an ideal world, you go up to the bully, explain the error of his ways, he says sorry, the bullying stops and you feel happy that you’ve confronted him. But in reality, the bully usually has an entourage, a group of people who like to be around him. Sometimes because they just like to take part in the fringe bullying for fun, other times because he’s a popular guy and they don’t see the harm in having a laugh, as long as it’s not at their expense. The bully, more than anything doesn’t want to feel silly or embarrassed in front of this group, he has an image to uphold, he also needs to entertain them! So you decide enough is enough, you take the chance and make that confrontation. The bully, then naturally his whole group hit back at you … “It’s only banter, we’re just having a laugh, he doesn’t mind, ask him?” they all shout back!
But ‘banter’ is when a group of people are all having a laugh and a joke, where no single person is being constantly picked out and everyone feels included and comfortable with what’s going on.
Bullying is very different …
There are loads of definitions; I think this one does it justice …
“Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. Bullying or harassment may be by an individual against an individual (perhaps by someone in a position of authority such as a manager or leader) or involve groups of people. It may be obvious or it may be insidious. Whatever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual”.
So you’ve made the confrontation, the bully and the entourage have hit back, and if you’re lucky they will agree that they have been bullying and agree to stop.But, far more likely, you will now become the target! You have embarrassed the bully and the entourage! They feel ashamed, they know they’re wrong, they’re not necessarily bad people, but you have forced them to examine their own poor behaviour. They may not even like or speak to you again, but you’ve given them something valuable to take into their future.
The person who was the victim might even come and tell you in private that he is grateful for you having the courage to do what he couldn’t do himself! But inside he is delighted because the focus is now off him and firmly on you. If he keeps quiet he may now even be accepted into the entourage group as a full member, but he will always be a victim with this tact.
Yes, you can feel better about yourself, but did you really solve a problem, or just shift it elsewhere? Is bullying just human nature, will it always be with us no matter what?