Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Discourtesy And Contention At Work — Finding A Reasonable Perspective

Teasing, tormenting, taunting.

Since I wrote Parts One and Two  of this series about the over-use and misuse of the description bully for bad behavior in the workplace, three things have happened:

1. I have gotten many messages about the topic. Almost of all of them agreed with my overall view and had examples to share. Some of the writers shared personal stories about situations in which they felt someone tried to bully them, but they stopped it or found ways to handle it. I have appreciated all the responses.

2. I have done further research about the term and how it is used in books, articles, and internet forums, as well as reading hundreds of examples of what forum contributors consider to be bullying.  

3. I have given considerable thought to exactly how I do feel about the concept of bad behavior at work and how bullying fits into that issue.

The bottom line on my perspective about bullying behavior in the workplace: 

  • Bullying –cruel and misery producing behavior to someone who is powerless to stop it– is wrong and inexcusable.
  • I have stopped others from cruel or aggressively hostile behavior when I have known of it and I always will.
  • Working with or for someone who acts in a bullying manner is one thing–being bullied is something else. Being bullied is what we allow to happen to ourselves over time, when we fail to take any constructive action to deal with the behavior.
  • If someone–even someone who can fire me or hurt my career–behaves toward me in a way that seems to be intentionally and unbearably mean, I will find an appropriate way to stop it. If I cannot or will not do that I will either learn to manage my reactions to it or I will leave that job or position. I am not powerless.
  • I think the way the term bullying is used in some writings and research, incorrectly increases the number of accusations about it and makes it seem more prevalent than it is.
  • I believe some people use the term bully as a defensive weapon to present themselves in a better light, and an offensive weapon to hurt the reputation of others without having to present verifiable evidence.
  • Labeling someone a bully can itself become a form of bullying, because it can cruelly harm someone’s reputation based solely on a description that may not apply to the situation at all.
  • If someone is a bully their behavior should be stopped, not just labeled and complained about.

In the next two articles I will discuss productive ways to deal with discourtesy and contention at work.

April 12th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 3 comments