Yesterday I published a blog against Elan Gale’s incredibly stupid publicity stunt. In the blog I expressed dismay at the idea that anyone could find amusement in the brutality that is bullying. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how insidious this problem is. Most of us can spot the obvious physical bully; you know, the guy in the bar itching for a fight. We scorn him and he disgusts us. However, do we recognize the less obvious bully? The one that uses passive-aggressive behaviour. The narcissistic bully. Do we see them? Many of my readers own their own businesses and I wonder if they’d be able to spot the office bully.

So, I thought I’d put Elan Gale’s idiocy to good use and come up with a list of characteristics to watch out for. Diane has some good things to teach us and I think we can use this opportunity to learn from her.

  • I’m always right. A bully uses a number of tactics to prove they’re right. All the time. When they’re shown to be wrong, they use intimidation or shame to deflect away from themselves. I once had a boss who would swear the sky was green if I said it was blue. When I could prove my point with facts, she’d look at me and say, “so this is what you’ve been doing with your time” or “well, I guess the boss knows nothing.”
  • The office gossip. Nothing wrong with a little juicy gossip, right? Wrong. Gossip can hurt a company badly. Something said in confidence should remain in confidence. We’ve all had a bad day when the office mate is just getting on our last nerve. So, we vent a little steam to our office friend. Gossip quickly escalates that from a random irritated comment to a full-blown office war.
  • Quick! Jump the shark! Nothing amuses a bully more than setting a task that can’t be accomplished. This passive-aggressive behaviour causes tension, stress and makes the target feel inferior. There is nothing the victim can do to satisfy the bully and the bully keeps them running around. Nothing is good enough. Nothing is finished. There’s always one more thing. One more change. Deadlines come and go and the victim gets blamed for missing it.
  • The temper tantrum. I worked for a Russian man who never spoke. He screamed. Constantly. I will say, being screamed at by a man with a thick Russian accent is not something I relish. To this day hearing a Russian accent makes me want to wet my pants. Screaming is not appropriate in an office. This is one of those clear “this is bullying” signs. Those with a temper should be given anger management classes. Co-workers are not emotional punching bags.
  • I’m gonna tell! Let’s face it bosses, you don’t know everything that the mice are up to when you’re away. That’s fine. They get the work done so if they watch that cat video when you’re out, relax. However, it’s the tattletale that is the secret bully here. I’m not talking about the person who has a genuine concern about something that is happening in the office. I’m talking about that person who tries to stir up trouble by telling every sordid detail constantly. This person is often the office gossip as well.
  • The “joke”. We’ve all had that uncomfortable situation where someone tells a joke that’s a little inappropriate. After a small embarrassed giggle everyone moves on. However, when someone engages in off-color jokes repeatedly or ignores the discomfort of others, that’s bullying. Sometimes the jokester will use the line, “it’s just a joke” to make his behaviour okay and demean the other person. It’s not okay. Pranks are a special irritation to me as well. I hate them. They are designed to humiliate and embarrass. When the victim protests, the prankster will use the “it’s just a joke” line as though the victim should want this public humiliation and they are the asshole for protesting.

There are numerous websites devoted to adult and workplace bullying which I will leave here. The key to bullying is simple; if it’s an ongoing act that is designed to humiliate, intimidate, shame or demean another it should stop. There is no excuse for allowing any kind of bullying to occur and certainly no need for it to continue.