The Dirty Little Secret of the Workplace: The Bully Isn’t Wearing Any Clothes

Fear of the witnessReading a list of standard bullying behavior can be a revelation for some people. Far too often we become so accustomed to witnessing acts of incivility that we develop a blind eye to it. This is especially true in the workplace. Verbal insults, withholding of key information, and other blatant, aggressive and manipulative behaviors are sometimes considered standard practice, to the extent that, not only are they tolerated, but they are overlooked or dismissed entirely.

But what do we do when our perceptions are telling us otherwise? You may recall the fairy tale about a Self-centered Emperor who cared only about his clothes. Two con artists come along who promise to make him the finest suit of clothes woven from a fabric that is invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or “just hopelessly stupid”. The Emperor buys into the idea, and even though he cannot see the cloth himself, he pretends that he can for fear of appearing unfit for his position or stupid; and his ministers do the same. When the suit is supposedly finished, the swindlers pretend to dress him and the Emperor then parades himself before his subjects. At first, everyone remains silent, but then a child in the crowd calls out that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. The entire crowd then bursts into an uproar as they all begin to claim their perceptions.

There is a heavy price to be paid for maintaining the status quo. If we internalize the conflict we are feeling, Self-doubt sets in, fear and anxiety both escalate, and confidence and Self-esteem levels plummet, eventually leading to diminished health, relationships and a loss of interest in our careers.

When we find the courage to acknowledge abusive behavior, we can then begin to accept the possibilities at hand. This, in turn, will create a profound shift in our entire outlook – not only about our jobs, but the person with the aggressive behavior and the options that are available to us.

Defining abusive behavior as “bullying” puts it into context and empowers us to take the next step.

Here are 10 advantages to being the person who understands that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes:

  1. We feel empowered to seek help from a coach, therapist, or physician.
  2. The support enables us to plan a response strategy.
  3. As we change our analysis and perspective, the dynamic of the situation changes as well.
  4. We come to understand that bullying behavior is not the fault of the person who is being targeted, it is a tactic used by the aggressor.
  5. It allows us to evaluate the abusive behavior, and distinguish whether it stems from fear, ignorance or a deliberate strategic attempt to gain advantage.
  6. It raises our confidence levels as we develop a more positive way of thinking about our selves and our abilities.
  7. We eliminate guilt, the belief that “It’s my fault.”
  8. We eliminate the behaviors that made us a target in the first place, and that saves us time and money!
  9. It provides us with the necessary proof that we have exhausted all the possibilities and it is time to move on.
  10. We lose the desire for ‘revenge’ and embrace the opportunities that lie before us.