October is National Anti-Bullying Month, but anti-bullying campaigns are not limited to just this month.  It’s respectable and noble to be “anti-bullying” these days.  I dare say it’s even trendy. The opposite, pro-bullying, just doesn’t exist. At least no one will admit it.

So why are there still bullies? If we are all so emphatically against it . . . and no one is for it, how can it persist, especially in healthcare?

The fact is that the pro-bullies are the bullies themselves. Bullies desperately try to hold on to their bullying ways because without bullying, they have no power. Or so they think. You see, a bully usually acts out as a means to gain or retain power. Bullying usually comes from a person in a position of power (real or imagined) and involves an abuse or misuse of this power.

Do you work with a “pro-bullying” person? Is there a possibility that you are “pro-bullying” without even knowing it? Take this quick “self-awareness” quiz. Self-awareness is when you realize that, although you are not the center of the universe, everything you say and do can have an impact on others. Bullies tend to act out in a way that demonstrates a lack of self-awareness.

Imagine this conversation between a workplace bully and her target.

Target: It seems like you are just waiting for me to do something wrong so that you can criticize me.

Bully: That’s not true. I’m just trying to make sure you are doing things safely. And it’s not criticism. I’m trying to show you how to do things the right way.

Target: But, I’m doing things the way I was taught and I AM safe.

Bully: Well, maybe you were taught wrong.

Target: Fine, if you are trying to teach me, then can you please do it in private? I don’t think it’s good for the company’s reputation when you yell at me in front of patients and our co-workers.

Bully: I wish I had time to take a break and explain your mistakes to you every time you make one. But, I am busy actually working.

Target: I heard you tell our Supervisor that I was responsible for the spill that caused Mrs. G to fall the other day. You know that’s not true. Are you trying to get me fired?

Bully: All I know is I didn’t do it and you were the only other person in that area that day. It must have been you. I’m just doing my best to keep the patients safe.

This “bully” does not see herself as a bully. She has no self-awareness of the impact of her words and actions on herself, her workplace and her co-workers. She sees herself as smarter, better and faster than everyone else. She has an inflated sense of her own worth and importance in the workplace. She thinks her “way” of doing things is the best or only way. She believes that causing a co-worker to look bad makes herself look good. Unfortunately, this is the case with most bullies.

Bullies have their own unspoken pro-bullying campaign going on. Can Pro-Bullies be turned around? You bet! Bullying is a habit . . . and habits can change. It starts with self-awareness.

If you have one or more “Pro-Bullies” in your workplace, download this printable version of the Self-Awareness quiz and give it to your supervisor for distribution. If you are the supervisor, consider putting copies of the quiz in with paychecks or other announcements. Leave a pile in the break room. Pin it up in the locker room.

If you want to take it a step further, consider implementing a full scale civility training program like the one that goes along with the book, “The REAL Healthcare Reform.”

Tell us what you did or are doing to transform the pro-bullies in your workplace!