Why the office bully isn't as horrible as you'd think.
This one is dedicated to Ben and office bullies everywhere.
I’ll skip to the end of the lesson: the office bully taught me that at the very core, no one means to be a dickhead.
When I first met him I thought he was opinionated and smart. I had a decent level of respect for him but also knew he was never going to be a friend for life. He was 10-15 years older and had landed a few gigs as head honcho somewhere. I was still in the middle of my career, working on my confidence so anytime I was challenged I questioned my skills set.
It started with unproductive criticism and low blows about my writing behind my back. Then it was judgement about my previous background in PR which he likened to prostitution. (HR was non-existent and everyone in the office turned a blind eye to his inappropriate behaviour). But I hit my turning point when he yelled at me in front of the office because I said his feedback was unclear.
It took 100% of my focus to make it out of the office before I burst into tears – out of anger rather than hurt feelings.
Why didn’t I go to tell someone? I did. But when the bully is besties with the boss, you get away with anything. Nothing was resolved.
We didn’t speak for months.
A few months later I bumped into him on the train. Cristian being the protective bear that he is started to approach him. He was going to confront him. Just as he was inching closer to B, I pulled him back and told him it wasn’t worth the trouble. I took a good look at B, his face sunken, eyes tired and I didn’t feel anger. I felt really sorry for him. Because someone who’s happy with himself wouldn’t act like that. Then I remembered everyone has their own battles to fight. And while it’s no excuse to act like a d$ckhead, our fall out was just a manifestation of whatever was going on in his life.
I’m not saying that his behaviour was acceptable but it may give you a better perspective of why people act the way they do. Because at the core, everyone is just trying to do their best.
Don’t let bullies define who you are
Many women I speak to feel like they’re not enough. They’re not good enough to be a mother, a lover, a friend…etc. And it’s no wonder. We’re judge by report cards, performance reviews, tests, likes on Facebook. We’re constantly being judged and compared. And so when someone else tells you you’re not good enough, it’s another blow to the self esteem. BUT others don’t define your worth, you do. The more you can accept this, the more you’ll be able to stand up to people who act like bozos.
Know that the problem is never THE problem
Problems that surface on a superficial level are an effect of deeper issues – it’s always the case. When the deeper issues aren’t dealt with, they manifest into little fragmented problems. I heard from a few colleagues that B had been burnt before in other companies, that he never used to be the bully I knew. Maybe making people feel inferior was his own way of validating his worth and intelligence – I’m not sure.
Point being, the little problems are never the real problem. Example, when we first started dating Cristian would get annoyed with my busy schedule (I had work, dance, side hustles). But he wasn’t really upset because I had so much on all the time. He was upset because we hadn’t spent any quality time together in the past month, it appeared that I was prioritising other things over him. That’s just an example of how superficial problems hide the bigger ones that we don’t know how to address. Once I learned how to balance my pre-relationship activities with Cristian, those spats never surfaced again.
Find your own closure
If you’re looking for an apology, you probably won’t get one. Sometimes you just need to find your own closure. I’ve moved on and never looked back. As for the bully, I heard he’s had a few people in his team who all ended up leaving (I wonder why).
So thanks to B for teaching me some important life lessons:
- It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it.
- Everyone is just trying their best to love, be loved without getting hurt in between.