Dealing with Bullying Behavior

bullying behaviourI was woken up this morning to the rather distasteful image of Gordon Ramsey and Graham Poll – in shorts. Both were being interviewed on TV before setting off on the London marathon.

Gordon Ramsey is a well known TV chef, who has an international empire of top restaurants (well, at least 3). He has built his TV reputation by a constant use of bad language – whatever the type of show he is doing. His early TV work was more about him in his restaurants, where his employees were at the receiving end of his bullying and swearing.

Graham Poll was a top referee within the English Soccer Premiership. Since he retired he has been critical of how the top players and teams try to bully and intimidate referees. Whatever his thoughts (he has an autobiography to sell!) its quite clear that the top sportsmen (and most highly paid) in this country respond to decisions against them with verbal abuse, descent, at times physical aggression and intimidation.

Before seeing these characters this morning I had already planned to reflect on how some people do rise to the top by using anger in an aggressive way and being “effective” bullies. I have written in the past about assertiveness as an alternative to direct (Are you a bully?) or indirect aggression (manipulative behavior). My arguments have been that it is better to be assertive rather than aggressive.

What I have found irritating is that we seem to relish this bullying rather than condemn it. Gordon Ramsey’s swearing and his humiliation of staff on TV gets huge ratings. Most reality TV has a degree of humiliation involved, or contestants are criticized in a hostile way by “experts”. Alan Sugar, who does the British version of “the Apprentice”, says the producers edit out scenes where he is laughing and joking with contestants.

Are all strong managers bullies? Well recent in research 44% of managers claim to have been bullied in the past year. In separate research 69% of employees said they had been bullied by a colleague or manager.bullying behavior

When you lack confidence in a particular situation, you are more likely to feel intimidated by those around you. Also, if anyone displays aggressive anger towards you, you are less likely to respond in a way that stops that behavior.

In most places of work verbal aggression – any anger that involves raised voices in my opinion – is not necessary and should not be tolerated. To be classified as intimidation, harassment or bullying it would need to happen more than once. Whilst there will be legal and employer definitions – you can personally decide how you feel and which word describes that feeling.

My employer has a bullying and harassment policy which, I’m sure like most, encourages matters to be resolved informally. Easier said than done? I’ve no research to quote, but I suspect that most people who display aggression or bullying would never consider themselves to be either. Also, they may be very unaware of the impact of their behavior.

So, learn to tell people how they make you feel.

You don’t have to do it there and then – that used to be my big problem. I used to get angry with myself as I could never think fast enough on my feet to respond appropriately to either inappropriate requests or verbal aggression.

Going back to someone and telling them how their behavior made you feel will take courage the first time you do it. If needs be, take someone with you. But using the assertiveness techniques (where you can practice and work out what you are going to say) focus on the particular behavior:-

“John, I would like a word about yesterday. Please don’t shout at me. When you lose your temper and shout you make me feel humiliated/bullied/very intimidated..”

“But you made a huge mistake …. you lost …. you…”

“I’m not here to discuss that or anything else – I’m not saying I didn’t do something that was an error. I’m here to say how I feel when you shout at me. Its not something I’m prepared to tolerate.”

The last bit is to try and illustrate the broken record technique – don’t get drawn into discussing what may have caused their behavior. Even if you did cost the firm billions, just repeat your statement about their behavior.

OK – this may not work in all situations – depending on the culture of your country and that particular industry. If you’re in the military, there will be different parameters. But even so, there will be situations that go into unacceptable behavior.

Sometimes, its more appropriate to put things in writing – especially if there are several occurrences. If nothing else, record incidences in a diary format and get others in a similar situation to do the same.

Make sure you are aware of what policies your organization has re harassment and bullying, or any sort of grievance. Likewise, be clear about what did and did not happen – write things down when they happen. It helps your confidence to come from a situation of strength.

Photo credits reportergimmi (top) and dailyinvention

JoLynn Braley April 15, 2008 at 1:40 am

I like your point that you don’t need to confront the bully in the moment, you can do it later. Actually that’s probably better, let ’em cool off. 😉

JoLynn Braley’s last blog post..How Yahoo! Shine is Keeping Me Accountable to Lose Weight

David April 15, 2008 at 7:35 am

Yes, thanks for making the point. Trying to deal with the problem there and then could just escalate into more abuse.

Jenna April 17, 2008 at 5:26 pm

I agree — courage is needed here! That’s my problem! I definitely need to work on being more assertive.

Jenna’s last blog post..Dear Diary (Part 1/2)

JBourne April 18, 2008 at 10:07 pm

I’ve never heard of Graham Poll before, but I have seen several of Ramsay’s shows. Yes, sometimes he is really mean and a flat out bully, especially in Hell’s Kitchen, but he also helps people like in Kitchen Nightmares. He might yell at people in that show, but it’s only when they really don’t understand what they’re doing wrong and he’s trying to help them save their business and turn everything around.

mike yuen ken paahana October 12, 2008 at 2:51 am

my gf is a mean evil bully to me an my kids, i jus tune her out, no listen an when she pau i act like i no kare, if she reely bug be i go c my ex or 1 other girls hoo no treat me like that sum times even 1 pro is more better coz u jus pay an pau no drama

david April 28, 2009 at 12:09 pm

It is sad that people like to watch Ramsay bullying other people. It is one of the ugliest behavior of mankind. We should stop encouraging people with his approach to get air time.

Debbie @ Better Than The Bully April 6, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I agree with JoLynn, letting them cool off is possibly the best idea. Great post, lots of new insights into bullying.

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