I don't like bullies. I don't like adults who threaten and yell and generally throw their toys to try and get their own way, who belittle others to wield power over them, particularly when it is their default setting in life to operate that way. I guess that's one of the reasons Paul Henry's behaviour bothers me so.
The big problem with bullies is always how to deal with them effectively. When I'm talking to someone else about how to deal with a bully the first step I always suggest is to get together with anyone else who is being bullied, or who may not support the bully. Bullying works on the basis of isolating victims from each other, encouraging people to keep their heads down so that they will avoid the unwelcome attentions of the bullies. If you can overcome the isolation you are halfway to winning. At least you can bitch about the bully with someone else, and acknowledge between you that it is bullying, and take a bit of the power back.
Personally I'm a big fan of naming stuff what it is. I remember pointing out to someone once that they were trying (somewhat ineffectually) to bully me. She was outraged and proceeded to prove that she was not bullying by standing between me and the door, in a small space, hectoring me with her finger, leaning over me and yelling. I believe there may have been spittle. Major not-bullying FAIL.
Right now I have a problem with a bully, and it's got me musing on the theme.
I should start by saying this is not a work-related issue. It's not my workplace and it's not anyone else's either.
The Bully has a long long history of this behaviour. She goes straight to the Yelling Place, and I have literally had to hold the phone away from my ear more than once. She once wrote another target of her bullying a twenty page letter outlining all the times she had been sinned against by this person. Who has time to write a twenty page letter about anything, unless they're being paid to write it, or maybe it's about love. Or like your first novel or something. Anyway, the point is that twenty pages of hate is pretty hard to sustain, for most people.
The Bully in this case has basically burnt off almost everyone else. There's one person staunchly in her corner, two people pretending this is all Someone Else's Problem,* and then me and one other who reckon the bullying sucks. So we have one Bully, one Bully-supporter, two Bully-enablers (by refusing to take any responsibility and looking away), and two Bully opposers. For those yet to be rescued by National's Crusade For (Literacy &) Numeracy, that's four versus two. Not looking good for the Bullying Must Stop camp.
And there is one other person in this equation too, who is in a leadership role, and it's their special brand of enabling that is really getting to me.
To my way of thinking leaders, whatever their actual title, have an obligation to ensure the good running of whatever group they lead. Implicit in that should be to deal with any bullying amongst the group. But too often leaders too get bullied, and to make it worse they don't see that's what's going on, because then they'd have to do something. So they pretend, to themselves and everyone else, that they are just being neutral and rising above a spat between those they lead.
This approach solves precisely Nothing.
It undeniably hard for leaders to deal with bullying, especially when they too are suffering from the Bully's activities. It's even harder when a leader is in denial, and just avoiding confronting the Bully about anything, even when the Bully does stuff that really is beyond acceptable. Contact the Bully makes with the leader only serves to reinforce the Bully's view that they are in the right, because the leader says soothing things to avoid being bullied themselves. Stuff like "of course I can see that you are both coming to this with Good Intentions and think you are doing the right thing" and "it's my role to remain neutral and not get involved in disagreement between you people down there."
So what do you do about a leader who abdicates their responsibility in this crucial area? Who is okay with giving power up to the Bully rather than confront behaviour that is unacceptable and should be dealt with?
Today I'm at a loss.
* Props to the irreplaceable Douglas Noel Adams.