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Investing in Staff Skills

Bullying: A sign of weakness

Welcome to the first installment of “Investing in Staff Skills” a new regular feature in the CAR e-zine. Written by Ian Hope, Executive Director of Alberta Automotive Recyclers and Dismantlers Association (AARDA), each column will discuss different workplace issues, and how owners and managers can empower their staff to be stronger, more confident and better than they were before. In the first installment, Hope discusses bullying in the workplace and the home, and the very real effects it can have on performance. 

By Ian Hope, Executive Director of AARDA

I chose to refer to bullying as a sign of weakness because I am trying to goad people who bully others, by confronting them with something that may come as quite a surprise to them. Their bullying does not actually display to others their toughness or strength, but instead how insecure and weak they are.  
 
We’ve all known bullies and we’ve all been bullied at one time or another. I’ve often thought about what happened to bullies from my past, including the ones I knew when I was a teenager in school. 
 
The lucky ones came around and became decent people even though in some cases this took years to achieve. Many factors accounted for this. In some cases it was simply a matter that at some point, the school yard tough guy or girl almost invariably will run into someone bigger, tougher and meaner than they are. When they do, they very quickly find out how their victims have been feeling all along about their bullying practices! For the smart ones this eye-opener may actually represent a valuable life lesson, putting them on the road to being better people.  
 
Sadly though, I’ve also known a number who never did change their ways and met with terrible consequences. Everything ranging from succumbing to gang-life, becoming addicted and part of the drug underground, and/or all the way to checking into a maximum penitentiary … and yes, I’ve known some as well who lost their lives unable to break away from the nasty pathway which, for them, started with intimidating and hurting others. Bullying and trouble inevitably become one and the same!
 
Having often pondered why bullying happens, I wish to share just a few insights about it from my own experiences. To start, it’s been my observation that most bullies were themselves victimized by someone along the way. The bullying that they themselves experienced was usually long term in nature and all too often, the negative example was provided by their own parents who treated the children in the home roughly and disrespectfully.  For reasons such as this, it’s not surprising that the tendency to bully others can appear as a childhood trait, becoming part of that person’s character, and quite hard to change.  
 
For children living in such a domestic hell, they sometimes cope and try to overcome their own feelings of helplessness by bullying others. In this way they may be acting out and restoring some of the power and dignity they feel they lose when they themselves are regularly mistreated … and the cycle continues.   
 
I learned through my own life and work experiences that bullying has to be confronted. I always discourage simply looking away and hoping the problems sort themselves out. They don’t! Also, I stay alert to not only confront bullying that is happening to me, but also to speak out against bullying when I see it oppressing others. As I said earlier, bullies are weak and are themselves intimidated when they encounter opposition to their victimization, whether by their targeted victim or those nearby. 
 
Most often of course, we think of bullying as something that happens in schools but another common place where it is rampant is in workplaces. Who hasn’t worked for a boss with a bullying style? More often than not I have found them to be people who are covering up their own feelings of incompetence and inadequacy. Self-serving people who tend to abuse any authority they’re given by the organization. Symptoms of this leadership style include raised voices, laying blame and using profanity and intimidation, all of which creates an environment of fear.  
 
This is certainly not a style that will positively motivate anyone, improve team performance, workplace morale or loyalty to the employer. Again, this bully-manager or boss is headed for a career cliff. There will be many who will enjoy seeing the fall.  
 
Going back to our kids, I don’t know the full answer folks, but I do know it is critical that children be raised in safe environments, and nowhere is it more important for children to actually feel safe than in their own homes and with their own parents. So parents clearly there is a lot that you can and should do in terms of demonstrating your very best people and “get along” skills in the home. Kids don’t learn the pattern of bullying from good and loving parenting.   
 
Ian Hope is the Executive Director of AARDA. He can be reached at 780- 478- 5820 or by email to admin@aarda.com. For more information on AARDA, please visit aarda.com
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