Bullying is an act of aggression, causing embarrassment, pain or discomfort to someone. It can take a number of forms; physical, verbal, making gestures, extortion and exclusion. It is an abuse of power. It can be planned and organized, or it may be unintentional. It may be perpetrated by individuals or by a group.
I’ve overheard many people say that those being bullied just need to toughen up, claiming it’s all in fun and kids and adults are too sensitive these days. I wonder sometimes how that kind of ignorance can still be going on. Of course, I wonder that same thing about a variety of issues that shouldn’t even be issues.
Yes, there have always been bullies. People who think they are better than everyone else and make others feel insignificant. The people who go out of their way to make someone’s life miserable, or cause them grief.
The thing is, this isn’t just happening at schools. I have personally been victim to this kind of inexcusable behavior on multiple occasions at two separate places of employment over the years. The crazy part about this is that I’m not a passive person and I am not afraid to stand up for myself or anyone else for that matter. The most frustrating part of workplace bullying was when I followed the proper steps in an attempt to rectify the problem, I met with resistance from management. I was appalled!
The first time it happened, I was working in a physicians office as an MA. I loved this job. I thoroughly enjoyed being a nurse and was looking forward to getting my RN one day. I still wish I could go back and get my RN. I enjoyed the patients, the computer work, battling with insurance companies for my patients, and had a blast with almost all of my co-workers. It seemed like such a positive environment during my interview, as well as when I began working. It didn’t take long for the bullies to show their true colors.
At first, I would defend myself directly by letting them know I will not tolerate that kind of ignorant behavior. I am quite outspoken and have no problem calling people on their bullshit when I need to. Initially my resistance to their schemes knocked them off-balance and they retreated. However, not for long. They would come at me from different angles or start tormenting people who were friends with me at work. They would start an argument or try to set me or someone else up to look bad. On multiple occasions throughout the years I worked there, myself and others would make formal complaints to management. Every time, we would be assured it would be handled and told that kind of behavior is not tolerated and taken very seriously. Yet, nothing would ever come of it. No reprimands, no apologizes, no write ups, no dismissals! Nothing! Things would quiet down for a bit, but then the same people would be at it again. I watched some great nurses and numerous patients leave because of the actions of two bullies in that company. Two bullies who claimed to be good christians who really cared about the patients and the company. One of my pet peeves is the proverbial hypocrite; the good Christian who forgot t ask themselves WWJD!
I finally couldn’t take it anymore and ultimately quit. I tried everything I could think of to keep from doing that. I had a family to support and bills to pay, but the stress was just too much to handle. Looking back, I wish I would have had the money to hire an attorney. I could write a book detailing the plethora of incidents that occurred over the 4+years I worked there. I am strong and stubborn and I never give in easily, so I can assure you it was horrendous! I felt like my only option at the end was to walk away. I hate that I had to leave a job I absolutely loved because the company I worked for refused to take action. Instead of creating a safe environment for 28 employees, they enabled the abuse by two bullies.
My current place of employment isn’t much better. Considering my past experiences, my tolerance level of abuse is….NONE! I went through the proper channels, I contacted HR, they interviewed me, said they would investigate and get back to me. I had all my ducks in a row. I had dates and times and specific details as well as witnesses willing to confirm the harassment. Finally, I felt confident that things would not be brushed under the rug. I wasn’t looking for anyone to lose their job or to get any money. I asked for one thing, the person responsible to be reprimanded and told to stay away from me. A note here, this was a person who went out of their way to interact with me when there was no reason for him to do so. We didn’t EVER need to interact directly.
I wish I could tell you that things worked out and the problem was solved. This is a big, well-known company, and they screwed up! They never talked to any of the witnesses. Last time I checked, when investigating a sexual harassment claim, you should interview every person! I received a letter, containing less than two full paragraphs, stating they couldn’t tell me what they did but that the issue was taken care of. The HR manager and our District Manager got an earful from me. I made sure they both knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I knew they hadn’t spoken to a single solitary person and that I had NO confidence in that the situation was handled and wouldn’t happen again. I left them sitting there, speechless. Unfortunately, I’m currently on FMLA due to numerous health issues and am unable to pursue this problem. I handle things directly. If that doesn’t work, I decide if I just need to let it go and move on. If not, I really take a long time to ponder all the angles. I refuse to make a formal complaint unless I have 100% confidence it’s my only option. Anyone who thinks making a claim of this magnitude is a simple choice, is sadly mistaken. I lose sleep over all the craziness all the time. Even not being there right now doesn’t make the pressure and anxiety go away. If and when I go back to work, the problem will still be there.
I am 39 years old, stubborn as the day is long, not afraid of confrontation, strong and independent. If I am all of those things and bullying and harassment has caused me to quit one job and be under an inordinate amount of stress with my current one, imagine what it’s like for a child. Someone without the emotional maturity and self-confidence that comes with age and experience. We wonder why young tormented kids take their own lives or snap and resort to violence.
I have spent the last 6 years battling the schools my kids go to with bullying issues. My son has struggled nearly every day for the last 6 years with little to no cooperation from the very people who are supposed to protect him. Last year I received a phone call from the vice principal asking me to come in to talk. My son had refused to do a homework assignment as well as stay after school to complete it. When confronted, he shut down. The vice principal threatened to suspend him for a day. I looked right at him and said, “You have created an environment where he feels unsafe and unheard and you just offered him a day off. Did you really think about your actions or did you just go straight for the threats and intimidation? Because I think after this many years, he is probably fed up with that!” …….Silence……
After a very long pause, he finally spoke. First, it was the excuse; the part where he acted as if this was the first he had ever heard of there being a problem. Followed by the inevitable reassurance speech; finalized by the vow to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. I told him I would give him a chance…one! If necessary, I will go above his head. Being that it was nearly the end of the school year, I didn’t expect much.
