Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What’s So Bad About Bullying? Isn’t It Just Part of Life?

At long last there seems to be some kind of general crusade against bullying warming up. Why now? Bullying has been around for … forever, its seems. In schools and in the workplace. In life. You can read about it in very old books, or very new newspapers. Or you can just ask some victims!

Why the big fuss about it now? Because it has become, for many, an organizational problem. Because people who fancy themselves leaders, or who are fancied as such by others, are challenged by circumstances to prove they have some skill at something; that they merit the deference and income they are given.

When it comes to recognizing bullies in organizations, the motto has long been “Ignorance is Bliss.” This is why whistleblowers may be treated like some kind of traitor, subject to shunning or dismissal. Or why organizational leaders who bully may be treated with submissive disregard.

A bully is not just someone who persistently insults or humiliates others, or physically abuses them, or causes them hurt or harm. Our society recognizes many occupations in which people legitimately cause distress, even pain, sorrow and suffering, to others. Such persons are bullies only if they have no recognized authority to inflict distress on others AND no one wants to step up and take them to task for it.

Why does bullying occur not only in schools; but, in corporations and, even, in the highest realms of national government? Because leaders -- or their sponsors -- in organizations keep subordinates from dealing with it effectively. Boats cannot be rocked. It is not good for careers. But where bullying occurs is critical. Bullying in schools is less likely to be widely damaging than in the workplace. And workplace bullying is less likely have serious effects than if it occurs in upper tiers of government.

Those who do not personally suffer from bullying seldom see any reason to interfere with it, unless they have had education in and pursue some ethical precepts. But not just any "moral" education will do. I had a relative whose childhood moral training taught her to accept all kinds of hardship and unpleasantness, no matter how extreme, as expiation for her sins, suffering as a purge for her stained, immortal soul. “Offer it up,” she would be told, no matter what the abuse was that she was subjected to, or who the abuser was.

But there are people, who, in spirit, have calloused knees and a permanent pucker, who avoid most bullying by pre-emptively serving bullies. And so they become abettors to the abuse, enforcers and dispersers of evil.


--- EGR

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