The Art of Change Skills for Life

Ideas. Insight. Inspiration.

Dealing With Bad Behavior: Bullies At Home, At Work

March 28, 2008 Dealing with Difficult People 4

Thank you to my friend Kate Jackson who brought to my attention an article in the Health section of the New York Times titled “Have You Been Bullied At Work” by Tara Parker Pope. This is an excellent article, and Ms. Pope does a great public service by bringing this issue into the light. Bullying goes on only when it is tolerated. Yet when individuals and groups take a stand in the presence of it and then stand their ground, not against the bully but for a desired outcome, the behavior of most bullies will change in response.  Individuals that take a stand can bring about positive change in these situations.   That’s because bullies react to attacks, respond to signals of confidence and strength, and are encouraged by signals of weakness.

I know what it is to take pride in my community, my state and my country. It comes from within, it is completely voluntary in its expression, and it is evoked in both achievement and in crisis. Following the terror attacks of 9-11, I witnessed people changing their behavior from taking their country for granted to caring passionately about who we are and what we are and what we stand for in the world.

Flags came out, went up, and appeared across the land. But during the early stages of the War in Iraq, a sort of sweeping pseudo-patriotism seemed to sweep across our country. Pseudo, because flying a flag or wearing one became synonymous with being patriotic (they are not the same thing,) and not flying one or wearing one became equivalent to being unpatriotic. So many more people began flying flags, sticking them on their tailgates, and pasting them on their storm doors.

Just over two years ago, (three years into the war) a retired gentleman I know and love, who we’ll call Adam, was essentially warned by his neighbor that he ‘should’ be flying his flag all year long. “Look around, Adam. That’s what we all do in this neighborhood. You don’t want people to get the wrong idea.” Adam disagreed. But he didn’t become belligerent or disagreeable.

Instead, he calmly told his neighbor. “No, I don’t think so. I’m a tax payer and a veteran. When called to fight, I fought for this country. I don’t need to fly a flag in order to be a good American.”

More to the point, he politely told his neighbor that there was no way he’d be bullied into flying a flag when he didn’t feel like it, and he didn’t feel like it…he flew his flag on two days a year ( Memorial Day, and the 4th of July) and that was plenty. Then he told his neighbor, “And you know, it’s really not your concern to come over here and tell me something like this, and it is definitely none of your business what I do, or how I do it. So here’s what I want you to do instead. I want you to mind your own business, and I’ll mind mine. Thanks.” The neighbor backed off and never said another word.

Adam stood his ground for his beliefs and created positive change in his neighborhood.

I’ll write more in future posts about dealing with bad bullying behavior.  Meanwhile, I’d like to hear your examples of creating positive change when dealing with the bad behavior of bullies.

You can comment below.  Tara Pope’s complete article is here.

Be Well,

Dr. Rick Kirschner

Related Posts:

1. Dealing with Coworkers’ Bad Behavior

2. Dealing with Difficult People: A Different Approach

4 Responses

  1. […] Ok, here’s what I get from reading what you’ve written. It seems to me that you tolerate your boss’s bad behavior, even though you find it wrong and offensive. Maybe you do this because you want to be nice. Maybe you do this out of fear for your job. But I don’t see the benefit to you in keeping a job at all costs. I recommend that you read the chapters in my book on dealing with Tanks and Grenades and apply this material to your situation. Because, in my opinion, it is your tolerance of this bad behavior that perpetuates it. I recently wrote a blog entry on this very topic, bullies at work. […]

  2. […] Ok, here’s what I get from reading what you’ve written. It seems to me that you tolerate your boss’s bad behavior, even though you find it wrong and offensive. Maybe you do this because you want to be nice. Maybe you do this out of fear for your job. But I don’t see the benefit to you in keeping a job at all costs. I recommend that you read the chapters in my book on dealing with Tanks and Grenades and apply this material to your situation. Because, in my opinion, it is your tolerance of this bad behavior that perpetuates it. I recently wrote a blog entry on this very topic, bullies at work. […]

  3. Dawn Collinson says:

    You know something, I keep seeing titles like “Dealing with Difficult People/Bad Behaviour” etc. The facts are:-

    Tie the bully up to a tree.
    Leave them there to contemplate their disgraceful antics.
    Never let them near their victim again.

    I am not a “nutcase” or a “crank” – I am a kind, decent, hardworking and conscientious small lady who smiles even though my heart is so heavy for love for those who are suffering as I have done. Thankfully I have escaped and found another job – had I not, I dare not think of what I might have done. I was on the verge of taking tablets and ending my life. I could not understand what I had done that was so bad that this person (edited for content) should be so awful. In the end we all agreed that she was suffering some sort of personality disorder or psychosis and three of us left in three months, many more, we found out had left before us. The biggest insult was that I was asked not to say anything to anyone when I left – in other words, a cover up. (edited for content) The suffering that I and my friend went through was really awful. My friend was found in a cupboard crying and we were picked on, criticised and could not work responsibly or reasonably without having to check, check and check again. Whoever takes her on will suffer nothing but a nightmare. You can never change these awful people, you just have to walk away to preserve your own sanity. Easy to say when you are frightened for your mortgage and for looking after your children. For God’s sake, let the conspiracy end – no more covering up, no more books, articles and trying to appeal to their better natures, they do not have a better nature!! Selfo, besto, bugger all the resto is their motto and they usually get away with it. It should be three strikes and you’re out – end of story. Thank you for letting me get this off my chest – I hope I never set eyes on her again……

    • Dawn, welcome to the blog and thanks for your comment.
      Don’t know what you went through, but clearly it’s awful. Not all bad behavior is equally awful. That’s why I say you have FOUR choices instead of one. You can stay and suffer, you can leave, you can change your attitude while they remain the same, or you can change your behavior to get a different result. In the situation you described, leaving is clearly the best option.
      If you do ever set eyes on ‘her’ again, I think your attitude about what you’ve gone through may set you up for more misery and suffering. I’m an advocate for completing the past and moving on, so that the next time if and when you see her, you can let her problems be about her instead of you, not take them on and walk on in peace and strength.
      You have my best wishes,
      Rick

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