Tuesday, 14 January 2014

New year, new blog post, Old problem

It’s not right but it’s very real. 

2014 has gotten off to an interesting start for me and I’ve found myself already doing a first! Last week I was part of a local radio show, and shared the studio with two young people talking about their charities.

I was there with my image consulting hat on to talk about the impact of colour on your mood, in relation to Blooming Monday happening on the 20th January. Jodie (of Connect Bullying) and Aidan (of Talk Easy Trust) were there to talk about their experiences around bullying and mental health respectively. This was really interesting to me as I look to continue engaging with young people on issues around personal image in general, and how it impacts upon self-esteem and more.

I was brought into the discussion on bullying (amongst other things) and that’s where my two ‘roles’ crossed - there I was to talk about colour when a question came in about workplace bullying.  A ‘caller’ asked the question about how to handle bullying when it was taking place at work, and about the particular challenge of when the bully is also the boss.

Interestingly, I had also recently commented on the video here: http://www.upworthy.com/the-anti-bullying-video-that-could-probably-win-an-oscar depicting bullying at work as it might happen in a school setting. Whilst I think it’s a great, powerful and thought provoking video – for me it misses a key point which is that bullying is often far more subtle than the physical bullying we see therein. And it is this form of bullying that we are far more likely to see in the workplace. Examples of which include belittling someone, name calling, inappropriate ‘jokes’, ignoring someone, undermining their confidence, criticising them, excluding them.

Little though it was, my advice was to contact your HR department and use the policies that exist ; Jimi the host talked about the organisations duty of care re employee welfare (bullying can lead to stress, depression etc), and general advice from both Aiden and Jodie - quite rightly - was to talk to someone about the situation and ‘get it out there’.

Whatever the form of bullying, the age of the victims/perpetrators and where it takes place it is NEVER acceptable in my opinion, and the longer-term implications even into adult life can not be under-estimated*
However I do think the ‘why’ needs to be considered if the response is to be relevant and effective. Is the bullying an outcome of the ‘perpetrator’ sadly ‘playing it forward’, someone who is covering up their own ‘weakness’ or someone genuinely being mean. If we understand this, we are much more likely to be able to use the most effective solution (sanction) to make it stop.

So, my questions are these: what are your experiences of bullying at work, what is your organisations attitude to bullying, what can be done to eradicate it where it exists, and what can/would YOU personally do about it?

A final thought:

If you are being bullied, please don't try and deal with it alone and in the meantime I hope you find some strength in this quote:

I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” 

  • For more information/references:

- Aidan: http://www.talkeasy.org.uk/ and Twitter: @TalkEasyTrust
- Jodie: http://www.talkeasy.org.uk/connect-bullying.html; and Twitter: @ConnectBullying
- *Meeting Lydia by Linda MacDonald – a book about the implications of bullying manifesting in later life: http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=1462
Blooming Monday: http://www.blooming-monday.com/ and Twitter #BloomingMonday

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