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Computers Can’t Stop Bullying

Humans understand bullying, but computers don’t. The bullying in online games takes place in real time, so it’s impossible to have human moderators stop it in time. As a second-best thing, gaming companies have maintained lists of banned words. As dictators around the world have found, humans quickly find creative ways around censorship. Unfortunately, that creativity also means that bullies can find ways to hurt others without using any of the words on the banned list.

I can see that advances are being made in Artificial Intelligence so that the computer begins to understand the context of words. That might make them better at detecting bullying. But technology will never save us from bullying.

What does protect against bullying is building up everyone’s self-worth. People who believe they are valuable and important humans don’t bully and are much less affected if they are subjected to bullying behavior.

Bullies are incompetent

Last week, a UK government minister was fired for bullying. Mysteriously, the new Prime Minister brought Mr. Williamson back into government after he had already been fired as a minister twice before over other scandals.

Bullies are often trying to cover their own lack of competence by putting others down. In a cut-throat environment where everybody is fighting everybody else, there will be much more bullying. When looking for a job, ask about their bonus system. A company with large individual bonuses will have more bullying, no matter how many anti-bullying policies they have.

Why do Anti-Bullying Campaigns Still Look the Same?

A campaign is good, but action is better. This week is Anti-Bullying Week in the UK, and I support everything that fights bullying. However, it seems to me that most campaigns are still doing the same thing we did 20 years ago. Since we’re still running these campaigns, maybe our way of fighting bullying hasn’t been terribly effective?

The best way to fight bullying is by helping everyone build up their self-esteem. A person with healthy self-esteem is not a bully, and is able to shrug it off if someone tries to bully them. We’re not seeing many “Self-esteem weeks,” but I am hopeful they are coming.

Bullying Effects Can Last a Lifetime

We need a higher awareness of how much effect any form of bullying has on kids and adults. The media reports the tragic cases where bullying leads to suicide, but we don’t hear about the traumatization that affects the victim for a lifetime if not dealt with.

We need to alter the way we teach! Besides rules and penalties, we have to teach self-esteem and how to work through emotions throughout the whole school system. High self-esteem makes it easier to deal with the bullying and to report it. And people with high self-esteem are less inclined to start bullying.

Finally an Official Framework for Improving Workplace Mental Health

Toxic workplaces are bad for your health. You knew that, and I knew that. But now even the U.S. Surgeon General has realized it. Normally, the Surgeon General gives advice on smoking, pandemics, and cancer. But yesterday, they issued guidance telling companies to pay more attention to mental workplace conditions.

Some companies take good care of their workers, and they are the ones who have enough employees and low turnover. Others are doing less well, and those are the places that complain about not being able to find workers.

The Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being is a well-written document with both solid arguments for why it matters and what you can do about it. If you are in a leadership position, I encourage you to read it. If you work in an organization doing less than ideally on workplace conditions, I suggest you send a link to HR. You find the report here: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/workplace-mental-health-well-being.pdf

Software Doesn’t Prevent Bullying, But Self-Esteem Does

Can you prevent bullying with software? I’ve just heard of a startup that offers a system to schools with regular surveys and communication features. Their idea is to build a “social graph” and identify the children who have few connections. These are most likely to be bullied. I don’t think this will “solve bullying” as their marketing claims, but it might have a positive effect in directing teacher attention to the children most at risk.

What I know is that you can reduce bullying by building up self-esteem. A child with high self-esteem is less likely to be a victim of bullying. These children can also much more easily brush off any bullying that does happen without suffering long-term effects. Additionally, children with higher self-esteem are much less likely to bully others.

I work with self-esteem in both children and adults. I call this “bullying vaccination,” and this is one vaccination guaranteed to be without side effects. Contact me if you want to hear more about how I can help you, your child, your school, or your workplace.

Bullying Victims Need Help

Our anti-bullying policies have a huge blind spot: The victim. It is bad enough that only 30% of bullies are called out, but it is a disgrace that only 10% of bullying victims receive any help.

Some people can shake off the effects of bullying, but it might take 30 years. That’s how long it took me to heal myself. Many people I see in my practice have also suffered from the after-effects of bullying for decades. We must train at least one person in each school in basic trauma therapy. I do my part by teaching the RIM method, but I find school systems are unwilling to invest in helping bullying victims. If you are a parent, ask your school what they do to help bullying victims. Unless we all demand a change, nothing will happen.

How to Fight Bullying

Bullying just cost an American school a million dollars. That was what a judge ordered them to pay to a bullying victim because they did not take reports of bullying seriously. That might make that one school take bullying seriously in the future, but we cannot fight bullying with fines and anti-bullying policies on a piece of paper.

Preventing a bully from bullying is very hard. It is easier to create bullying resilience in children – and adults. We do that by helping them build up their self-esteem. If you know someone being bullied – or at risk – get in touch to hear how I can help.

Good Leaders Prevent Bullying

Workplace bullying happens much more often in organizations with poor management. An article in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology examined hundreds of bullying complaints and found that bad people management greatly increased the risk. That might be why anti-bullying strategies focusing on the individual has had so little effect. It also explains why bullying is much more common in organizations where the team leader is simply the person who has been doing the work the longest.

One positive aspect of this finding is that good leaders can prevent bullying. If you are a victim of workplace bullying, you might not need to quit the organization. You might be able to transfer to a team with a good leader instead.

Find Another Tribe

There are two kinds of bullying, and you fight them in different ways. Active bullying is when people do something, like yelling or hiding your tools. This is the kind of bullying everyone can see and that you can report to your boss or HR. Passive bullying is when people don’t do something, for example when they invite everybody else to an event. It is hard to report this kind of bullying, but you can still fight back.

The important thing is to have strong relationships outside work. Many people invest most of their time and energy in their jobs, and the people at work become your tribe. We have a deep ancient fear of being excluded from our tribe. In a hunter-gatherer society, exclusion could literally be life-threatening.

If you are the victim of passive bullying at work, join another tribe. It can be your church, an environmental organization, or a sports or crafts club. You do not have to depend on being part of the tribe at work.