I just read an article on bullying in the workplace. It was fascinating as I had just experienced that very thing. For those who know me, this would be a surprise as you know me as a very self contained, confident individual, so how can someone bully me?
I believe the only way to explain is to visit the past…
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful intelligent little girl who was so very shy and sweet. She believed that the world was magic and people were kind and good. Why wouldn’t they be? There was no reason to be mean, why couldn’t everyone be friends? As an adult you can look at the situation and see how wrong the little girl was as people prefer to live in ugliness and insecurity. But, the little girl believed in magic and fairy tales and paid the price for being a dreamer.
At school the kids didn’t want her on their teams and would be cruel with words and actions. Hate is very ugly and cruel and damaging and the beautiful little girl grew quiet and smaller and the world in her head grew to be a beautiful place where she could live and be happy.
“Why don’t the other kids like me?” She would ask the teachers. “Why are they mean to me?” She would cry.
“Because they are jealous because you are so pretty, so smart.” They would reply.
“Then I don’t want to be pretty and I dont want to be smart. Maybe if I was ugly or had a scar, people would like me and I just wont let anyone know I am smart.” So, the little girl took the first steps of being a victim. Thinking if she was pitiful, people would like her.
Time went on and the little girl grew smaller and the world grew darker, till one day the world became black and the girl wished she was no more.
But, life is about choice. To live or die. To be happy or angry. To be or not to be.
The little girl decided she would not go through life as some small insignificant punching bag of a victim. She would be strong and self contained and would not give people the power to hurt her or at least not let them know they hurt her.
So, the little girl grew into an adult and when ugly people tried to hurt her, she was still bewildered but she learned, grew and changed to fit into the world around her and she was no longer anyone’s victim.
Time moved on.
Many years ago I worked in auto racing with one of the most abusive people I have ever encountered. Biting, angry, hateful ugly words spewed constantly from his mouth. Always belittling, always destroying. Hate.
Management knew how destructive he was, but they needed him. Or so they thought.
I grew to ignore the constant verbal abuse since I wanted to be a part of racing. But, even as an adult, verbal abuse does damage to the soul.
The world is constantly changing and that person left my life and I was a different person from the experience. I was stronger.
A couple of weeks ago I was at work dealing with a new partner. I am the type of person that accepts everyone for who they are. That is a secret to good Ieadership, accept the people you work with and work within their boundaries.
This person is a Southern girl, smile to your face but listen beyond the words to what is not being said.
One evening after a very long week, she became very agitated and angry until her sarcasm and southern charm exploded, “I am nice unless I don’t like you and then I can make your life hell.” She spewed.
To say I was shocked is to put it lightly. This is a professional environment and position. But, what did I do to cause this? The first question must always be internal. Self awareness is so important in life. but is this internal owning of blame part of being a victim? Most people would be angry and most people would be arrogant. However, my first thought was what did I do?
Time has moved on and I was the one that reached out and smoothed things over. It was taken as being weak and gave her power.
Even after all this time I still don’t understand what is the proper response is to shut down a bully, not be a victim and most importantly not give up a part of my soul to win by becoming an ugly, hateful, human being.