article, attorney, bad, bad behavior, best, blog, bullies, bulling, campaign, cause, chat room, chris lights out lytle, end, evil, help, jamie collins, job, law, legal, mean, office, paralegal, post, prevent, social forum, stop, story, top, work
By: Jamie Collins
(With inspiration from Chris “Lights Out” Lytle)
Have you ever witnessed a person in your midst who treated other people badly on a regular basis? Maybe the evil doer was a coworker or colleague. Maybe it was a leader on your team. Perhaps, it was even your boss. This type of thing is highly unfortunate, but it does happen. Today, we’re here to talk about what it means to stand up, not only for yourself, but for other people. We’re here to talk about what it means to be a leader, in the truest sense of the word. And we’re here to challenge you to step up, speak out, and in doing so, make the world a better place, one small act of courage at a time.
The challenge is yours. The time is now. Help us to put the: #LightsOutOnBullying
(Pictured: Krishna Moore, Chris “Lights Out” Lytle, and Jamie Collins)
I recently had the pleasure of attending a paralegal luncheon hosted by the Indiana Paralegal Association. It was a great event. The speaker was former UFC fighter, Chris “Lights Out” Lytle. After retiring from a successful fighting career, Chris started a foundation with the primary focus of turning the “lights out” on bullying, whether it’s in a school yard, work setting, or elsewhere.
These days, Chris currently finds himself working as a fireman. He told us about an exchange he observed between two people, years ago, that has haunted him ever since. It was a day when a “sub” visited the fire station to help out. Subs are basically volunteers who want to become firemen; they want the people they work alongside to like them, so they generally work hard and try to stay in the good graces of those working full-time at the station. These subs float around to various fire stations, as needed, to help cover shifts. One day, Chris overheard one of his coworkers verbally belittling a sub, telling him that, “The subs always do all of the cleaning around here. You need to do all of the work, yours and mine, too. That’s the way it works.” In essence, this less-than-desirable coworker was trying to wiggle out of his own responsibilities by bequeathing them upon this sub, which was, according to Chris, not at all how things were done. While this verbal exchange struck Chris as being wrong at the time, he didn’t say anything. He was passive. He allowed it to happen in his presence. His reply was silence, followed by inaction. And it haunted him.
The regret of that choice, the one he made to sit back and do nothing in that situation, never left Chris. To this day, it bothers him that he did not step up, stand up, and say something on behalf of the person he saw being treated badly. From that day forward, he decided that he would speak up, if anything like that ever happened in his presence again. He now makes it his mission to stand up for others through his work at The Lytle Foundation , with the publicly-declared desire to “turn the lights out on bullying.”
On the drive home that night, I found myself wondering if I have ever stood up to a bully. I know I certainly did one time, years ago, in high school. It was during gym class. I was a sophomore at the time. We were divided into groups of 2 to play (well, attempt to learn to play) tennis. At one point, the ball of an upperclassman, a senior girl, came sailing over the fence, landing near our court. Before the ball even had time to stop rolling, she said something in a really bossy tone along the lines, “Throw that ball back over here, NOW.” Now on any other day, as a friendly and fairly appeasing person, I probably would have simply thrown the ball back to her. But that day? Well, I’m not sure what got into me. Was it her tone? Probably. The look she gave me? Maybe. Her attitude? Undoubtedly. A spontaneous onset of brain damage? That is entirely possible. In that moment, I looked her straight in the eyes, to make sure she knew I had heard her.
What did I do next? I spoke only one word, “No.”
I then turned my back to her and resumed playing with my partner (who was looking at me, her face drenched in worry, cloaked in a sudden onset of panic, like I must have lost my mind.) I’m pretty sure I might have…lost my mind. Did I pick up the ball? Nope. Lord help me now, right? Sudden death at precisely 1:20 p.m., at the hands of an upperclassman, during the conclusion of the gym hour—that’s what floated through my mind. But what happened? The bully did not say a word to me for the rest of the period. As I awaited sudden death, she sent her teammate over to pick up the ball. What happened after class? She walked right up beside me, began talking to me in a really friendly manner, as though this never even happened, and proceeded to walk down the hall with me, not only that day, but in the days that would follow it. It seems we entered “fast friend” status the moment I refused to bow to her disrespectful treatment. Was it ballsy? Yes. A real friendship? Not so much. But it certainly beat the hell out of light lavender colored rose sprays and a casket; I’ll tell ya that. I learned something that day about dealing with bullies and passive-aggressive people. And I lived to tell the tale.
