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Modern Parenthood

Workplace bullying legislation: Keep your chins up parents

Workplace bullying legislation is making its way through multiple state houses. No more, hopefully, will parents have to convince their kids not to fear the school bully while struggling with a workplace bully. 

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However, I discovered this week that the issue of bullying can get even worse when you have an online job, such as being a journalist, and run into the occupational hazard of cyber-bullies.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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Unlike a tangible work environment where I would have a chance of either standing up to the bully or reporting the person to a higher authority, Internet Trolls lurk in the shadows, using false names, dummy email and social media accounts, and have a legion of equally invisible, hostile, untouchable cronies behind them.

I learned this week there are few effective laws in place to try to fight people we can't see or even put a name to. Unless the bully actually threatens physical harm or openly tells others to do something destructive, you pretty much have to sit back and ignore it until it plays itself out.

I have been instructed not to respond to emails, tweets, and an entire web page and YouTube video recorded by cyber bullies trying to harass, defame, and intimidate me out of my profession and volunteer work with African American children. The group zeroed-in on the religion of my ancestors and the fact that the children I help through a chess program are largely African American.

Free speech is essential and something that makes our nation great, until someone generates hate out of thin air and on a thinner premise.

I'm a mom, though. Moms find solutions, work-arounds. I'm also a chess player and we like to look at the board and our opponent from all angles, so I tried to look at the board from my opponent's side. On the other side of the board from me is someone who's still thinking like a child. A bully.

This adult knows the rules, or lack thereof, and uses them to their advantage to bully with impunity. I can get behind that kind of strategy. Knowing it's completely legal to generate hate means it is just as legal to spread love and tolerance.

So I'm facing my bully in the workplace right here and now, where we first met, to tell him a few important things:

“I don't hate you. I'm not angry or frightened. I understand you feel the need to promote your mission to build a level of fear, intolerance, race, and religion hating and that's your constitutional right. I am sorry that I have to continue to make you angry and frustrated by being the daughter of a Jewish man. It's just not something I can control, nor would I ever hide it. Women still take their husband's name when they get married. Also, my great-grandfather was the magnificent Yiddish “Poet of the Ghetto” Morris Rosenfeld and I am incredibly blessed and proud to be part of his legacy.

I understand my belief, that race, skin tone, and religion are not something by which we should judge others in the year 2013, is making you grind your teeth. On the bright side, my being here to rage against has given you something to make profitable YouTube videos about and so that kind of makes me part of your income stream. It makes me very happy knowing that you need me much more than I need your bullying.”

I'm not going to lie, the last two paragraphs felt gorgeous.

I was driven from one job by a bully and will not make that mistake again. It's a recession out there folks and if you are in a job with a bully for a boss or co-worker it's time to take back your confidence, pride, and power by supporting anti-bullying legislation. Until it comes through you have to remember the person you are at home with your kids and take that feeling to work with you.

As my husband is fond of saying, “When the Mom's not happy, nobody's happy.” Time for the bullies everywhere to know that too.

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