Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I tell my kids about the workplace and how to stand up for themselves. This is especially important for the young because people can take advantage of their inexperience and give them a really hard time. I have gone to two Canberra restaurants with my daughter demanding to see the boss and demanding they pay her what she was owed. These arseholes worked her ragged on so-called ... weekly or daily 'trials', then didn't want to pay her for her 'training'! She was already a very experienced worker. They just wanted work for free. I can tell you that as soon as the bullies were stood up to they opened their till. At one place in Braddon, even the customers told my daughter to stand up to her boss ! They suggested she clear the till and walk out and declared they'd never be coming back after seeing him in action! He was publicly swearing at her because he was in a bad mood! When I met him, I told him he'd lost 6 customers that night and I hoped he'd lose all of them. He has since closed down yippee!

So what I tell my girls is this; always be polite yourself and never ever lose your temper. Treat everyone with the utmost of respect and friendliness. In other words, treat people like you'd like to be treated yourself. 


Be aware of the difference between aggression and assertion. If you can, let the behaviour of others run off 'like water off a ducks back' - decide they have problems and you don't need to take their problems on board. If however, you ever decide that how someone is speaking to you or treating you is unacceptable - if it is making you nervous, upset, threatened, not enjoying your work, then say something mild such as;

 "You are coming across as rather picky ... or angry ... (for example)". Is that what you mean? Is there something I could be doing better?" If you can be brave enough to do this, the prospective bully will do one of three things. They will either realise you are right and will back down. They will sack you on the spot (if they can), or they will step up their bullying of you.

If they back down, they  may make excuses like; 'I am just a bit tired'. Let them make excuses, smile and say, Oh, I understand. They may even apologise, but they won't want to be called out again, so when it comes to you, they are likely to be more respectful in the future and you will have have nipped bad behaviour in the bud and learned a good lesson - you have also become stronger for it.  They will react in this way if they value you as a worker and if they are a reasonable person - and many people are.

Bullies are like Humpty Dumpty, one little push and they fall!

On the other hand, they might be so angry that you said anything at all that they may sack you on the spot. This is the reaction of a seasoned bully and there are plenty of these in Canberra especially in the hospitality industry. Yes, running a business is very stressful but what kind of coward takes their frustrations out on an employee? Plenty as it happens, but it is NEVER acceptable. So sacking is the risk you have to take. But, I maintain that even under this risk you will feel much better about yourself than being the victim of constant bullying and would you want to work for such an arsehole anyway? You are better then that. 

If you work in the public sector, you can't be sacked on the spot, you have industrial rights so make sure you are in a union and know your rights. Also, in the public sector workplaces are being called to account by new government legislation and are in the process of tightening anti bullying policies and procedures. This will hopefully make the employer nip early bullying in the bud and the situation will not escalate outside of the workplace like it has at Canberra Institute of Technology where I used to work.


The third thing that may happen is that the person you stood up to is angry that you 'bested' them, and they will continue to harass you. This too, is the domain of the seasoned bully. If this happens, you are probably in for the long haul. You should try the first approach again;  "You are coming across as rather picky ... or angry ... (for example)". Is that what you mean?" and do it each time, if they are relentless you need to be too ...AND you need to tell someone IMMEDIATELY about what you are experiencing.

Then you will probably need to 'step up' your reaction. Still without being loud rude angry or in any way offensive, make yourself plainer such as; "Look, you seem to have a problem with me, I don't like the way you are speaking to me and I think we should talk about it". You could even add, "I've been talking to HR (for example) about it. Let them know someone else knows ... bullies are COWARDS, they are picking on you because they KNOW or THINK they know, that they have already scared you, unsettled you, intimidated you and the proof of this for them is that YOU HAVE TAKEN IT AND NOT SAID A THING! Bullies love a whipping boy or girl to take their unhappiness out on and you need to refuse to be that person! I have stood up  to many people like this at work places and you should see them back down when they realise you are NOT a push over. Sadly, when you meet SOME people with polite respect they see it as weakness! Imagine how damaged they are inside to think like this, at some level, you have to feel sorry for a bully.

OK I know being assertive sounds scary, and it is! (at first) But I assure you, the strength you will gain in every relationship in your life from such a proactive approach is valuable beyond measure. Being able to handle relationships at work will help you in personal relationships as well. It took me about 40 years to learn this, if YOU ACT NOW it will take you a lot less ... 

I've had enough!~

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