Dr Pauline Rennie-Peyton

Integrative psychotherapist and chartered psychologist Msc. AFBPsS

What is bullying behaviour - continued

Regrettably, it is not uncommon that senior managers and human recourses personnel are unwilling, or too afraid, to confront the bully themselves - especially when the bully is so senior that they are afraid for the security of their own jobs. Then, instead of owning their fear they take refuge in collusive statements such as:

"It sounds like a personality clash."
"Oh, she doesn't mean it; it's just her way."
"Surely it can't be as bad as all that?"

These comments leave the victim feeling misunderstood and convinced that there is something wrong with them.

Some bullies have "favourites" - the people who can never do anything wrong in their eyes. Often, they're all part of the same social network, people whom the bullies themselves have brought into the organization, or they can be people the bullies think might provide them with a political fast-track to their own success (for example, someone connected in some way with the boss). The difficulty is that bullies can easily swap favourites when it is expedient to do. Being the favourite is therefore also a form of being bullied; many in this position have told me that they are afraid of ever becoming the favourite, as it usually means the next stage is to be the victim.

Bullies do not accept criticism and either fly into a rage or lie their way out of any situation that makes them not look good. It's much easier, after all, to blame someone else rather than take responsibility for their actions.

Who suffers?

The direct victims are not the only ones who suffer. Victims of bullying suffer both mentally and physically from stress-related illnesses. They are unlikely to be able to hide their symptoms from their families for long. Spouses or partners may start wondering whether they are responsible for the changes they see. Children may be confused by changes in established routines. Friends, too, might start feeling shut out and helpless.

People who witness incidents of bullying at work may feel both powerless and guilty. This leads to their own stress. Many fellow-employees of victims have told me about events they witnessed years ago that even now cause feelings of guilt because they did nothing. Similarly, managers who know that bullying behaviours are going on unchecked in their departments suffer stress if they are too afraid to take the action they know they should. I refer to these witnesses as the "hidden victims".

First page.