Unfortunately, this type of bullying behavior is not limited to schoolyards. It seems to happen at law firms all across the country, and other workplaces. Yes, they will verbally nip at you. Yes, they love to say things within an earshot about you, but not directly to you. They love to spew statements into the air about people and to infer things about others or speak behind their backs, but do not deal with those people directly. They won’t tell you to your face that they aren’t going to give you any of your incoming calls for the remainder of the work day, they just throw all those people straight into your voicemail all the live-long-day. Yep, passive-aggressive behavior in its most annoying hour. But in my experience, if you stand up for yourself in a confident, poised, professional, and assertive manner, verbally, the passive-aggressors seem to take their issues elsewhere. A single line such as, “Is there a reason you are speaking to her like that?” or “Have I done something to upset you?” can do wonders to derail the deviant. Passive-aggressive people don’t like to be called out directly. Ever. They typically apologize, act like they never did whatever it is they did to you, pretend they didn’t mean to do it, say they’re sorry you feel that way, didn’t know it was rude as hell, they cry, or better yet, they cower.
I found myself thinking long and hard about what Chris Lytle spoke of that day regarding leaders: What they are. The type of people real leaders are and the type of things they do. Real leaders are role models for others. Real leaders empower people to see the best version of themselves. Real leaders are people who are willing to speak up for others who may be afraid to speak up for themselves, in any given situation. Leaders are those individuals who stand up for those they see being treated in a way that is “less than.” Less than professional. Less than appropriate. Less than decent. And most definitely, less than kind. This type of stuff happens every day, not only on school playgrounds or high school tennis courts, but in work places all across the country. You better believe the legal field is no exception. We’ve all seen it, experienced it, read posts about it, or heard about it from a coworker or friend. Sometimes, these types of things occur in person, but other times, they happen on social media sites, online, or via email exchanges.
Once, I was on the receiving end of what could be construed as an electronic bullying exchange, albeit one in the form of a group e-mail, with at least a dozen people sitting by, undoubtedly with a bowl of popcorn on their desks, to watch the show. As a blogger, I’ve definitely had at least a half-dozen crazies (and I mean really crazy) crawl out of the woodwork to troll me with mean comments on my posts here or there. I’ve also dealt with (way more than) my (uh, make that any human’s) fair share of passive-aggressive coworkers, although I learned to shut down their behavior the same way I did with Tennis Girl: via a confident and assertive confrontation, verbally. While the confronted Keepers of the Misery and I didn’t always tend to hold hands and braid each other’s hair afterward after “the talk,” the behavior would typically improve for at least a month or so. There would be a cease fire on the attempts to completely fill my voicemail box on the part of the sadistic receptionist, unbeknownst to me. They would play nice at least for a little while. But my point is, this type of bullying behavior does happen, even in professional environments.
It seems most groups of people—at law firms, in other offices and work places, on playgrounds, and individuals assembled in teams for boards, associations, or committees—seem to have at least one individual among them who, undoubtedly, would be considered by (un)popular vote, to be a bully. As Chris said, we just call these people different names as adults. He becomes “a jerk,” rather than “a bully,” once he’s a grown man. But it’s the same behavior. The type of individual who chooses, intentionally and overtly, to treat people in a manner that is “less than.” The interesting thing is, sometimes, these people are our formal “leaders,” at least in title, anyway. Not only do their coworkers, colleagues, and the people stuck dwelling among them notice that they have less-than-desirable demeanor and engage in less than decent actions toward others, but typically, the bosses know they do, too.
