Bullies. To some, the word itself evokes fear. In a previous generation, kids would steal your milk money or lunch money in order to keep peace in a self-ordained anarchy. The victim gives up the money hoping to keep their nose in the same place or to avoid a day full of teasing and threatening. These pirates (or bandits) do this in order to feel superior. This superiority eventually bleeds over into their jobs, whether it’s theatre or manufacturing. Working with one of these ruffians can make for an extremely stressful life.
There are several types of bullying; physical, verbal, indirect, social alienation, intimidation and cyber. Wikipedia defines it as a person who uses force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. Webster defines a bully as a blustering browbeating person; especially : one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.
As a child, most of us have witnessed, contributed to or maybe even instigated the teasing and harassing of another. The scenario of bullying children is played out in several movies such as Jumanji, Spy Kids, A Christmas Story, Stand By Me and The Grinch. Although the circumstances may be minimized or even made to seem comical, the rudimentary causes are very real and sobering. Unfortunately, these problems don’t go away after grade school.
High school is almost always a breeding ground for hyped-up, high tech teasing. Teens trying desperately to fit in somewhere or worse yet, trying to be unique; showing true individualism. These are the ones who will be laughed at, either to their face (verbal) or behind their back (indirect/social alienation), or just beaten down physically.
Odd Girl Out, Mean Girls, The Karate Kid, Back to the Future, The Princess Diaries and Carrie. These movies are based around a teenage character who is singled out for one reason or another, but in each story, the tortured student comes out the victor in the end. Why? Because we like to see the underdog win, overcome evil with good. These story lines make us feel accomplished. A winner! We consider our own lives and the possibilities of successfully standing up to our oppressor. Oh, if only!
It still doesn’t stop there. These teen bullies grow up to be the rebellious college student, a person who has to be in control, starts fights, a criminal or just continues the same irrational behaviors in an adult body. Still struggling with those same insecurities they had as a child, they feel the need to make sure those around them, that don’t fit into their perfect idea of a human, are cut down with words, control and even physical abuse. In The Breakfast Club, Hardball, August Rush, The Little Princess and Easy A, we see examples of adults bullying children and teens. It could be these people were feeling intimidated by their peers, so dealing with those feelings meant lashing out at those who appear weaker in their eyes. Adult bullies can also turn on the very people who have put their trust in them. Also referred to as domestic abuse as in Sleeping With the Enemy, Kindergarten Cop, Enough and The Gift.
The workplace is also another place for bully behavior. They steal everything from your lunch to your dignity. They take credit for your work, sabotage computers and start rumors. It’s just like being back in high school again, and just like in high school, these tormenters won’t stop until their prey is beaten down or stands up to them. The latter doesn’t come easily and usually has consequences. In a work environment, you have to convince the supervisor or manager that this is even a problem to the company. Then they will weigh the odds of it effecting their profit. More often than not, nothing is done. Schools are just starting to realize the extent of suffering a bully can cause. They are beginning to put programs and rules in place to deter negative actions.
Now it’s time to do the same in the workplace. There are manuals that have been printed out and even read to the employees. There are classes held for employees to attend. Signs in the lunch room that remind us of these rules. But unless these rules from the manuals are enforced and taken seriously, the problems won’t go away. There will still be those fellow employees who are grown up childhood bullies. They will continue to strip their targets of confidence. Their faith in management will be shattered and once again, they will certainly take away our milk money.
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