Archive for March, 2011

Difficult choices

I have been thinking about bullying a lot lately. Not bullying of children and young people, but bullying of adults. According to Business Link

“There is no single legal definition of bullying, but it can include:

  • offensive or insulting behaviour by another employee which makes an individual feel threatened, or taken advantage of
  • humiliation of an employee
  • less obvious ways of making an employee feel frightened or demoralised

Some common forms of bullying are:

  • verbal abuse – eg persistent taunting
  • physical violence or violent gestures
  • public humiliation of an employee

However, bullying can be more subtle, such as:

  • giving someone an impossible deadline
  • removing an employee’s responsibilities and giving them more menial tasks
  • withholding information or giving false information”

(from http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/detail?itemId=1073792616&type=RESOURCES as at 16th March 2011)

I should think we are all aware of what bullying is, and who we would think of as a bully, and I am pretty sure we all think we aren’t  bullies and nor are our friends, judging by those criteria.

But I think there is more to it than that. I think bullying is when you ignore what is happening although you know full well that it is. It’s when you look at the floor rather than into somebody’s eyes when they are a target for a bully and need support. It’s when you tell somebody to snap out of it, get over it, be the bigger person so that you don’t have to acknowledge the situation or get involved. It’s when you don’t acknowledge somebody’s contributions publicly although you do privately. It’s when you take credit for somebody’s achievements without acknowledging them. It’s when you allow somebody to take the blame for something you know wasn’t their fault. It’s when you join in the laughter even though you are uncomfortable. It’s when you don’t stand up, speak out or offer support. It’s when you take the easiest, most expedient option. It’s when you blame the victim for the situation, not the real culprit.

At the moment a whole group of my profession is being bullied. They are called names and blamed for the loss of their own livelihood. Their status as professionals is questioned and derided. Their worth to society is denigrated. There are examples of this behaviour online and in the media too numerous to list here. They often can’t speak out for themselves for  legal reasons, and those who do speak out for them may also find themselves targeted and labelled but if we look away, shuffle our feet, wait for somebody else to do something, or ignore the abuse then we are as guilty as the bullies. We have to stand up for what we believe in, speak out, show people  how libraries and librarians contribute to society, talk to everyone we can reach.


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