… how trauma is passed on as bullying, and why it is important to speak up against it.
[Disclaimer: this piece has been written keeping in mind male ‘bosses’ or managers; or men in general; because let’s be honest, if a woman dared do such things as bullying, on a daily basis, she’d be shamed back home. That, however, is a topic for another discussion.]
Have you ever noticed how the script has changed in the recent years; where every generation till half of Gen X, i.e. our grand-parents, and parents, and people close to their age used to take out all their trauma/frustration on their families — their partner/spouse and/or their children? However, things started changing with the later half of Gen X, and the Millennials of-course; say our uncles, aunties, older cousins, our bosses, managers. You see how increasingly ‘sabhya’ they are with their families, or at least try to be so, in public view? Why? … I guess because the script changed, more and more people started scorning at what was erstwhile a laudable exercise — a man keeping his aggressiveness only inside his house, while being at his best behaviour outside, in company — colleagues and acquaintances. Now, as we step into the outside world, after our schools and colleges, and into the workforce, we have a different set of men who will be our acquaintances, colleagues, and ‘bosses’; rather, we have a different script!
These men (or people) are soft, they’re metrosexual, they are their wife’s/spouse’s/partner’s ‘babies’ or ‘heroes’. They’re either doing everything right (at home), or are fragile and need to be cared for, need to be protected. That is how they can be seen when you see them as a partner; but wait a minute, see them as an acquaintance, as a ‘boss’, and my god, the fireworks! The bad ones that too. They are fragile, they do need to be cared for, but they also are heroes, since they don’t ask for that care. Instead, they pass on their hurt, their trauma, now in a different script, onto others (not their families).
Let me paint a picture here:
Scenario 1: Casual Settings
I’ve often wondered why some people choose to practice amazingly bad and offensive humour, day after day, year after year, one encounter after another. Their humour consists solely of passing mean comments onto ‘harmless’ people who’d neither confront them, not retaliate. For people who don’t know it yet, this is a form of indirect aggression, can also be called ‘bullying’. It is not fun for anyone but the person who’s saying it. The bystanders don’t find it funny, or in good humour, and obviously the victim of this aggression does not find it funny. But that doesn’t answer why people do it? If you have the patience for it, get to know the person a bit more. More often than not, you will realise that these are the people who exist in a space where they get bullied by such comments or jokes on them, which they have not been able to put a stop to. [I mean really think about it, we’ve all been like this, done this some time or the other, but why would anyone in their 30s–40s choose to use such crappy humour and make themselves look immature, uncouth and repulsive over and over again?]
Solution: Yes, they need care; they need someone to tell them that they will have their backs, that they should stand up to whoever is hurting them in whatever way. Not just retaliate on one or two instances, but speak up and put a stop to it.
Scenario 2: Office/Professional Settings
Do I even need to really give an example of that textbook ruthless, mannerless boss who will just blow out on you or your colleague; make you or them a ‘scapegoat’ and just lash out beyond what was needed as per the professional situation/setting? Or maybe someone who does it more indirectly, undermines you day in and day out till you either get fed-up or start doubting yourself? Now think how wise little children are! When a teacher treats them badly in school, or offers a punishment much more harsh than what may be required, if at all, the kids know, “madam aaj ghar se ladd kar aai hai.” This is what happens with our bosses, they have been bullied, at work most likely, and they in turn bully us. They are either being continuously bullied, or in trauma, being previously bullied by their employer or a ‘boss’ they could never stand up to.
Solution: Many people respond to such bullies by either (1) shutting themselves off in such peoples’ presence, (2) giving it back to them, or (3) neutrally confronting them — possibly the best thing to do — so, speak up!
People who have been bullied pass on their trauma by bullying others.
There are always reasons for someone’s actions, and mostly, we’ve been conditioned to think “What did I do to deserve this?”; rather, we need to start thinking “What happened to them that they’re behaving that way?”
Just a late-night pondering at how scripts have changed from people scapegoating their families and taking out all their frustration on them, to now doing the same to their colleagues (subordinates), and acquaintances. Neither of which is functional, acceptable behaviour.