Saturday, March 24, 2007

[bullying] confessions of a cad

Ian Ogilvy, the School Bully

The trouble with bullying is defining it. Some cases are as clear as day. Workplace bullying is well known, school bullying is rife, I've seen girls bullying girls something awful and head teachers can bully staff. Army bullying has been seen by most undertaking officer training, particularly for subaltern rank. Sometimes it's less clearcut and comes down to perceptions.

I once had someone try it on with me while I was working for HM Customs. This 'gentleman', who had just been promoted above me, decided to reorganize my work station which I had 'just so'. It had taken a year of negotiation with my supervising officer and the Inspector to get the standing orders rewritten and so I wasn't going to put up with that.

When I explained to the 'worthy gentleman' his error of judgement and the consequences of ever coming within two metres of my desk again, he went beserk and 'belittled me' with every swearword he could dream up, stood over me physically, [I'm not a tall man], then officially complained about my 'uncooperativeness'.

I compiled a dossier on him over the next fortnight - when he turned up to work, when he actually began work, which girls he was using HM's time chatting up and so on. It reached the Inspector's desk at the end of the month and naturally got no further but it did get 'my friend' off my back. Trouble was, I didn't let up and arranged 'little accidents' for him and when I'd get to work, I'd go over to 'supervise' his own station for him, making little comments on the state of his desk and so on. I was hauled over the coals for that.

So who was the bully?

I posit that there is blogosphere bullying too. Some big bloggers will only give the time of day to sites who link to them and then refuse to link back. Some august circles of blogfriends consistently won't quote you but will then run a post by one of them on that topic and immediately link. Some consider that the Blogpower issue and the Great Blogwars some weeks later were getting close to bullying.

While the bullying question is vexed, I've always liked Eleanor Roosevelt's comment and try to remember it as some sort of mantra:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Girls are not always sugar and spice.


Bel said...

A very thoughtful piece, with which I agree wholeheartedly.

I must say that I didn't notice any bullying in the Blogpower issue, but in the Great Blogwars, I felt there was a lot of bullying and unpleasantness. It made me lose my appetite for blogging, even though I was not involved in any way.

Steve said...

What were the "Great Blogwars"?

I try not to get too hung up about blogging. I was pissed off when LGF snaffled that cartoon off my site without any acknowledgement. I nearly wrote a post about it then thought "Who gives a fuck?"

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, a thoughtful piece indeed, James. As a teacher, I was victimised by a deputy head who bullied me WHEN MY MOTHER WAS DYING and thinking of how she made that dreadful time even worse for me still hurts. It's an awful thing when you are being bullied and you ARE the teacher. I think peer counselling works well in schools for children these days, doesn't it? I hadn't thought about blog bullying but now you come to mention it I see your point. I knew that quote but not that it was from Eleanor Roosevelt - a lady who certainly had been made to feel inferior by her husband and his family [before his illness] so she knew what she was talking about.

Gracchi said...

Yeah bullying is nasty. The blogosphere can be quite unpleasant. Worse even than the blogwars are the comment threads say on the Guardian which are just full of horrible abuse towards journalists and fellow commenters. The blogs like yours that I tend to interact with tend to be quite pleasant and my personal rule is that if someone has an unpleasant go at me, I just won't have anything to do with them. I haven't found myself having to exercise that rule too often though so far.

Tom Paine said...

Eleanor was right. So right, that (short of physical violence for which there is always a better name, accompanied by a criminal penalty) there is really no such thing as bullying. Any unpleasantness you may experience in such circumstances is entirely your own fault. Your own HM Customs story illustrates this. You didn't take it lying down and the problem rebounded on the would-be bully.

The important thing is; never, ever agree to be a victim.

Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

I agree that this is a thoughtful piece. Not sure what blog wars are. But I imagine they`re much like any other beat the other guy...
Bullies anywhere are not cool.


Kathleen said...

You are correct when you say it is how we define bullying. Your case of workplace bullying is called serial bullying. Yes, you were being a bully as well when you decided to do onto the bully what he had done unto you.

I had a similar desk experience combined with immediate (new) supervisor hovering over me, positioning his desk to look at mine and making comments to his (surgical procedure to remove the risk of another offspring) to two visiting supervisors from the State capitol (I was a State employee in the USA at the time). I stated I was uncomfortable with the conversation and could they please take it elsewhere.

This was in 1979, a very long time ago. Well, my "supervisor" didn't like it and he began a campaign against me. I advised a friend who was also the governor's representative of the issue. She advised me to keep a log.

The "supervisor" wrote me up for not fulfilling my duties, stating I had not be at work or answering the phone while the administrators were out of the office. I wrote a response stating I had been on duty and working.

I filed a grievence against him for harassment and put my "log" as an attachment. It appears that the witnesses he had obtained to verify I hadn't been at work or answering the phone, had been calling the old office number. The number changed the month before and they had been sent a written notification in a mass mailing by me of our number change.

The governor's representative was my witness that I had been at work each day because she had dropped off my lunch since I was working through lunch on the day in question reorganising the files for a new division coming into our office.

Well, I received a formal apology and the "supervisor" left the organisation. He went to work for a regional corporation. The two supervisors who were present also apologized.

Now, I'm researching bullying in school settings. You are right it is everywhere and it is in schools; but I'm concerned over some of the statistical data I am obtaining in the course of my exploration of the topic for my thesis. I have a blogspot and it is kathleenonbullying