Mean Girls

In today’s world, there is so much focus on bullying and kids being mean to other kids. It seems that it is become a crisis everywhere. Every other day you hear about some poor, innocent child that has been tormented, teased, and belittled by another kid. But adult bullying happens too. It is probably much more prevalent than any of us want to admit.

Personally, I have been bullied in my adult life, specifically at work. I once thought that as you grew up and matured, bullying would be a thing of the past. Theoretically, adults should have far more important things to worry about, right? Boy was that a terrible misjudgment. I have encountered far more bullying behavior in my adult life than I ever did in elementary school, middle school, and high school combined. These adult bullies may not steal your lunch money or push you into a snowbank on the way home from school, but they still harass you, put you down, and may even undermine your work.

As adults, hiding unacceptable behavior is a little easier to do. These tyrants have been around long enough to know how to intimidate and control without attracting the attention of their superiors. Or even worse, they probably are your superiors.

I have a really hard time understanding this asinine and passive-aggressive, “I am better than you,” mentality. Is it low self-esteem? Or perhaps control issues? No matter what the reason, it is clear that these people have learned to manipulate others like chess pieces in their own little game. In truth, adults probably bully for the same reasons that kids bully and act out. They are trying to make up for some shortcoming of their own. Maybe they have a messed up home life, and you don’t. Or maybe you are smart and they have a hard time catching on to certain things. Whatever the reason, bullying is never really about you, but that is pretty difficult to deal with when you are the one taking the wrath.

Some of the behaviors in adult bullying may not be quite as obvious as with younger children. It’s not the typical “shove you in a locker and steal your lunch money” kind of stuff. It could be simple things such as getting ignored, fake or back-handed compliments, or your time not being respected. I bet pretty much everyone has experienced a few of those things in their career at one time or another. But then there are the actual in-your-face behaviors like putting you down in front of others, playing pranks, starting rumors, or even sexual harassment. These things are serious and can have detrimental effects on adult self-esteem just the same as with children.

Let me share with you a very personal example of my recent experience with a workplace bullying. I have a former employer who showcased this classic behavior to a T. In the beginning, I was amazing, wonderful, and the best employee they ever had. Perfect reviews every single year…for a decade. I made them look good. All that changed with a marriage, promotion, and a new-found power and status that went straight to her head. After that, I wasn’t so great anymore. I refused to kiss her ass like she wanted me to. Or maybe it is just that I started to see through her complete bullshit. Rumors started being spread about me (by upper management), and people I once trusted started making up lies to undermine me…it was a very toxic situation and I put up with it for far too long. I switched positions within the company as an attempt to get away from it and possibly advance my stagnant, squashed career. That was my downfall. Apparently the disrespect (if you call it that) of me not wanting to work for her anymore was just more than she could handle. She wanted me to stay, take her shit, kiss her ass, and be her forever bitch. To this day, I’m not sure if it was jealousy because I was working for somebody she had feelings for, if she was just pissed off that I chose somebody else over her, if she was threatened because I was on to her ineptitude, or maybe she just thought I did a genuinely shitty job. Regardless, the fear tactics, rumors, disrespect, and harassment were unacceptable. Truthfully, I still am trying to clean up the broken pieces of my own self esteem from that monumental disaster.

Research suggests that if you are being bullied, there are several things experts recommend you try in order to resolve the situation before it escalates to the point of no return.

· Stop playing the victim

· Separate yourself from the bully

· Take a stand

· Tell someone who can help

These are all great pieces of advice, however, as an adult some of these can be tricky, especially when your job is involved. Most of us don’t have the luxury to complete separate ourselves from the bully in a workplace, especially when they are your boss. In my situation, I was unable to tell anyone because the rumors were created at the top and there was literally no HR department available to report anything to. I chose the “take a stand” option and stood up for myself. I was done putting up with this bullshit. I took a different job within the company to try to escape the harassment. Unfortunately, it only got worse and I was ultimately fired and only got to work in that position for less than a year. Fired for what, I still have no idea.

Regardless of how my story ended, this needs to stop. This doesn’t have to be everyone’s story. We need to take a stand against bullying at all ages. Everyone has the right be treated with respect. End of story.

So, how do we keep our own children from becoming mean and growing up into these despicable bullying adults? I wish I had the answer. Kids who were bullied tend to grow up into adults who bully others. In my opinion, we don’t need any more of these terrible people, so let’s get to the root of the need to bully. Let’s teach healthy communication and ways to deal with differences to our children while they are young. Even more simply, adults and kids alike, just be nice. Plain and simple. I think we can go back the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

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