When Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, I hoped that my work to create psychologically healthy, safe and fair workplaces and end adult bullying wouldn’t have to be applied to the highest office in the land. But now we find ourselves with a chief executive who is forbidding the sharing of data from the National Park Service, the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency. This is bullying in the extreme.
When I began my work on adult bullying, it was received with skepticism. Now it is suddenly starting to resonate with those skeptics who find themselves living in fear because their rights and privileges are being targeted by the Bully-in-Chief. The only good news is that Trump is doubling down on revealing who he is and what he stands for—himself. This is good news because it should encourage our elected representatives to reinforce the fragile checks and balances that are required to ensure the integrity of democracy. If they don't, the entire world will fall into what I call The Bully’s Trap—the ensnaring of the innocent by creating toxic circumstances in which they incriminate themselves.
Stanley Milgram in "Obedience to Authority" wrote, "... ordinary people simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible disruptive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority."
We are witnessing this disruptive process in real time in prime time. It has never been more urgent for us to understand how bullies function to inform our response.
Credit: Ron Niebrugge