As adults, I know we find ourselves wondering how that’s even possible. But it is. Even in professional circles, such as those we work in every day, there is always that one person who engages in an informal and unofficial reign of terror against the others—I guess you could refer to this person as She (or He) Who Shall Not Be Named—but everyone around him or her knows exactly who he or she is. The mean one. The rude one. The untouchable one. We all seem to accept that the Nameless One seems to get away with too much, too often. The coworkers accept or ignore it. Outside colleagues pretend like they didn’t see or hear it. The bosses choose to openly accept or ignore it. There seems to be no real consequence to those insecure, miserable, Nameless Ones perpetuating the misery among us. They float along in a sea of complicity—ours.
So what can we—you and me—do about it? Well, according to Chris Lytle, telling everyone NOT to be mean is not the answer. It is not a realistic solution to the problem, because there will always be those people among us who will treat others as less than, even if it’s only 5% of the people in any given group to do so. The real solution, per Chris Lytle, is for the rest of us to no longer accept the behavior that the nameless Keeper of Misery doles out, nor to allow that particular individual (uh, you know the one) to treat others in a way that is oh-so-conspicuously less than…at least not without saying something about it. Not without standing up to it in some way. Not without taking one for the team in the name of social decency. Maybe you say it publicly. Perhaps, you say it privately. Maybe you make the approach in person. Maybe you tell the boss. Perhaps, by email. Maybe you say it now. Maybe you say it later. But no matter what: You choose, right here and now, in this very moment, to make the conscious decision to stand up for yourself, and for others, the next time you see someone treating another human being in a way that is “less than.” Less than decent. Less than professional. Less than expected. And most definitely, less than kind.
So have I ever formally stood up against a bully? That’s the question I began to ponder long and hard after hearing Chris’s presentation. I’ve definitely verbally stood up for myself (and vicariously, for others) by calling out a Keeper of the Misery (with permission granted in advance from the higher ups to do so) a time or two in my career. What I realized is that we each stand up for ourselves, or others, in different ways.
Have I ever stood up for other people? Spoken up to protect others? Have I really? Then it dawned on me, I’ve written a few attorney-take-down posts this year. Who was I standing up to? Attorneys who were saying incredibly demeaning things about paralegals—my people—publicly. I responded to those attorneys, with bold black words on a calm white page, publicly. So when I sit and ask myself if I’ve ever stood up for others, the answer is yes. (And if you’ve actually read those attorney-take-down posts, it might be more like a resounding, “Hell yeah!” I. Threw. It. Down.) As I said, we each stand up for others in our own way. The important thing is that we each do what we can, as who we are, in the ways we are able, in the places in which we find ourselves. It is not only our moral duty and obligation to do so, but a personal privilege to stand up on behalf of another person.
Starting today, right here, right now, if you see someone being treated poorly by another person: Say something, whether it’s now or later. Whether it’s publicly or privately. Whether it’s a Person Who Shall Not Be Named, or someone else, treating others in a disparate manner or with a callous disregard for decency—say something, do something. More importantly, be something: Be A leader. Do it in your own way. Do what works for you. But don’t sit idly by, allowing She Who Shall Not Be Named to continue to NOT be named. It ends now. It ends today.
Unite the team.
Stand up for others.
Rise up, and take other people with you.
And to the formerly Nameless Ones,
We see you.
And we’re done.
“Don’t turn your face away. Once you have seen, you can no longer act like you don’t know. Open your eyes to the truth. It’s all around you. Don’t deny what the eyes to your soul have revealed to you. Now that you know, you cannot feign ignorance. Now that you’re aware of the problem, you cannot pretend you don’t care. To be concerned is to be human. To act is to care.” – Vashti Quiroz-Vega
“Words have power, and sometimes, they stay with you for life. It’s up to you to allow those words to define who you become.” – Daniele Lanzarotta, Sudden Hope
Interested in having Chris Lytle visit your school or workplace as a speaker?
Contact him at:
The Lytle Foundation
If you believe in today’s message, share this post! Shout it from the mountain, people. Join the campaign. Stand up. Speak out. Help us turn the “lights out” on bullying. Spread the word. We know you will…