It’s a truism, but an accurate one: Experience is a powerful teacher when it comes to understanding workplace bullying. The line between those who “get it” and those who don’t often is drawn between individuals who have personally experienced this form of abuse or watched someone close to them endure it, versus those who claim to have never encountered bullying at work as a target or bystander.
For the former group, those experiences and observations form the primary lenses — intellectual and emotional — through which we understand this topic and screen additional messages related to it.
However, we also must recognize how our own experiences and observations can serve as silos, blocking us from viewing and incorporating into our understanding new information and insights about behaviors that are endlessly complex.
Some long-time readers and frequent commenters to this blog may be wondering, is he talking about me? The answer is no, it’s not about you (really!) — at least not individually. If anything, it’s more of a personal “memo to self”!
But seriously, this point applies to all of us who have drawn valuable insights about workplace bullying from direct or close secondary exposure. The lessons of our own lives must combine with the stories of others, academic research, and informed commentary to form our deepest possible understanding of workplace bullying, what it does to people and organizations, and what we can do about it.