Undermined, overruled, ignored, frozen out, sidelined, manipulated, target of sarcasm? Read this
"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it"
(Martin Luther King)
In most bullying situations, the target of bullying finds him or herself isolated and alone. Work colleagues, who may formerly have been friendly and supportive, melt away and the target is left feeling like a pariah and an outcast. There are many reasons why people at work have little or nothing to do with a colleague who's being bullied, especially where the bully has some authority. These reasons can be narrowed down to (1) ignorance (of bullying), (2) fear (of being bullied) and (3) complicity.
None of this information is a great deal of help to the bully target: It will not help you persuade someone to help you. However, it is useful to give targets an insight as to why friend X will not answer the phone or why Z never spoke up for you when they had the opportunity.
The first thing to understand is that while social cohesion, mutual support and co-operation between colleagues is an important contributor to effective teamwork, in workplaces with an influential bully or a bullying culture, normal social cohesion, mutual support and co-operation and effective teamwork ebb away until they are no longer present. Work is an institution, not a family or community. Workmates are not people you have chosen to be with and they may not be friends - they just happen to be there. Sticking up for each other at work is not a legal obligation and it's not what people think they are paid to do. People choose not to stick up for each other if there is nothing in it for them and/or it puts their status or job at risk. Even where there's a trade union, a bully target who is a union member might find the union is of limited or no help, sometimes because the union rep is also an employee, and the bully has authority over both. Another reason is that while unions are enthusiastic about negotiating pay and conditions for the masses, only the bravest union negotiator will put his or her pay negotiations at risk for the sake of an individual member who says he's being being bullied by a member of the management team with which the union is hoping to do a deal. A bullying cycle can last a long time, and as the target becomes more obsessed about the bullying, colleagues who were initially sympathetic can develop compassion fatigue and detach themselves from the situation. Complicity with the bullying could be following a bully's instruction and having a detrimental effect on the target, or keeping quiet about the bully's actions (fraudulent act / assault / etc) for personal gain, rather than to avoid personal loss, or joining in with or copying the bullying on one's own initiative. Where several people bully as a group, it's known as "mobbing". Here are more examples of Ignorance, Fear and Complicity:
It's easy to see parallels between the behaviour of people in dysfunctional workplaces and those living under military dictatorships. Those who refuse to follow orders on grounds of moral integrity, be it under Hitler, Haig, Stalin, the Roman Empire, Kim Jong Un, "Islamic State" etc, are arrested, detained, tortured and executed. The rapid expansion of the so called "Islamic State" has not been the result of a popular vote, but a campaign of disinformation, torture, rape, enslavement, executions and so on, killing anyone who gets in the way. In Western workplaces, people who get in the way of individual bullies and the corporations that sustain them can expect to be isolated, victimised, scapegoated, have undue constraints and excessive workloads imposed, be subjected to disciplinary proceedings on trumped-up charges as a prelude to losing their job, which might also mean their career, livelihood and health. This situation is allowed to continue because so few, if any, speak out. If more did, it would not be so easy to conceal. Willing witnesses who intervene in bullying situations can make a significant difference in workplaces and schools: Bullies are cowards and, the more they fear exposure, the more likely they are to desist. Of course they can be extremely vindictive and do everything in their power to destroy anyone who can see through their mask of deceit. In these situations, the solution is for more people to speak out.
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