Bullying at the office: What is it?

Have you ever been bullied at the office or know someone who has? Senior Correspondent Mike Causey says it's a real problem in some places and bosses handle it ...

Early in my career as a reporter for The Washington Post the city editor, feared by most for his verbal assaults, came into my area of the newsroom. He stood over one of the other young reporters. Call him Andy B. And chewed him a new one. He called the cub, Andy, every name in the book. He insulted his intelligence, his work ethic, everything. He was raging, which was his M.O.S. Then, as quickly as he appeared, he was gone. Leaving Andy, like other victims, quaking and mentally shell-shocked.

I sat there in silence. I felt awful for Andy, but was secretly glad I wasn’t the target. After a few moments of silence, Andy, turned to a colleague sitting next to him. He was older, wiser, long-time reporter. A brilliant writer. WWII vet. Right out of The Front Page. Whatever the situation, he had been-there-done-that and gotten the T-shirt. And, like many in the newsroom at the time, a world-class drinker. He had continued to type while the editor chewed out the reporter next to him. Call him Harry G.

“My God,” the young reporter said to the old-timer. “Did you hear what (the editor) said to me? I was terrified and insulted. Now I feel sick. Can you believe it? Did you hear what he said?”

Harry G. looked up from his typewriter. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I thought he (the city editor) was talking to me!”

Drum roll. But true … Harry ignored the crazed editor. Andy almost had a stroke.

Which is how different folks handle bad behavior. Like bullying at the office.

The cover story in the current issue of Federal Manager magazine is about bullying. Its title is “Quick With A Whip: Bullying By Proxy.”

In the piece, author Michael Belcher talks about a session at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia. As the name implies, it is where up-and-coming feds, and many current executives, go for special training, seminars and retreats. As top managers, a lot of the training deals with handling or managing people. The piece focuses on dealing with “difficult people.” Who they are, what they do (both their jobs and their bullying habits), and what are the results of bullying. It cited reports, including one that said 27 percent of the American labor force (or 37 million people) in a survey said they had been on the receiving end of bullying at work. Another 72 percent said they were aware of bullying incidents. It said 56 percent of the alleged perps were supervisors, 33 percent were coworkers and a surprising 11 percent were subordinates. It didn’t cite any breakdown by age, race, sex. But most people who’ve been in the workplace know that bullies come in all shapes, sizes, sexes and colors.

A disturbing part of the report is how top managers handled (or didn’t handle) bullying. According to its data, 5 percent actually encouraged it (spare the rod and spoil the child?), 6 percent condemned it, followed by acknowledgement of the problem, defense of it, try to eliminate it, rationalize, discount and a whopping 25 percent were in denial. It wasn’t happening. Even if it was.

Which got us to thinking. How are things in your place of work? And what’s your definition of bullying? How have you seen it handled/ignored? And, like the example of the shocked and outraged young reporter vs. the indifference of the old-timer with a thick hide, what exactly is bullying?

Love to hear from you, but, uhhhh, no pressure. You can reach me at: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

Popeye’s arch-nemesis, Bluto the Terrible, first appeared as a villain in the Thimble Theatre comic strip on Sept. 12, 1932.

Source: Wikia

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