Because I’ve worked many years to build my self esteem, (and I also have a very strong, sometimes no-nonsense personality), I can thankfully say, I’ve never been bullied as an adult.
I learned, after a childhood of being on both sides of the coin (getting bullied as a kindergartener by a classmate every day and becoming a teen part of a tight-knit circle of high achievers, who would witness — and come to the defense of — someone being bullied), that you teach people how to treat you and sometimes you have to stand up for yourself when appropriate.
(It also helped that I was supported and protected by a large family of solid folk who would be the first people at the schoolyard advocating for me and my safety, and the first to encourage and teach me self-defense.)
Growing up, I’d be the one on the “good side” of the bully, enough that I wasn’t a victim and could maybe even intervene when that bully tried to pick on someone in my presence. I’d find out, via a weird I-won’t-beat-you-down-for-now relationship, that maybe they come from a broken home, were victims of abuse themselves or had issues with their mental health. (Those same kids, who don’t get help, grow into adults who exhibit the same schoolyard behaviors because sadly, it’s the only way they know to express themselves and resolve conflicts.)
As an adult, I have been able to combat even the threat of bullying with a “you will not and cannot try that with me” demeanor. In life— and especially as a woman in an business world dominated by men— you often have to be assertive, set a tone and ensure that you are not being walked over, disrespected or mistreated. You have to be able to take on what might be seen as aggressive, pushy and sometimes disrespectful behaviors using emotional intelligence, else you’re told you’re too emotional, can’t cut it or are weak.
(You also have to be sure you’re not inadvertently being a bully in your plight to advance and that you professional check those who need to be checked.)
Aggressive confrontation should always be a last resort, especially in a professional setting, however, I’m not a fan of just sitting by while someone continues to seek to diminish the greatness that I have to offer the world. I always remember a quip from my cousin, who told me as a crying kid upset about a classmate trying to belittle me: “If she says, “You think you’re cute,” you look her dead in her face and say, “I AM.”
For those who are victims of workplace bullying, take back your power. Speak up for yourself, whether it’s through a mediation with a third party such as your human resources director, or an informal powwow to let someone know you won’t tolerate the nonsense. Consult a mentor outside of your company to find ways of addressing a workplace bully or a less confrontational, but direct strategy of letting your voice be heard. If all else fails, you have the power to keep it moving to a better environment where your happiness and safety are priorities.
If you’re the one exhibiting bully behaviors, it may be time to evaluate some negative factors in your life or past, and seek counseling or psychiatric help.
Reality TV is what it is: Entertainment (which for some, has gone a bit too far). In the real world, we all have to make a living and be secure in the fact that we deserve a safe environment in which to do so. Don’t let bullying be the reason for your professional, social or financial demise, whether you’re the victim or the aggressor. The drama, brand damage, professional regression—and sometimes even, jail time—is something you have the power to reverse or avoid altogether.