In anti – bullying week, it is worth reflecting that bullying has been around for a very long time and is likely just one of those unfortunate aspects of the human experience? Is the story of Cain and Abel the first recorded story of bullying? It didn’t end well for Abel or indeed for either of them and sadly, that is often the case with bullying; neither bully nor victim benefits from the experience. And bullying is all too common; we hear too often of bullying at work, even in parliament where we’d certainly hope for a greater level of maturity and self-awareness. The evidence suggests that bullies aren’t just a playground phenomenon.
The advice for victims of bullying is to tell someone else. For children and young people that means confiding in a trusted adult which of course is good advice if there is such a person but all too often, the hardest part for a young person is talking about being bullied and feeling inadequate because they are bullied. In a workplace it takes confidence and courage to raise an issue of bullying and all too often it is the victim who no longer is a good fit for that organisation and they lose out.
Is there an answer, whatever age we are if this occurs? There is no easy answer. For those of us with a responsibility for children and young people we must provide a safe place, like The Junction in High Wycombe, where relationships can be explored, tensions identified and addressed. We need to ensure a safe environment and be alert to the changes in behaviour or withdrawal which characterize the bullied or excluded. Mentoring and counselling can turn things around for both bullies and victims by creating non judgmental 1-2-1 sessions where it is possible to explore the circumstances which have created a bully and the lack of confidence and vulnerability of the victim.
Is there a difference in a workplace? Not really so fundamentally it is the same solution. Everyone involved taking responsibility for creating a safe place whether in schools or the workplace, being alert to signs of anxiety, distress or withdrawal and then offering support and re-assurance are the best solutions. Preventing and addressing bullying is everyone’s responsibility.