The Bully's Trap

When the Bully-in-Chief Directly Affects Your Workplace

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

America’s Greatest Anti-Bullying Hero: Rep. John Lewis

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I’m honored to pay tribute to one of our greatest living revolutionists, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia as our Revolutionist of the Week. As you know, Lewis has been in the news because he declared Donald Trump’s campaign illegitimate due to the interference from Russia. Trump’s response was swift: in his now familiar bullying style, he tweeted that America’s most respected Civil Rights hero, the man who repeatedly put his body on the line in non-violent protest, was “all talk.”  

Trump is a textbook definition of a bully—attempting to deflect criticism instead of dealing with the real issues of foreign interference. The fact that he tried to turn Lewis into the villain is a perfect example of what I call “the bully’s trap” and the ultimate in a bully’s attempt at deflection. There’s a lot at stake here and I believe that Trump’s lashing out is indicative of someone who has something to hide. A person wrongly accused does everything he can to prove himself innocent—this has not been the case. We know quite a lot about John Lewis and his credibility. On the other hand, with every tweet and remark Trump loses credibility, often contradicting himself and his own remarks.

I was pleased and gratified to see that March, the 2013 graphic novel trilogy by Lewis with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell sold out over the weekend and became the bestselling books on Amazon—so much that all of the books are out of stock. It fills me with hope that Americans are following the example set by Lewis and his mentor, the great Dr. King. Both personify emotional intelligence; they are men who knew themselves and stood firm for their beliefs and values. They are the perfect role models for these times.

As Trump puts our democracy at risk, please consider their example. To quote Mohandas K. Gandhi, whose work inspired Dr. King, “It is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, his religion, his soul, and lay the foundation for that empire's fall or its regeneration.”

Credit: Public Domain

Thank you Rep. Lewis for showing us the way.