Q & A
Q. Not everyone is being bullied. Is a college-wide anti-bullying campaign really necessary?
A. Yes. Setting a policy, a tone, and a standard of behavior is the responsibility of the college's leadership. The HLC says the college has an established "Culture of Fear". How is that culture going to be changed? Will doing nothing change the culture? Not likely. Positive action has to occur to implement the desired changes.
Q. Don't people know not to be bullies?
A. In the same way that racists claim not be racists, and sexual harassers claim not to practice sexual harassment, bullies know that bullying is wrong but they don't think their behavior should be called bullying. They have a blind spot towards their behavior with others and how others see their behavior.
Bullies need to be taught what bullying behavior looks like. Perhaps they'll recognize themselves and change their behavior when they see an example of unacceptable behavior.
Q. Are bullies immune to being bullied?
A. No. Bullies who are later subject to the same experiences they forced on their targets object to being bullied as strongly as anyone. Bullies like to dish it, but they often can't take it themselves.
Q. Won't attrition take care of the problem?
A. No. Absolutely not. There seems to be confusion among Management about where the problem resides, but let's be clear here, the problem resides in the bully's inappropriate behavior, not in their target's complaining about such behavior.
When the targets of the bullies leave the college they don't take the problem with them - the problem resides with the bullies, not their targets. If the bullies succeed in pushing their targets out of the college without negative consequences for themselves, why would they stop doing so to others? Bullying is a pattern of behavior -- it doesn't happen once and never again. Bullies can be counted on to continue bullying others until their behavior causes negative consequences for themselves.
In my specific case, I talked about the inappropriate behavior of my bullies to the interim Chancellor, the VC of HR, the AVC of HR, my senior VC, a few Administrator friends, the college's psychologist, and a few Directors. They all agreed something should be said to the bullies about their inappropriate behavior, but either they were afraid to say something about a Director and Administrator with powerful friends, or they dismissed it as business as usual. Almost everyone I reported this to has left the college since then, but the bullies, who know how to thrive in a "Culture of Fear", remain.
Q. People don't want a witch-hunt. Is that what an anti-bullying campaign consists of?
A. No, not at all. Nobody gets fired during an anti-bullying campaign unless they continue to act in ways that have been clearly communicated as inappropriate and not in keeping with the values and standards of behavior expected from employees of the college.
An anti-bullying campaign consists of communication, education, and more communication. For educational purposes standards of behaviors are described as are ways that people in the college have fallen short in the past. Expectations for future behaviors are set. If individuals discover their behavior has been inappropriate in the past, they will be encouraged to apologize. Leaders of the college should promise the targets of bullies that the bullying behavior should never happen again, but if it does, it should be reported immediately. The goal is to heal and to enable everyone to move on without the fear of continued bullying. This is about the future, not the past.
Many witnesses to bullying behavior leave the organization rather than continue to be an unwilling partner of the bullies.