Summer happened and this year came faster than ever. Within the first week, my son brought up that the same kid from the year before had shoved him in the back and called him a four-eyed fat ass. My middle daughter was in the kitchen when we were talking and I noticed she was getting teary eyed. We were discussing how to handle the next step when my daughter went off. She started saying how she was going to handle it and that she is fed up with certain so-called ‘popular’ kids getting away with bullying. Her best friend was over and joined in the conversation as well. I sat back a bit and watched them all discuss their plan of action. I was very proud of all of them! They decided, since my daughter had free first hour that she would talk to this kid when she got to school, and since my son and her friend started at normal time, they would confront him together first thing. My daughter also told me she would be going to the vice principal and letting him know her stance on the inability or their refusal to back up their zero tolerance policy. Ok, so, at this point, I agreed that I would let them take control initially and if I needed to step in again, I was just a phone call away.
Now you might be thinking that letting three teenagers take a run at a known bully might not be the best idea. I disagree, and here’s why. The best way to get a bully to back off or change his ways (especially when they are still in school) is to stand up to them, among their peers, and call them out on their unacceptable behavior. Teens are influenced more by the other teens, or what they think other teens think of them far more than what an adult opinion is. Any parent of a teenager knows that it’s just part of a teen brain to initially ignore an adult. Thankfully, most of them seem to grow out of that eventually.
First thing in the morning I received a text from my daughter friend and my son stating they confronted him in the hallway loud and clear. They both said he tried to lie and they didn’t let him. The friend told him that “being a bully is a pretty shitty life goal”, her words, and that he needs to grow up and stop picking on people to make himself feel better. They told me he seemed embarrassed, said sorry and walked away quietly. The reaction of other around them was pretty positive. I thought, ok maybe that’s what needed to happen. Maybe this kid will finally get it. Clearly the school involvement didn’t do a bit of good last year.
Later that day, I received a phone call from the vice principal. I wasn’t surprised. What did surprise me was what he said. He called to let me know that when my daughter got to school, she confronted the kid who was bullying my son and told him if he felt the need to try to pick on someone, he was going to have to go through her first. (She is scrappy like her mama) I told him I knew all about it and that I supported her. He said she also confronted him, quite angrily, and said that he does NOT have a handle on bullying in that school and all the staff should be ashamed of themselves for turning a blind eye and not following through with zero tolerance. My words were exactly this, “Seems to me she spoke the truth. She is my kid. I’m proud of her.” His response was, “She is not wrong. She spoke the truth. She really let me have it, and it was definitely warranted. I called to apologize to you. I already apologized to her and your son. I hope you will trust that I will handle this student, today, along with his parents.” The conversation continued with him promising to do what’s right. Before I hung up, I let him know that he didn’t handle it last year and I had little faith the school would follow through with the zero tolerance policy they had in place because the kids last name is a popular one in this small town and he plays sports, but I appreciated the effort and I thought that the ways the kids handled it may do more good than anything he could do. He didn’t argue with me. There were no raised voices. It was a very matter of fact discussion.
My son came home after school and told me about how the day went. He said that the bully was called to the office and came back looking pretty upset. He also told me that a few of the senior guys had taken the bully aside and talked to him about how picking on others was not cool and that he should try to be a better person. Word travels fast in small schools, so I wasn’t surprised that everyone knew about it, but what did surprise me was that kids two years ahead of my son went out of their way to stand up for him. These senior boys didn’t harass the kid who was being a bully. They had a genuine, calm and heartfelt discussion with him. What was really great about all of it was the fact that my son walked in standing a little taller with a smile on his face because his peers, some he knew and some he didn’t, had his back.
Five months into the school year, and for the first time in 6 years, my son is not dealing with bullies anymore. Granted, the school didn’t follow through with their zero tolerance policy. They haven’t for six years so I had little faith they would. As a matter of fact, I haven’t spoken to the vice principal since that day. I think that the impact of being confronted by other students is what really got to the bully, because from what I have heard, he is a bully no more.
I think schools should consider having a student council for these type of situations. I know that my kids’ school is not the only one that doesn’t follow its own policies. I have heard similar stories from parents of kids in numerous schools, big and small. Who knows, maybe a little accountability by a jury of their peers would go a lot further than the empty threats and policies in the school systems. And maybe in doing so the next generations of adults coming into the world won’t be bullies or people who enable bullies; maybe they will stand up for what’s right and do something about it.
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They are all about anti-bullying
Types of Workplace Bullies (tangelaparker.com)
How To Spot A Bully (tangelaparker.com)
Anti-bullying programs: Sound and fury, signifying nothing (grumpyelder.com)
Kat Smith is a 39-year-old insanely busy mother of three fantastic young people. Married to an amazing hubby Jeremy, a man 7 years her junior (he had to be younger to keep up with the fun at her house).
She is a full-time working parent dealing with a sometimes debilitating nerve disease, and a part-time ex-husband. She has been writing for decades yet she is new to blogging. She writes to expose her truth, shares her hobbies, feelings, struggles, triumphs and daily survival. She loves a great gel pen, photography, DIY projects and she tries not to let her OCD make other people crazy. Learn more about Kat on her personal blog: www.mytaintedview.com Follow her on Twitter: @MrsKatSmith and Pinterest.