What if you’re the bully?


This week at my office we have been doing an awful lot of reflecting and navel-gazing, which any NGO worth it’s salt is very good at. We love lamenting and taking long hard looks at ourselves, it’s our favourite thing.

In the wake of various charity scandals and safeguarding failures and so on in the last 18 months, there is a lot of wondering how we can fix issues like “endemic bullying culture” etc that keep coming up.

We have all done the compulsory online training, attended the face to face sessions, seen the posters, listened to webinars and read the countless emails that have been sent. So the issue is clearly not one of awareness raising but of behaviour and culture change, which is so much harder to identify and address.

We all talk about collective responsibility for change, living our values, and changing our culture, but I am willing to bet there is not one single person out there who self-identifies as a bully. I don’t believe anyone reads about an organisation’s bullying culture and thinks “Oh yeah, they mean me, because I’m totally a bully”.

Most of us are fundamentally good people, who work hard for a cause that we believe in. We all have good intentions, and we all mean well, and it is often very difficult to step back and see how you, or your words or behaviours might be viewed by others. I don’t believe anyone sets out to be a bully in how they behave. And yet we keep hearing about this endemic bullying culture in our sector.

So what if we assumed it WAS about us?

What if each of us individually stopped and thought “What if I’M the bully they are talking about?”

“What if my words/actions/behaviours have been viewed by others as bullying, even if I never meant it that way? And if it has, what will I do differently tomorrow to make sure that it doesn’t happen again?”

No-one is perfect, but we can’t take collective responsibility for change if no-one takes individual responsibility for it. If 100% of people believe that the bully is someone else, we won’t ever change anything.So maybe on Monday when you go into work, try imagining that you are viewed as a bully by someone in your office and figure out what you might do differently to change that.

And those are my thoughts for the day on the subject.

*Ends Manifesto, and executes a double-backflip dismount off my soapbox.

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