Every person will have their own ethical code that determines who they are and what lines they will or will not cross. Recently Sadje asked what rules we would not be willing to break and my thinking led me down a path to consider my reaction to bullies.
I have been told I have very strong moral/ethical values; that I have lines I won’t cross that would get me into trouble. That was primarily in the gaming world, but Sadje’s question got me wondering if in the world outside of the computer, would I stand my ground so firmly. I’d like to think I would, but unless we’re put in a situation, its difficult to know how each of us would react. We know how we should react if we see a bully, but in the moment would you confront the bully or keep quiet? From my experience, I know that is a very hard decision and its very easy to decide not to rock the boat and just stay quiet. Keeping quiet however doesn’t support the victim of the bully and the bully is allowed to continue their inappropriate behaviour.
In the past, I’ve been in situations where I’ve been able to make a difference. Many years ago the office junior where I worked was going to be dismissed for her poor performance and attitude. I (as supervisor of the admin/secretarial staff) spoke up and said I thought she had some potential, that she was bored as she was not in a role that challenged or stretched her. She never knew the background to her promotion, but she was given a new job as a trainee trainer and when I left the organisation a few years later, she was thriving. That may have been an easy situation but it was the first time I’d ever stood up for someone else and went against management over a decision they were making.
The second situation was a bit more recent, with a manager who was a bully. I knew I had to challenge this behaviour as it was causing a lot of stress and making everyone miserable. I spoke with HR and the said manager basically tried to go on a witch-hunt. I could easily have backed down but when they confronted me, I stood firm and said that yes, their behaviour was perceived as bullying. I had to emphasise that I wasn’t just speaking in a personal capacity (ie that I didn’t feel bullied by them) but that the behaviour observed was bullying and not an appropriate way to treat staff. Despite the fear of being victimised or maybe even being disciplined by said manager, I knew I had to stand my ground. I must admit that facing up to a bully in that way was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. Consequently, I believe I will always try to support others who are being bullied or believe that they are being bullied. I can’t look the other way and pretend its not happening.
I guess, returning to my initial musings; yes, I will stand my ground in the real world even where it might “get me into trouble”. I’m glad to see that my values are the same on and off-line.
Bullying in any context is wrong, but if its allowed to become embedded in workplace cultures it can lead to the situations we’re hearing so much about in the UK today with instances of institutional discrimination which is so destructive and damaging to organisations and their workforces. There should be no place for bullying in the workplace of today.