June 4th, 2012
“A little bullying never hurt anyone. It makes you learn to stand up for yourself, be a man if you will.”
That’s exactly what I heard sitting the restaurant the other day. It was a conversation between three senior gentlemen, in reference to a news story that was playing on the television being broadcast in the restaurant.
I couldn’t help but listen once I heard that. The three men proceeded to talk about in “their day” bullying was normal. It was part of growing up, and all the kids enjoyed it. One went on to say that he bullied all the time as a young boy, including his own best friend, and that the kids that were being bullied enjoyed it too.
I will be the first to say that there are many interpretations of what bullying means, and that many people who accuse of bullying are incorrect. Bullying is the new racist label. When something bad happens, people call out that they were bullied.
The local politician who claimed the reporter interviewing her was bullying her? No. The interviewer was trying to get the politician to answer a specific question, and not to redirect the interview to her own agenda. That’s not bullying by the reporter at all. That’s a tenacious reporter.
The parent who accused the teacher of bullying her child at school? No, the teacher sent the child to detention because they refused to do the homework assigned. That’s consequence, and part of the teacher’s job to teach responsibility. The teacher is not being a bully.
Bullying is persistent unwelcome behaviour, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, fault-finding, also exclusion, isolation, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated, excessive monitoring, having verbal and written warnings imposed, and much more. In the workplace, bullying usually focuses on distorted or fabricated allegations of underperformance.
The coworker that is systematically trying to destroy your reputation so that she can get your job? That’s bullying. The kids in the playground that beat you up when you were a kid until you give them your lunch money? That’s bullying.
I’m hoping what the senior gentleman were speaking of was a little more along the lines of friendly teasing. I hope it wasn’t the true definition of bullying, because I’m pretty sure that no one enjoys that at all.
I used to hide on my brother and try to scare him. While he didn’t like it, I wasn’t bullying him. When my son starts to tell us a story and says “I have a friend who…” and we jump in with “You have no friends”. We are playing a game that we all know the rules to, and everyone is having fun. It isn’t bullying either. When someone in the office gets me a coffee, it isn’t because I forced her to in order to avoid the consequences. Maybe she wanted to get me a coffee.
Don’t lose sight of what bullying really is. Don’t allow it to continue, but don’t assume that bullying “helps make a man” either.
The gentlemen in the restaurant were wrong with their perception of bullying. Their opinions could be very hurtful to someone that is truly being bullied.