I recently presented with a colleague on workplace bullying in social work. During my welcome, as always, I made an announcement that it is very likely that the audience includes targets, bystanders/witnesses, and even bullies themselves.
The presentation started with an overview of the characteristics that bullies may have, such as compulsive lying, spinning every situation to make them look good, and lacking the ability to self-reflect. Therefore, bullies are unable to make change to their workplace behavior.
A discussion ensued around bullies and as presenters we provided information on this topic. The conversation struck a nerve with another participant. This participant had been talking loudly to someone during the course of our presentation and had on more than one occasion interrupted the workshop to insert their own comments. The participant stated that our presentation was merely based on our own experiences and asked if there was in fact research to back up our statements. My colleague and I simultaneously said yes. This person immediately responded with “I am feeling bullied.”
I found this comment to be interesting and an attempt to ridicule the topic area as well as an attempt to devalue our credibility. This is a classic tactic by workplace bullies and aggressors. Aggressors often make accusations about being victimized and being bullied as a way to diminish the experience of targets and also to make it appear as if the aggressor is actually the one that is being mistreated. The workplace aggressor needs the focus to always be on them and will do whatever it takes to anyone to ensure that this happens.
In retrospect, I truly believe this person was trying to demean the presentation and the topic area in general. However, unknowingly, the participant only added credibility to the presentation by portraying bullying characteristics and behavior.