Bullying (10): Workplace Bullying

Work colleaguesWhen we talk about bullying, we mainly think of children and the perceived increase in acts of bullying at schools. However, as we discovered in Home of the Bully, it is very likely that the parents or older siblings who are raising child bullies have been bullied by their parents or are being bullied at work themselves. Therefore, they are merely trapped in a cycle of bullying.

In Australia, it is estimated that 1 of 6 people are bullied at work. A research done by Duncan and Riley on the staff of a school cluster found that 97% of staff thought they had been or were still being bullied by another person at work.

In 2002, it was estimated that workplace bullying cost the Australian economy 36 billion dollars a year, not including stress leave people took due to bullying.

But the implications of this phenomenon are far more devastating than the financial toll society pays for bullying. People who are bullied and made to feel weak at work have a higher chance of finding someone weaker to pick on to regain their power. If they have kids, those kids might become their victims at home.

Besides the “obvious” workplace bullies – employers and managers (“the boss”) – anyone may act like a bully: subordinates, colleagues, clients, suppliers, individually or in groups. Anyone who feels weak may use bullying to regain their power by putting another down.

Read more about workplace bullying

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What Happens When You Fight

Couple arguingHave you ever wondered what happens to your kids when you fight with your partner? Have you ever asked them?

Well, I did today and I was surprised and it got me thinking.

My 15-year-old son Tsoof is now on holidays, so he and I go for a walk around the neighborhood together in the morning. He sometimes brings his guitar and we sing, much to the enjoyment of passersby, but other times, we talk. Today, he brought his guitar, but we talked anyway…

At first, I asked Tsoof, “When you and your friends talk about how annoying your parents are, what do you say?”

“Nothing”, he said, “I don’t think you’re annoying”.

“Isn’t there anything we do that bugs you in some way? After all, we’re not perfect”, I asked.

“Well, I really feel bad when you fight”, he admitted, “It makes me want to disappear”.

OK, OK, so the big secret is out. Life coaches or not, Ronit and I are sometimes under pressure too and when that happens, we argue, as we did recently, with our unfortunate kids being present. Being from a culture in which expressing how you feel might involve raising your voice and making theatrical gestures (to help emphasize your point), we dominated the family scene, which apparently troubled our kids.

Read more about how to avoid/end arguments

Bullying (9): Home of the bully

Loving familyIn my work for Together for Humanity, I must have read hundreds of articles while looking for solutions to specific forms of bullying and there was very limited mention of parents. I can easily understand why there was so little focus on parents’ role in eliminating bullying. It seems there is a fear of addressing the issue, as if pointing a finger at the parents will only make things worse.

Although I believe blaming is not a good strategy in solving any problem, I do think that shutting our eyes to the importance of the parenting style in creating the problem is not going to get us any closer to the solution.

Parents are the most important role models for their kids and the most valuable socializing agent. When their parenting style supports bullying behavior, they do not do it because they are mean and abusive. They do it because they do not know any other way or are not aware of the effects of their parenting on their kids and on society.

I think that avoidance and fear of discussing the parenting side is not doing parents any favors. By drawing attention to the importance of parenting, we can actually give parents back the power they need in order to run their family life in a productive, supportive and positive way. As a result (almost a side effect), we will also be reversing the bullying trend.

Read more about parents of the bully

Bullying (8): Home of the bully

Woman screaming Bullying is not something we like to talk about. There are big groups and organizations out there trying to convince us to start talking about it, because life is getting worse and bullying is on the rise. I think they paint this picture of society for two reasons:

  1. To create awareness of something that many have bravely decided to stop tolerating and a sense of urgency in finding a solution for it
  2. To ease our guilt feelings about having accepted it as part of life until recently

As you might suspect, the first reason is closer to my heart and to my educational and social agenda, but I am not happy with the second reason, because I believe bullying is a fundamental part of our society (just think about bosses, kings and other people in power) and without acknowledging that, we will keep dealing with superficial issues and never really eliminate it.

I remember myself living in a bullying environment. I was bullied for my height (I am still short), I was bullied for my financial status (we lived on the poor side of town in a house and believed those living in a flat in a buildings were superior to us), I was bullied for my low academic achievements by my siblings (yes, it is hard to admit, but school was not my best experience), I was bullied for my bad health and using threats to get what we wanted was our way of life.

In the past, when a husband was a bully towards his wife and children, it was very acceptable. If any parent physically hurt their child, it was called “education” or “discipline”. Authorities did not even consider it a problem. I think that even today, many parents do not recognize their role in raising a bully in their home.

It is time to wake up and take responsibility.

Research about bullies discovered there were certain types of homes that raised bullies.

Read more about home of the bully

Bullying (7): Other Bullying Players

Young peopleIt is commonly thought that the bullying game is run by two main players, the bully and the victim. However, there are many other players taking part in this game. Understanding the role of the other players can greatly change the dynamic of the bullying act. Their weaknesses are not obvious, so they are not easy targets, but do they defend the weak? Encourage the bully? Do nothing?

