Happy “Anti-Bullying” Day. What a mouthful. And What a Negative Description, once again focusing only on the bullies, as opposed to everyone else who also contribute to the dysfunctional environments in which we often find ourselves.
I say we name today Happy “Be Kind” Day. For – in my experience – if ALL of us focus on being kind, we will never be in a position of having to investigate, address or remedy bullying – in schools, workplaces or homes.
Two words. Be Kind. That’s it. Yet at times such a simple expression seems so difficult to put into action. There are pressing deadlines to meet, strategic plans to develop, customer demands/complaints to respond to, and personal crises and challenges to overcome – illness, divorce, financial difficulties. Often, we (unjustifiably) use these pressures as justifications for our “impatience”, haste and overall lack of consideration towards those around us.
Are we taking the time to “think” before we “speak”? Are we “hearing” our tone of voice when sharing our thoughts/viewpoints? Are we including staff in decisions before they are made? Are we giving employees an opportunity to speak to our concerns before arriving at conclusions about them? Are we sharing necessary information and workplace changes in an open, transparent and respectful manner? Are we mindful of how we speak to others when delivering feedback or day-to-day direction? Are we gossiping about others for our own entertainment? Are we taking the time to consider the potential impact of our curt or presumptuous emails, rushed phone discussions, and other similar types of apparently “efficient” communications?
“Be Kind” looks great on a Hallmark card or Mission Statement. But what steps can you take – as an individual – to ensure you walk the talk of “kindness”?
Supervisors and Managers? Act as “Role Models for Kindness”. This does not mean that you avoid addressing workplace issues or engaging in difficult discussions. It means that you consider the manner in which you deliver those messages. It means that you speak to your staff – not about them – as soon as you have a concern. It means that you do what is necessary to help your staff be the best they can be. And as part of this – it means holding staff and colleagues accountable for disrespect and unkindness that is persistently obstructing the overall potential of those around them.
Possible Complainants? If you see yourself as a victim of disrespect, ensure that you take up your issues with others – either directly or through established and acceptable avenues – as soon as you can. This means that you take care of and protect yourself in a manner that is considerate towards and respectful of others, even those whom you hold responsible for your pain. This means that you respect confidentiality and avoid unkind gossip, vigilante justice and the building of camps. This means that you refrain from engaging in the same conduct as those with whom you have concerns. An “eye for an eye” (or an “I” for an “I”) does not create a culture of “systemic” kindness regardless of how “right” you think or feel you are.
Possible Respondents? Those of you who have been told that you are perceived to be intimidating or aggressive or abrasive, try to adjust your approach. Don’t debate someone’s experience with or perspective of you. It is what it is. This does not mean that you are in fact aggressive or intimidating or abrasive. It simply means that someone is perceiving this in their interactions with you. You cannot argue your way out of someone else’s perspective. If someone is struggling with how you interact with them, then simply do your best to modify your behaviour. Don’t retaliate. Don’t gossip. Don’t sulk. Just do your best to work within their boundaries.
Bystanders? If you are aware of negativity, rudeness, unkindness, harassment or bullying of others you need to act. Now. No excuses. No “I don’t want to get involved”. No “I am scared to say anything because then I might be affected”. You only have two options in everything you say or do – either contribute to a culture of kindness or don’t. Speak to those involved or someone in a position of authority if you see or hear concerning communications or activities. At the very least, walk away and avoid being an audience to unkindness. Don’t gossip about what you have heard. Don’t go from one person to the other to relay what is being said about them. This is hurtful, not helpful. And finally, don’t editorialize or pass judgment on the negativity of others – or the workplace generally – if you are not taking action yourself.
Today — regardless of your position or role in the workplace, at school or at home — take one step – with one person, on one “file”, in one discussion, or in one email, to cultivate a culture of kindness.
And then, do the same thing tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. Do not wait for the calendar to remind you of “Anti-Bullying” day. Because the only difference between today and every other day of the year should be the colour of your shirt.