I’ve written about being bullied as a schoolgirl, but not yet about my skirmishes with workplace bullies. At my age, you’d think (at least I thought) I’d be teaching my kids how to stand up to classroom and playground bullies, not fending off my own. The sad reality, however, is that whether 9 or 90, man or woman, nobody’s immune to bullying. Albeit not a common topic, the numbers are staggering: Dr Curry quotes from a 2014 survey in the United States that notes 65.7 million working Americans experience or witness abusive and bullying conduct at the workplace.
Coming out of my most recent episode with a corporate sociopath, I knew I had two choices: to remain passive (empowering the bully); or to gain subject knowledge and create more awareness on the topic (empowering myself, and others in a similar situation). I chose the latter.
To begin, I needed a good book to dig into the 5W1H of it all. This is how I came to know Dr Lynne Curry, author of Beating the Workplace Bully and President of The Growth Company, Inc., a management consulting, training, human resources and organizational strategy firm. In a book that’s peppered with interesting real-life case studies and supplemented by helpful exercises, Dr Curry describes the characteristics, behaviors and vulnerabilities of seven workplace bully types: the Angry Aggressive Jerk, the Scorched Earth Fighter, the Silent Grenade, the Shape-Shifter, the Narcissist Manipulator, the Character Assassin, and the Wounded Rhino. And regardless of whether bullies are a product of nature or nurture, she stresses how bullies rarely ever stop bullying—instead, they zero in on other targets.
After I left her a book review, Dr Curry and I connected on Twitter and exchanged several emails. Though bullying is a topic close to my heart, I wanted to blog about it in a context larger than my own experiences. So I asked Dr Curry if she’d consider contributing a Guest Post, and she graciously obliged.
I hope you find Dr Curry’s personal story inspiring, as you certainly will with her books.
It’s For You That I Write and Why I Wrote a Book for You on Bullies
Like many, I grew up in a “messy” family and didn’t have anyone I could talk to—not about “those” things. But then I discovered writing, and magic happened. By transferring the thoughts I couldn’t voice to my family to paper, and re-reading them each day, I breathed more freely. This was because the truth, as I knew it, was out there for all to see.
With writing, I learned to condense a world of experiences into a five- to thirty-line poem or short story, which friends soon became interested to read. And I found that the more honest I let myself be on paper, the more they enjoyed my poems and stories.
I dropped out of high school, and instead of sending college applications, I wrote a play and submitted it to several colleges. One of them responded, and invited me to meet them. They said my play had touched their hearts, and offered me a full-tuition scholarship.
After college, I tried to support myself by writing, but soon decided the starving artist life didn’t work for me. So I took jobs that paid a living wage, as a teacher, a counselor and finally as the owner of a consulting company. However, I still loved writing, so I kept a journal, in which I penned the challenges I faced at work. Writing about various characters in my workplace such as Snarky Stan, Ranting Patricia and Pushy Paula, I realized how it helped me put situations in perspective.
Then, one day, I submitted to the local newspaper three short pieces containing how-to advice for navigating workplace problems. They got published, and I was soon invited to write a weekly column for them. Two months later, the newspaper editor called, saying, “You have fan mail here,” and I picked up from them a large envelope containing 34 letters. These were from readers who asked questions such as, “How do I handle the creep who puts his hands all over me at the staff party?” and “My boss is MIA and my coworker shoves his work off on me, and I don’t want to let our customers down; what do I do?” That started a “Dear Abby of the Workplace” column, which is now in its third decade.
I kept writing, finding that it helped me make sense of things and decide on my next course of action. Even at times when I didn’t fully understand what I was feeling, I found that if I wrote down my most difficult experiences and then re-read them next day, I would view my experience with fresh eyes. Writing about what I did/didn’t do or should’ve/shouldn’t have done taught me a great deal more than if I’d just voiced thoughts silently inside my own head.
Eventually, I compiled the best of two decades’ worth of articles into a book called Solutions, which sold 10,000 copies. This led to many emails from readers who shared how they tried what I’d suggested and it worked, or that my book helped them take a step back and realize how they’d given their power away, but that they were now going to take it back.
Fast forward to why I wrote Beating the Workplace Bully: I was a victim, being married to a bully husband, and also working with bullies. One day, I started to write about the bullies I’d encountered, the mistakes I’d made, and the traps into which I’d fallen. Others targeted by bullies came to me for coaching, wondering how they magnetized bullies. With my help and advice, they learned how to stand up to the bullies in their lives, how to turn tables on bullies, and how to take bullies out.
Ultimately, I hope to inspire positive change in myself and in the world: maybe you’ll read what I’ve written and gain an insight, an emotional connection, or simply the feeling that someone else understands. Maybe your life will change, and you’ll then change the lives of those around you.
—Dr Lynne Curry
Thank you, Lynne, for sharing!