As a group, the kids who are watching an act of bullying are called “Bystanders”. Research studies claim that in 85% of the situations, there are other kids witnessing an act of bullying. Most bystanders feel very uncomfortable with the bullying, but do not intervene for different reasons. As a parent reading this, you probably say to yourself, “I’d rather my kid leave the scene and not get into extra trouble”. Well, this is very wise, but more often than not, bystanders leave without getting the help of anyone else.

Statistically, 57% of the times, when another child intervenes, the bullying stops within seconds! So bystanders have lots of power. They just do not know it. The main problem is not that they do not help the victims. It is that they help the bully by being an audience for his act of power.

Read more about other bullying participants

Bullying (6): Victims

TargetLast week, I talked about the character traits of Bullies. Today, I will cover the personality of the Bullied or Victims. It is obvious that for someone to be a bully, they need a victim. You probably wonder why some kids are bullied and others are not? Well, it is because there is some dynamic between the bully and the bullied and some behaviors are easy targets for the bully.

The most obvious reason kids become a target for bullying is being different in some way. It is not easy to avoid being different somehow, because something as small as your type of hair or the size of your body can be easily used by the bully as a weakness.

During the school years, fitting in is very important for kids and by trying so hard to fit in and hide the differences, they attract bullies to their weakness. In his 2007 research, Field found that children who are bullied have 2 main problems:

  1. They stand out as being different
  2. They have challenges with their social skills

Read more about bullying victims

Teen Drinking Party

CocktailWe encourage our kids to have two parties a year – one at the beginning of the year to allow them to get have a great start for the school year and meet new friends in their new classes and one on their birthday. Every year, our kids have a great year.

Last month, our son Tsoof had his birthday party. Tsoof is 15 years old, but most of his friends are 16 or 17 and some of them have already started driving. When they come in the door, Tsoof’s friends always say they have been waiting for the party since the last one, because they always have a great time dressing up, playing games, singing and dancing.

This year, when he gave his friends invitations to his party one girl asked him, “Will you have drinks at your party?”

Read more about teens drinking at parties

Who Knows?

Little dog, big dogMotivation can be external or internal. That is, a person can be prompted, encouraged or coerced to do something by somebody else, or they can do it for their own reasons.

Kids, being so young and dependent, begin their life by mimicking their parents and other carers and by following their instructions. “Those big, loving, all-knowing creatures that take care of me must be right, so it’s best to be guided by them”, they reason.

This quickly develops into obedience, even when following the instructions might cause discomfort to the child. “It’s a small price to pay for the big person’s love and besides, maybe the big person is right and this is good for me?”

I find with my kids that their principals, teachers, coaches and other instructors tend to encourage conformity and submission to authority and I have to deal with it sometimes and help them strengthen their internal motivation. You will recognize this has happened to your children when they start talking about getting away with things, instead of whether or not those things should be done in the first place.

Read more about kids’ motivation

Bullying (5): Bully awareness

clip_image001[3]Understanding the dynamics of bullying is very important in finding the solution for it. In the next two chapters of the bullying series, I will discuss the characteristics of two main players in the bullying phenomenon – the Bully and the Bullied (victim). I say two main players, because there are many other players in the game, but they will be discussed later on.

From a very early stage of the bullying research, it was obvious that bullies have special characteristics. Research done in 2007 by Field found that bullies have difficulties with schoolwork, health and self-esteem. Field also found that bullies have personal, social and interpersonal difficulties, including challenges in dealing with emotions and conflicts, lack of compassion and inability to express empathy.

As the challenges bullies have are all associated with their inability to manage their feelings, it is easy to see that bullies have low emotional intelligence.

Read more about bullying

Bullying (4): Forms of Bullying

FacebookIn the past, people considered physical aggressiveness as bullying. Being a form of violence, it was easy to distinguish. Every physical act that was meant to hurt someone else physically was violence and therefore an act of bullying. However, the modern definition of bullying is much broader, so that made many people think there is a lot more bullying today, when in fact, it was here all along, but it was much more acceptable.

For example, name calling and exclusion of people based on their gender, race or disability were very common parts of daily life 40 years ago. I remember myself being intimidated by name calling as a kid. I was bullied and a bully myself. I was made fun of constantly for my skin color or ethnic affiliation and I joined others in making fun of others for other reasons.

I do not think we have more bullying nowadays. I think the level of bullying is similar to what it was in the past, we just pay attention to it more now and are more willing to address it and create an accepting, tolerant and happy society.

People use different forms of bullying to threaten, intimidate and create emotional pain. Here is a list of behaviors that are considered bullying. As I read each one of them, I saw only one form that was new and was not there 40 years ago. Other than that, we had them all and in some respects even worse.

Read more about forms of bullying