Bully for you #1000speak @1000speak

Charli Mills has challenged us this week to deal with a bully. March 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the bully mentality countered with a different, unexpected or kind action. Bullies can be known or incognito; Goliaths or small-minded; in-person or online. Think of ways to unplug a bully’s power. Show characters with strength and dignity and even humour. Back  one hundred years ‘bully’ was an adjective meaning superb or wonderful. Teddy Roosevelt coined the phrase ‘bully pulpit’ as a grand platform from which he could get his point across – the White House was just such. The only current usage seem to be in the phrase in the title and even that is now commonly used with a sarcastic tone.

Now a bully, be it at an individual, corporate or national level, is something to be abhorred. I suspect very few of us have not suffered some form of bullying. It might be mild and short term – some teasing that goes too far and begins to hurt, some passive aggressive behaviour in an office environment that prevents us being our best. We will be scarred, maybe only temporarily but we will remember those incidents. I’ve been fortunate to avoid the worst that bullying can involve but I’ve not been immune. For example…

I was a young lawyer, maybe a year qualified, perhaps two. We had one female partner in our group, a lady of ferocious intellect and demanding standards. Let’s called her, hmm, the Medusa. Some felt intimidated and it is true she needed to work on her people skills but I enjoyed working with her because she always took on the interesting, aka difficult, projects. This particular job wasn’t large but it was complicated and had been going on for a while. Gradually I was left to handle the detail with Medusa coming in for consultations when needed. Then the dynamic changed; the local lawyers the tenant had been using were dropped and this well known bully of a city lawyer brought in. I’d not come across him at this point – I’d vaguely heard his name –  but when Medusa came into my room, looking ashen I gathered she’d been given a grilling.

We needed to draft, in short order, an agreement allowing the tenant to move in and start a basic fit out – back in the 1980s the biggest problem with setting up an office was securing the telephone lines from British Telecom. There was only one provider, the nationalised telecom industry, and it could take months to order the lines – you daren’t miss the slot you were given or you went to the back of the queue. I know a lot of errors have been made with privatisations but putting the telecoms business into the private sector, in my view, has not been one of them.

I was charged with the task of producing something. I scribbled a couple of ideas but I needed a clear head so went in search of a coffee. No Starbucks or similar back then, just a small kitchen three floors down. I’d be ten minutes maybe.

When I returned to my desk my scribbles were missing. I knew where I’d find them – in Medusa’s room. Sure enough Medusa had her head down writing frantically; she said nothing apart from ‘Sit’. I waited; she finished her scribbles and despatched me to her secretary to have the agreement typed up and then sent to the other lawyer.

Once it was on its way she called me back and told me that my performance, which to that point had generated no adverse comment, was sadly lacking and I needed to pull my socks up. Or some such. I was mortified and not a little aggrieved. I convinced myself I might as well find a new job.

That night the Textiliste told me to be patient. She pointed out how I should have explained where I was going – I knew how anxious the Medusa was. One bully, she said, had created a second and I was at the bottom of the chain.  She was right. I saw my error but I also saw the Medusa’s and I vowed, were I ever to find myself in a similar situation  I would absorb the pressure and not pass it down.

With some objective help, I turned it into a positive outcome – the Medusa became one of my biggest supporters, four or five yeas later when I was put up for partnership. And I hope, whatever else I did I never put anyone in a similar position when I was leading the transactions.

You can’t always see the solution yourself. But the sense of hurt, of inadequacy, can hold us back from seeking that help. Happily I knew I had unconditional support, whatever I did, from the Textiliste. Somehow we need to try and help people feel they too have that support.

It was understanding the cause of the bullying that made it possible to move on from it and not be damaged by it. Maybe that’s what we will find a we turn to this week’s flash. We are, as usual, back with Mary. Her half brother hasn’t been around for a while… If you want to catch up click here.

Blood will out

‘Have the police told you?’

‘Yes Rupert. They have interviewed me…’

‘So why not tell me? Christ Mary, our father wasn’t some religious nutter.’

‘I know, but they…’

‘They said you called them, that you found the body?’

‘Yes. We were preparing for the sale…’

‘And no word to me? Dumping me in it like this? They pulled me out at work, you know?’

‘I’m sorry.’ Mary squeezed her eyes shut. She didn’t need Rupert’s hectoring. ‘Why not come round? We can decide what to do.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘He was our father. That makes us family, doesn’t it?’

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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23 Responses to Bully for you #1000speak @1000speak

  1. willowdot21 says:

    Very interesting ! as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Roshni says:

    I’m glad you were able to turn your ordeal with The Medusa into a positive experience and, more importantly, learn never to do the same with your own subordinates and colleagues!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. somemaid says:

    Great post, I to am glad that you managed to turn this experience into something positive. I think that half the battle against bullying is to do as you did and not pass it on. To absorb the pressure etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Charli Mills says:

    Mary extends the unexpected laurel. This flash makes me pause and reflect upon Rupert a bit more. He is good at playing up the “pity” yet it has a passive-aggressive edge which is showing in this piece. Maybe Mary has sensed that in him all along, but she managed the situation well.

    As did your partner on the homefront did years ago, pointing out that one bully creates another and so on until the last person bullied takes a stand to not pass it along.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s all about how we deal with things and move forward from them. Thanks for sharing your story, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Circling the Bullies « Carrot Ranch Communications

  7. Annecdotist says:

    Interested to learn that the origins of the word bully were positive!!
    And good for you, albeit with nudging in the right direction, recognising your senior’s vulnerability and not passing it on.
    Likewise for Mary, though this be the turning point we’ve all been waiting for?
    Another great all-round post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sherri says:

    I had my own ‘Medusa’ when working at a law firm in LA too Geoff. I was a mere 21 and she was in her 30s. I had been hired as PA to the CEO, she had been the vice-CEO’s PA for years. Say no more. She made my working life a misery for the first few months I worked there but when I last confronted her on it (and let me tell you, I was pushed to the limit to do that, absolutely dreading it), she saw me with new eyes and was as nice as can be after that. Strange isn’t it that some people feel the need to assert themselves as bullies when they are actually obviously incredibly insecure. Glad your Medusa became a great supporter to you and great flash too. Definitely pick on some passive-agression there…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great minds think alike and all that, having published a post today which included ‘the bully’ in it.

    Unfortunately I think we all come up against a workplace bully, especially during our early working years. I had an unfortunate incident with two workplace bullies, about twenty years ago, who made my life a misery. I was going to include it in my post today but it would have meant the post would have been far too long, so I took that bit out.

    I’m glad it work out for you in the end, Geoff. I sometimes think some of these bullies do it to see how tough we are, or just how we will react. Unfortunately, I saw many people leave the place I worked at because of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Yes, same with my example – she drove good people away and probably set them back in their professional development. Sadly she was far from the only one.


  10. Autism Mom says:

    I think we all have these kinds of experiences and it is fantastic when we can learn from them, rather than just suffer from them, as you did.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lucky you had the Textiliste and also that you were able to listen to her. I think bullies are often made from fear as was probably in Medusa’s case. Finally they will get together at Mary’s invitation and she is calling him family. Things are improving.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Yvonne says:

    I think many of us can relate to this, the middle boss who was scared of someone else so took it out on those lower down. Good that the Textiliste was able to figure it out and be so supportive – and good that you were able to listen too!
    Hope you are recovering well from the op.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I’m doing ok thanks but the excitement of being at Twickenham today – even if ultimately disappointing – nearly popped my shopping as it were. Hoe all’s well in the sunshine of Scotland – was I jealous when I saw you guys enjoying the eclipse as I struggled to see the dog in Putin’ s smog!


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