Bully & Co provides a much needed self-help to combat one of the most inconspicuous forms of mental abuse which occurs in the corporate world. Hidden behind career goals, dynamic meetings, brain-storming sessions and other key functions associated with the working atmosphere are individuals who face abuse by their Superiors or Colleagues and muster it until faced with a nervous breakdown, depression or suicidal tendencies, while most often the victims quit for lack of courage to face the perpetrator head on!
This effectual tool by Fiona Nanayakkara exposes the various characters that define a bully with true life anecdotes injected with spurts of humour. The most important facet of the book is its practical combat style as it gives the victim a thorough knowledge of how to fight back. The author herself exudes positivity by her infectious laughter and bubbly stream of words which add to her wit and ability to transform the mundane into a deeper reflection of life, while providing a platform for motivation and empowerment for those who yearn for a brighter tomorrow.
- Give us a glimpse of your roots?
I am the middle child nestled in between sisters. My father was a Banker and my mother a housewife. I Studied at St. Bridget’s Convent till O/L’s and Asian International School for my A/L’s. As a child I was always highly active and competitive, and it was probably due to the genes inherited by all my family members who competed in national level either in athletics or swimming.
My competitive streak was not limited to sports as I started working before I completed my A/L’s, so for my 18th birthday I was working full-time, completing A/L’s and my post graduate first semester (CIM UK)! However, all that hard work paid off when completing my masters since I graduated with an MBA from the University of Buckinghamshire (UK) at 23, which cleared my schedule to work harder. My work has always been in the line of communications within various industries such as Healthcare, Manufacturing and at present Telecommunications.
- What prompted you to write about a controversial topic such as bullying in the work place?
There are two main reasons apart from the multiple disadvantages to the companies and employees (mentioned in the book); the number one reason would be my story telling ability centered around workplace bullies and this in turn spurred my friends who were always encouraging me to write a book because the characters remained plausible until recorded in a research based composition.
The second reason was the statistics with reference to bullying with it not being reported at least 90% of the time, therefore we have no support to work with mental manipulation in the workplace. Bully & Co is the first self-help book offering support targets easily with no legal jargon and no boring inquiry reports – just easy support.
- For how long did you research on the topic prior to publishing the book?
Two years of research and procrastination went into the book.
- What type of material helped you in your process of gathering information?
My research was not limited to a single sample size. I personally stalked targets who had spoken about bullies on social media to obtain comprehensive answers. Apart from the online research I also read other books on the subject – Dr. Gary Namie’s book on how they characterize bullies and local books on labour laws. I wanted to take the absolute best out and present it in the simplest way for victims.
Envy and jealousy are two powerful motives for bullying
- What differentiates this book from other books pertaining to this particular topic?
There are books out there creating awareness on workplace harassment, describing labour laws and bullies but Bully & Co’s key objective is to HELP! It’s written in such simple form where anyone can help themselves fast. The book is divided into three key sections; Knowledge, humor (bullying stories) and help. I also went a step further, and developed caricatures for the specific characters to help the reader visualize. In short, I tried to utilize all the available options to get through to the reader.
- Why do you think this type of behavior is kept under wraps or in our society?
There are several reasons; so many are unaware that they are being bullied. Most of us workers in Sri Lanka are told we are supposed to deal with it, that it is either culture or corporate politics. Therefore it does not surface as an issue to begin with.
Another key reason is the reporting process and the outcome. Usually the victims never want to report and a majority of the companies in the country do not even have a whistleblowing system surpassing HR and the top management. Bosses can behave the way they desire, practice their need for power to make the target feel inferior, making the outcome of reporting a negative one. Finally, I would like to highlight the fact that it happens on a daily basis, which exacerbates the mental stress resulting in anxiety, inability to performance or in a worse -case scenario, could damage their authentic working style. Research shows that most bullies have been bullied at one point and they have absorbed the management style, forgetting their own experience – which is a scary thought for professional workers. When targets change their working style and become bullies themselves the reality of standing up against this harmful behavior pattern is very minimal.
Because bullying happens in various forms, the target of a bully usually doesn’t realize that he or she is being bullied. But once you realize it and figure out the problem, you can manage the situation.
- What are the challenges you faced during this project?
Having a full time job means you have to work over time to complete the project. This however was solved via proper planning and execution within deadlines. I think the biggest challenge that any author would face is the fact that they have to be multi-faceted. Unlike in the past when a manuscript once handed over results in it being published, the present writer has to possess inherent knowledge about reaching and marketing the book to the target audience. I have worked in corporate communications for the past decade and this experience really paid off getting publicity. An author today has to liaise with translators, photographers and designers, be an event manager, manage a press conference and deliver the keynote speech. But with a lot of support from my media friends it made it to the front page news.
- Who supported you?
Everyone who read Bully & Co supported me completely. My first sample was my father, Cindy (sister) and Shey (best friend) who finished the manuscript in a day. Secondly were my suppliers and the media.
We can set a norm for an ethical, professional, cultural standard in the workplace for greater profits, happier customers and good people.
- From all the stories we come across in the book, what was The Most significant story to you personally?
The most significant part should be the third section where the self-help part is. However as per your question I think my personal favourite would be the two combined featuring the psychopath and the jealous one! The story is so cruel you really learn to watch out and stand up at the same time.
- Now that you have launched your first book and discovered a niche in your research topics and writing style, do you think we would be seeing more of your work in future, if so what topics are you planning to touch on?
Writing a book was not easy! In fact I am not even a writer. I just evaluated my strengths – which is mainly publicity and a topic that got me geared up to serve the working community. I am currently conducting consultation for employees and employers and I hope to focus more on the behavioral science itself. But the stories are endless and I keep hearing them every day so I hope I can create a common platform where people can support each other. I would prefer to ‘fight the fight’ a little bit longer before I get into another topic.
By Rochelle Palipane Gunaratne