take sides


Last week we received a comment on our Facebook page which read in part: “……in some organisations bullying is the culture and those who dare to speak out are “worked out”……. so people, for fear of victimisation, put up with it…….How do you make them feel safe enough to speak up? I wonder if this is the same culture in South Africa”.

Sadly it has been a long held belief that bullying is just a stage, a normal part of life which everyone has to go through. The truth is that bullying is not “normal” or socially acceptable behaviour. By normalising bullying behaviour, we give bullies power.

Another myth is that if bullying behaviour is reported, it will just aggravate the situation. On the contrary, research has shown that bullying will stop or decrease if authority figures and peers get involved. Emily Bazelon, the author of “Sticks and Stones”, said bystanders intervene only 20% of the time, but when they do, bullying stops about 50% of the time.

Bullying is not unique to any particular country or community. It is a broader social problem that can happen in schools, on the street, malls and in workplaces.

It is very common for people who are experiencing bullying not to know how to get help. People who bully rely on you being too afraid to tell anyone about the bullying and may threaten you to stop you from telling. They might even instil more fear in you by telling you that nobody will believe you or help you. The fact is if you don’t tell anybody about it, the situation is likely to get worse because the person or people bullying you will think that they can get away with it.

NBI encourages anyone who is being bullied to contact them as soon as possible to get the needed support. Bullying is a learned behaviour and behaviours can be changed. NBI encourages employers to set up clear defined policies against bullying so that everyone understands that bullying will not be tolerated. Managers and those in positions of authority should speak out and instil a culture where employees are not frightened to stand up and report the bullies.

Bullying is a serious social issue and we all have a role to play in dealing with this problem. Ignoring this type of behaviour is not an option. It is quite daunting to take on a bully but if we want change, we need to make it happen.

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel.

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