Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bullies don’t just hang out in schoolyards

I can only remember a few times being bullied or acting like a bully in my lifetime. It was not a big part of my life at all. I remember 1 or 2 bullies making mean comments to me in elementary or middle school and I remember being mean to this boy on the playground once, but it was never anything like full on brawls at recess or psychological warfare the likes of Mean Girls.

But lately I have been bullied more than ever. Now it is a different kind of bullying. It goes on in cubicle-land instead of on the playground. It is political in nature and not overtly teasing or roughhousing someone. In fact it took me a while to figure out what was going on.

But I read a great post today on Seth Godin’s blog and it clicked. I was being bullied and I was still playing their game. I didn’t know how not to! I have to work with these people. But Seth says the answer is to take the ball away and go home.

He says:

“The way to work with a bully is to take the ball and go home. First time, every time.

When there's no ball, there's no game. Bullies hate that. So they'll either behave so they can play with you or they'll go bully someone else.

Call her on her behavior (not who she is, but what she does). "I'm sorry, but when you talk to me like that, I'm unable to do good work. I'll be in my office if you need me." Then walk out, not in a huff, but with a measure of respect for the person (not the behavior).”

I kind of tried to do this with my last bully experience. I took back control of my project when she tried to take over and had as little interaction with her as possible. But yesterday I felt bullied again. (By a different person! My workplace has a lot of bullies!) I just sat there and took it because I didn’t know what else to do. In fact, the only comment I made was negative and I’m pretty sure I sounded disdainful towards her.

It takes a lot of guts to walk away from something or someone at work. Your workplace is your financial stability and it is an unstated rule that you have to play their game. But what if you didn’t? What if you refused to participate in the backstabbing and politics? What if you could change the game all together?

I’m going to try it. It’s risky, but it sounds a lot better than playing a game I don’t like. And maybe, just maybe, I can change the game completely. Or get kicked off the playground! Either way, at least I can preserve some of my sanity and stay true to who I am.


Can I just say... said...

Just say what you need to say, but do it with a smile on your face and in a respectfully concerned tone of voice. That seems to confuse the hell out of people, and by the time they've actually figured out what it was you said through the smile, you'll already be back at your desk.

Angela said...

Good luck on standing up to your bullies! People will respect you a lot more if you stand up for yourself.

Jane said...

Standing up for myself, especially in the workplace, has always been something I have had a hard time with (I loathe confrontation). I am interested to hear how things turn out, and if you have any further suggestions.

Good luck!