Much has been made of kids who get bullied recently — Billy Wolfe, in fact, was on the Today show this morning — but the truth is, many of us face bullies as adults: At work. On a BusinessWeek blog, Cathy Arnst writes about an editor she once had: "Whenever I made a mistake—and in the beginning I made many, many mistakes—he would stand over me in the open newsroom and scream at me, impugning my intelligence and professional skills in language I've rarely heard since. I had nightmares about those tirades for years afterwards. Needless to say, I never made the same mistake twice." According to a New York Times piece by Tara Parker-Pope yesterday, 37% of American workers have experienced bullying on the job.
Researchers at SUNY New Paltz have developed a survey to help identify the full range of behaviors that can constitute bullying. Notes Parker-Pope: "Some of the behaviors — glaring, failing to return calls, not praising a worker — may seem trivial, but they take a toll when repeated over and over again." And in some ways, can a cubicle bully be worse than a childhood bully? You're an adult! You shouldn't have to put up with this! But you need the job. I wouldn't say I'd ever been bullied, although I did once work with a loud, gruff superior who often left people in tears. But that was before I checked the list supplied by the New York Times and SUNY New Paltz. Thinking of past jobs, I realized some of the "behaviors" were quite familiar! Have you regularly:
- Been glared at in a hostile manner? Yes, and sometimes I glared first.
- Been excluded from work-related social gatherings? Yes, thank God.
- Not been given the praise for which you felt entitled? Obviously.
- Had your contributions ignored by others? Yes, although sometimes instead of "ignoring" it was more like "laughing."
- Been lied to? Of course! This is America!
In any case, this is not to belittle bullying. The point is more that being thrown into a pressure-cooker situation with strangers when there's money and recognition on the line makes the workplace thrive on bullying behavior. Who among us has not experienced some kind of cube heckler?