(Harper, KS USA)
As a person who speaks up about leadership bullying destroying our small towns on the prairies, I was stunned when a friend told me that I was a bully. This is after I suggested to her that her commercial building was empty again because she had not stood up to a bully who had run our nonprofit organization out of it (coffee house) out after only four months in business. (She had given him management control.)
This bully (on city council) came roaring in one night and pounded on the table, “You’re out, get out now.” I was so startled, I started crying and asked “Why are you doing this to us? We just moved in.” He said, “You don’t need to know why. Just get out.” I said, “I am so tired, I can’t move again already.” He said, “That’s not my problem. Just get out now.”
Come to find out, a man with a mental illness has posted a sign in the laundromat next door that “Dick is gay”. This was in response to a man who had done dastardly things to our nonprofit organization and he was obsessed about it. The bully thought the sign referred to him as his name was Rick (Names have been changed for privacy reasons.) The man with the mental illness realized the horror of what he had caused and apologized to “Dick” the next day but to no avail. It was heart breaking to have to move out again after wanting so hard to help my friend keep her building occupied. (Today it is vacant and vandalized, and for sale.) Now she blames me as being a bully and “there are two sides to every story.” I hardly see how there are two sides to a bully’s story as I don’t see anyway their actions can be justified in what they do to others.
But this accusation has given me pause. I am thinking a lot trying to understand how I’ve bullied this woman. When she lived and operated her business in town, I went out of my way to bring her many new customers. I gave her complimentary advertising, and did lots of word-of-mouth on her behalf. I patronized her as much as I could afford. I wanted so much to see a new business in our dying small town succeed.
Did I break her windows? Did I do things to keep her life in turmoil? Did I cost her loss of money and personal freedom? Did my actions make her hire an attorney to try and protect herself and her investments? Did I make her cry? I don’t think so. So being labeled a bully for doing things to help her, has been disconcerting, to say the least.
What I believe now is that because I speak the Truth about the severe problems of leadership bullying in our small towns, it makes naïve people, deep into denial, feel uncomfortable. And because they feel discomfort at what I observe, they assign me the label of being a “bully”.
What this incident teaches me is that we have a long way to go before the public actually understands what “bullying” is, and how it ruins lives, hopes and dreams. We need to teach that discomfort in hearing the truth is not bullying, but a new voice speaking to us, a voice to observe, examine and deal with honestly and openly. To accept or reject the voice of the Truth Sayers is our choice but it is certainly not our right to silence them (I am quietly distancing myself from this woman since to knowingly push discomfort on her might be another form of bullying?)
To try and prevent a Truth Sayer from speaking up is just another loss of freedom and a tragedy of our society today for it is the Truth Sayer who leads the way. I don't see that it has nothing to do with bullying — except perhaps by the accuser who is trying to silence the voice of the Truth Sayer?
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