Bullying: boss around, push around, browbeat, teasing
When entering bullying into Google, you’ll find words like kids, children, youngsters, school, etc. This shows that the word bullying is often used in combination with youngsters’ behavior. There’s often a lack of clarity about the meaning of bullying. The dividing line between teasing and bullying is thin, where does teasing ends and bullying starts. The clearest difference between teasing and bullying is the balance of power. The person who bullies places itself above the victim; with teasing the power is in balance, it goes back and forth. So teasing apparently belongs to bullying when looking up the definition, is there a thin line or does teasing ends up into bullying?
Hans the bully
He is certainly not big or sturdy to see, yet everyone is afraid of him. Every day when he enters the playground, the children stop playing marbles to rapidly put their marbles into their pockets. The ones who’re not quick enough will lose their marbles. Hans always knows something nasty to say, which makes you pick up your marbles and hand them over to Hans. To make sure you’re not in the spectacle, the children walk away with bowed heads, quickly into the school. Hans has taken away your marbles and you’re on your own.
It’s true, the Hans that takes away marbles from the children every day on the playground is a bully. But is Hans also a bully when it concerns an adult man with his own company, who sexually harasses an employee on a daily basis for two years. ‘Hans the bully’ intuitively doesn’t match with a perpetrator who harasses employees and in my case even assaults me at the workplace. Of course the word bullying is also suitable for what Hans has does: pushing around, nagging. Nevertheless I can’t remove the image out of my head of children having to handover their marbles to Hans when I hear the word bullying.
Harassment: scare, deter, aggressive action, discouraging, threats, kind of abuse, intimidation
Actually Google confirms my feeling with the word bullying. The word harassment namely gives a different result. By looking up the word harassment you find suggestions like business, labor union, employee, colleagues, etc. Harassment is influencing someone’s behavior by terrifying him or her by threatening with the consequences. By using the words workplace harassment, victims of sexual harassment are easier included than when using bullying at the workplace. By using the word bullying it is much more difficult to create awareness. People associate bullying with the playground and youngsters behavior. “Being bullied at the office?” it’s often laughed off and seen as an immature word, bullying happens on the playground. But what happened at the workplace when we are ‘mature’.
Hans, the harassment-jerk
He is certainly not big or sturdy to see; yet everyone is terrified of him. Every day in the morning when he enters the building, the atmosphere involves and she’d like to hide behind her desk. If she doesn’t elude quick enough, Hans will find her. For Hans she’s his prey and he loves to start the day with belittling her, unwanted touching or snapping at her. She doesn’t dare to pick up her cell phone, afraid of another messages in which Hans trusts himself upon her. The constant threats of Hans that if she talks about his behavior, his wife will leave him and this also includes his parents-in-law’s investment in the company. This means the company can no longer exist and, “that’ll be your fault” says Hans. “Because of you people will lose their job and they’ll blame you for that.” Hans has isolated her and taken away everything from her: self-esteem, respect, confidence, fun, etc. The colleagues look the other way when Hans touches her or snaps indecent proposals to her. Hans is the owner of the company, the owner of the decision who has a job and who will be left alone. She is on her own.
Hans terrifies, discourages victims and spectators to act against his behavior en threatens to sack the ones who dear to resist. The words that represent harassment matches with Hans the director, the mature man that nags, frightens and this can be seen as an abuse. If I would hear at the above, “Hans has bullied her at the workplace”, this would give me a different feeling than “Hans has harassed her at the workplace”.
Bullying or harassment
It is a certain feeling, my feeling, a perception and certainly not a judgment about the events that take place at the playground or at the office. It’s terrible when someone makes your life miserable, whether this is at the playground, the workplace or someplace else. Never can this behavior be justified. Hans has to be stopped both at the playground and the workplace. Victims ask for understanding, awareness so everybody understands what the effect is of what Hans the bully or Hans the harassment jerk does.
Bullying and harassment
I see bullying as the younger brother or sister of harassment. Adults are being harassed at the workplace and youngsters are being bullied at school, but it’s either way criminal behavior and people that bully or harass are perpetrators of psychological terror. This behavior should be penalized in the Dutch criminal law.