TIME’S up for bullies. Girls and women are so often the targets from Meghan Markle to Greta Thurnberg. It has been relentless.
With the Duke and Duchess of Sussex taking a very public stance against bullying this week by launching legal action against the media, bullies are on the wrong side of history.
This month I’ve been working with a schoolgirl, Esme Gutch, who is part of Ilkley Grammar School’s Anti-Bullying Club. She wanted to canvas authors attending this year’s Ilkley Literature Festival, to get their wise words on the topic for her school magazine.
Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, responded to her question by saying: “My advice to bullies is this: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s one of life’s great guiding principles.”
The children’s author, Holly Smale, told Esme she’d experienced bullying in school and as an adult. Her childhood bullying turned a bubbly 10-year-old into an incredibly anxious teen with zero self-worth. Something she’s still working on today. Now, as an author of anti-bullying novels, she recognises ‘the pain, the shame, the fear’ in victims of bullying, which she feels is as rife now as ever.
The school playground seems to persist into adulthood. In the world of work, most of us will have experienced a bully.
The adage that the most successful people in business are ruthless and hard-nosed to get ahead is nowadays a lazy, archaic and completely unacceptable viewpoint. But what do you do when the bully is an adult, at work? Who do you tell and how do you cope with it?
If that bully is the boss – which invariably they are – if you’re an employee, consultant or freelancer – can you really afford to up-sticks?
Bullies generally are in positions of power with a high turnover of staff and an unquestioning board. You’ve probably heard that oft quoted statistic that says one in five business leaders may have psychopathic tendencies.
Traits include narcissism with an unrealistic sense of grandiosity manifested in the form of vanity. Their self-esteem is high but fragile. They like to show off, be self-centred, and have high levels of entitlement.
I have been unfortunate enough to come across a few in my working life. Boards and management teams who allow bullying are themselves complicit in the behaviour, perhaps taken in by their CEO’s self-promotion. Whole organisations can be toxic when the board supports a bully.
Unfortunately bullies can last a long time in a position of power as they belittle or simply fire anybody who questions them. They may liberally use non-disclosure agreements or threaten legal action.
Often bullies try to cover up their poor behaviour by garnering as much ‘aren’t I marvellous!’ media coverage as they can; their egos know no bounds when it comes to chasing glory (they probably post a lot of selfies on social media too).
What if your salary, mortgage and regular income relies on that bully?
You have to weigh up the decision as to whether the money is worth putting up with the behaviour. It is not.
I guarantee it, when you ditch a bully you will be inundated with new business and opportunities.
Negative and time consuming emotions will disappear, leaving space and creativity for new and more fulfilling opportunities. You will have more income than ever before, hours will be spent more efficiently and above all, you will be happier.
My firm, Cause UK, achieves incredible media coverage for our clients; we have a moral responsibility not to feed and aggrandise the bully. After 10 years in business, we will now only represent people and organisations who we truly believe in, who are ethical, and like-minded.
Above all we want to work with kind people. Life is too short, and we work too hard, to not to enjoy our work. Kindness and decency are possible. And if everyone takes this stance in business, the bully will eventually fail.
The American author Lara Prescott is also attending the Ilkley Literature Festival - she worked as a political campaign consultant in Washington DC prior to writing her instant New York Times bestseller The Secrets We Kept. Lara answered Esme’s questions saying bullies were people who felt threatened, and the best way to respond? “Just live your life in a happy way is the best thing you can do.”
In my experience of dealing with bullies in business, as soon as you recognise a bully or poor behaviour, nip the relationship in the bud and move on as soon as you can. You cannot change a bully. It is not worth your emotional well-being to battle them. Live your best life, do your best work.
Do not do business with the bully or the board that supports them. Bullies are on the wrong side of history - #metoo and #timesup is the currency of the day. Do not tolerate bullies. Give your views about them if asked, without fear and with candour….but then don’t waste another breath.
Clair Challenor-Chadwick is managing director of Cause UK – public relations, events, marketing and fundraising for businesses and good causes.