Saturday, April 21, 2012

Kids Bully - They Learn From Us

We'll never end teen bullying as long as it still works so well for adults. It's absolutely rampant in our workplaces - and the bullies most often come out on top.

A friend said, "I'd speak out against workplace bullying if I thought it would make any difference, but I don't think it will."

Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing." Well, I can't do much, but I can speak out.

According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute (yes, there is such a place), 37% of employees who are bullied at work are eventually fired, and 33% quit. 70% of bullied employees end up of out of work, and the bully stays employed - often moving up the ladder of authority.

I've written about my workplace bully experience before. In fact, my last post was about the long-term effects their insipid behavior has had on my family. It just so happens that my story is associated with the church, but it is in no way an indictment on Christianity, God, or the global church. I've spent the majority of my life working in, around, and for churches, so that's where so much of my life's story has been written.

I Googled "Workplace Bullying" and came up with 2,670,000 hits. Over two million hits! When I Googled "Church Bullies" I found 5,510,000 references. Five 1/2 MILLION hits!

I ask you, how can we - in good conscience - be leading anti-bullying campaigns in our schools and church youth groups when we continue to model such deplorable behavior in our own adult world?

How to recognize a workplace bully:
  1. Someone who pulls the "authority" card.
I asked my boss why he'd made a decision that deeply and profoundly affected me. His assistant ("Mr. Bully") called me and said, "Liz, you're on a dangerous path. God has put men in authority over you, and you are questioning them. That is dangerous."

He gave me two examples (beside the fact that I was asking "why?"). "You said something about Pastor Smith (not his real name)." No, I reminded him, that was my dad. And I defended Pastor Smith.

"Oh. Well, you confronted Pastor 'Jones' as well." Now I was angry. About a year earlier, one of the staffers - Pastor "Jones" - had done something so appalling to our son Drew that I could have had the man fired. Instead, Tom and I went to him privately (like the Bible instructs) and confronted him. Two weeks later he called from an out-of-state vacation spot and was crying.

He asked us to forgive him for his behavior. We did, and it was done.

Unfortunately, before the phone call to us, Pastor "Jones" had asked Mr. Bully for advice on handling the situation. He couldn't have known that my workplace antagonizer would then use the situation against me.

Listen, Jim Bakker told Jessica Hahn that God had put him in authority over her too, and look at all the trouble that caused! Being submissive to authority does not mean we lose our right to say "no", or to ask "why?"

2. Bullies run in packs.

Remember Scut Farkus in "A Christmas Story"? He knew he was more intimidating if he had people backing him up. The scary flock of bullies confronted Ralphie when he was alone and vulnerable.

Mr. Bully was my friend (I thought), until we started working together. He quickly convinced a few people to turn against me....and I was alone.

3. A bully's accusations often reflect his or her own insecurities/weaknesses.

Psychologists tell us that people who speak adamantly against, or draw dramatic attention to certain behaviors are often privately struggling in the very same areas. We hear on the news about the governor who heads up a crackdown on prostitution, but is, in fact, a frequent customer. Ted Haggard was an outspoken opponent of homosexual sin, but it was revealed not long ago that he had a gay lover.

I once removed myself from a casting decision, and left it up to Mr. Bully. I was directing a play, and Tom (my husband) wanted to audition. Fearing a conflict of interest, I left the final choice up to Mr. Bully.

After the initial audition, it was determined that we needed callbacks. A few hours after the audition, Tom flew out of town for business. He returned home less than two hours before callbacks.

Mr. Bully gave the part to Tom.

Then the phone rang. "Liz, I feel as if you manipulated me into choosing Tom for this role."

I didn't want Tom to be in the play in the first place! It would mean that the kids would have to be with us at rehearsals. Late nights, early mornings, homework issues - not at all appealing. Tom, however, wanted to take the chance.

Mr. Bully made his case. "At the audition Tom was 'green', but he was much better at the call-backs. I think you coached him and I feel I was manipulated into choosing him."

I assured him that wasn't the case ("Well, if you say so I have to believe you.") I remember hanging up the phone and thinking, "Where did THAT come from?"

Some time later, one of Mr. Bully's minions attacked me and assaulted my character using every kind of emotional weapon imaginable. She said, "You were once walking towards me in the hallway and when you saw me, you turned and walked the other way. I have no choice but to assume you're jealous of me."

I was accused of being manipulative and jealous. I was neither. I can't speak for them and I can't possibly know their hearts. I do, however, know my heart.

4. Bullies WILL steal your friends.

Both my husband and my best friend sat with me one day when I confronted one of my bullies. I had every intention of clearing the air, making amends, apologizing where an apology was necessary, and reconciling with my one-time friend. It didn't work out that way. The woman sat across the table, pointed her finger at me, and ripped my heart to shreds.

Nothing she said was true, but I asked her to forgive me - as restoration was my goal.

Tom, my best friend, and I were blown away. We'd NEVER seen the woman behave that way. After the meeting, my bf called me to tell me she would "invest in" the woman, find out "why she behaved that way", and "help to restore" the relationship.

I ended up losing my best friend to my workplace bully.

When a parent loses his job because of bullying, the children suffer. They may experience financial loss. The family may have to relocate to another city or state to find work, which forces the kids to change schools and make new friends.

In our case, we had to leave our church. One of our basic rights - the right to freedom of religion - was denied us. At 11, 12, and 14 our children were forced to leave their friends, and start over. They decided to NOT invest in relationships at the new church. Why would they? They watched as their mother's "Christian friends" turned against her with false accusations and outrageous bullying.

My kids lost their faith.

Workplaces have rules against bullying, but employees do it anyway. The church has The Bible, but that book is misused again and again.

How do we teach our kids to stop bullying? We must model anti-bullying for them. Our kids are learning not from our words, but from our deeds and actions.

Perhaps speaking out against workplace bullying will NOT make a difference, but it's all I can do.

In "A Christmas Story", Ralphie stopped Scut's bullying when he beat him up. Grown-up Ralphie says, "Scut never bullied again. I ran into him years later at school reunion. He tried to sell me life insurance."

I can't go around beating people up, but I have to do something. Evil is prevailing because good people refuse to get involved. Shame. Shame.

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