Stop Bullying The Partners You Work For


Eventually, we will live in a country where we are all victims of bullying. We will all be victims of cyber-bullying or schoolyard bullying or workplace bullying. Then we can all cry about it over a glass of wine and talk about our feelings. And our evolution into France will be complete.

We’re not there yet, but a new study seems like an important data point on our slow decline into perpetual butthurt. Business Insider reports on a Career Builder survey where people in management were more likely to say that they had been bullied at work (27%) than people in entry-level jobs (26%).

Now sure, some of that is just probably due to career length. On your way up to the top (or to the middle, as it were), you probably have had more opportunities to be bullied than a new worker. But, you know, there was a time in this country when the boss wouldn’t bitch and moan about how mean other people have been to him.

That time is evidently over. My God people, you should just check out what some of these people even count as bullying…

The thing about a bullying survey is that it has nothing to do with the reality of who is bullied. Instead, it has everything to do with how people perceive their treatment. For instance, the survey reports that 24% of whites feel bullied, which is fairly close to the 25% of Hispanics and 27% of African-Americans that feel the same thing. Does that mean that white people are “bullied” at about the same rates as minorities? I’m not sure, but I don’t think the survey adds a lot to that discussion.

It probably means that white people feel bullied just as much as minorities, which… okay, if you say so. But then you have to deal with the fact that bullying means different things to different people. Here’s how Career Builder reports the “way people were bullied,” along with the percentage of respondents who claimed to be victimized, respectively:

* Falsely accused of mistakes he/she didn’t make – 43 percent
* Comments were ignored, dismissed or not acknowledged – 41 percent
* A different set of standards or policies was used for the worker – 37 percent
* Gossip was spread about the worker – 34 percent
* Constantly criticized by the boss or co-workers – 32 percent
* Belittling comments were made about the person’s work during meetings – 29 percent
* Yelled at by the boss in front of co-workers – 27 percent
* Purposely excluded from projects or meetings – 20 percent
* Credit for his/her work was stolen – 20 percent
* Picked on for personal attributes (race, gender, appearance, etc.) – 20 percent
I feel bullied by this list into talking about how many of these things ARE NOT BULLYING! Close read time:

■“Comments were ignored, dismissed or not acknowledged.” NOT bullying. Being ignored is called “being ignored,” not being bullied. Maybe if you had something interesting to say, people wouldn’t find it so easy to dismiss you.
■“A different set of standards or policies was used for the worker.” NOT bullying. This is called “a double standard.” It’s not nice. It’s not fair. It might even be racist or sexist or some other-ist. But the fight against double standards need not be subsumed into rhetoric surrounding bullying.
■“Gossip was spread about the worker.” MAYBE bullying. Not all gossiping is bullying, especially if the gossip is accurate. And even inaccurate gossip directed at a person in power by peons isn’t bullying so much as morale building. But sure, “Sandy the secretary is a slut, says high-ranking official” is probably bullying.
■“Constantly criticized by the boss or co-workers.” NOT bullying. Have you ever considered that maybe you just suck at your job?
■“Belittling comments were made about the person’s work during meetings,” / “Yelled at by the boss in front of co-workers.” BULLYING. There’s no need to be yelled at in front of co-workers. And the word “belittling” is important. Being criticized isn’t bullying, but there’s no need to belittle a person. “You memo is wrong, do you even understand the issues in the instant case?” = Not bullying. “Your memo is wrong, are you retarded or just lazy?” = Bullying.
■“Purposely excluded from projects or meetings.” Are you f**king kidding me? Did 20% of people seriously mark down that they had been bullied at work because they weren’t allowed to play in all the reindeer games?
■“Credit for his/her work was stolen.” NOT bullying. Seriously man, people have credit stolen from them all the time. Welcome to the NFL. You have to fight for credit in the real world, it’s not given out just because you deserve it.
■“Picked on for personal attributes.” MAYBE bullying. Again, this is a sign of an “ism.” It’s a sign of a hostile work environment. OR, it could be a sign of fun work environment. It all depends on how the power flows, and what the penalties are for being “picked on.” “Did you see Sam sitting in his corner office in that a seersucker jacket? Did he have that flown in from a thrift store in Greenwich?” = Not bullying. “Sam drove his BMW in from Greenwich today, let’s jack it while he’s out at lunch.” = Bullying.
Not every slight, insult, or disparagement is bullying. You’re not being persecuted because somebody is mean to you at work. You’re not being bullied just because people don’t like you. How is it that so many people have lost the ability to distinguish between a bad work environment (of which there are many) and being victimized and intimidated by a bully? Bullying is about power, if the person has no power over you, it’s very hard for them to bully you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find my boss and shake him upside down until he produces a pleasing fall bonus. If he doesn’t, I’ll file an EEOC complaint against him faster than he can say “Reparations, what?” Because that’s how you bully somebody you work for.