Writer and entrepreneur Seth Godin reminds us of his ability to pack a lot into few words in this pithy blog post from today:
The bully-victim cycle
A bully acts up in a meeting or in an online forum. He gets called on it and chastised for his behavior.
The bully then calls out the person who cited their behavior in the first place. He twists their words, casts blame and becomes an aggrieved victim.
Often, members of the tribe then respond by backing off, by making amends, by giving the bully another chance.
And soon the cycle continues.
Brands do this, bosses do it and so do passers-by. Being a bully is a choice, and falling for this cycle, permitting it to continue, is a mistake.
It’s complicated, sometimes
As Godin’s post suggests, sorting out who is the bully and who is the target can be more difficult than first meets the eye. Some situations just aren’t clear cut.
In some instances, “bullying” may not be the apt term. Instead, what you have is an exchange of incivilities, ranging from a true personality conflict between relative equals, to an organizational culture rife with people in a nasty mood.
Real bullying constitutes a form of abuse intended to harm another, often involving the exploitation of an uneven power relationship. Getting to the root of these situations may require some sleuthing, but once the context and facts are known, the picture becomes a lot clearer.
In particular, look for repeat offenders. Many bullies are recidivists, using the same or similar techniques (blame-the-victim is a favorite) over and again, while having the ruthless smarts to avoid being held accountable.
Hat tip to Larry Loebig for the Godin post.