At first glance, Dunkin’ Donuts’ latest commercial might seem like a fun way to show their latest promotion of two breakfast sandwiches for one low price. But when we hit rewind and take a closer look, we see how Dunkin’ Donuts normalizes bullying at work:
- When one man grabs the sandwich out of the other man’s hand, the second man conveniently has a second sandwich accessible as if he expected to have the first one taken.
- While Dunkin’ Donuts gives an accurate portrayal of how workplace bullying works, the issue is that the company normalizes it to a point of trying to make it humorous. It’s only “funny” that the person at the desk is bullied because he’s protected himself against the situation with a second sandwich.
- Dunkin’ Donuts chose to cast a white man as the aggressor and an Asian man as the target. This setup of targeting people in marginalized groups without making it obvious it’s because of membership in marginalized groups — but still perceiving these targets as weaker — is what I call “legal discrimination.” It’s all too common with workplace bullying, with women and Hispanics comprising the most popular groups for bullies to target at work according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.
- Dunkin’ Donuts also made the target a programmer and highly organized, indicating he cares about his work and the organization. People who care about their organizations rather than power are the exact types of people bullies prey on.
Dunkin’ Donuts: we ask you to take a stand against workplace bullying rather than normalize it.
While we’re gearing up for a t-shirt decorating and sign-holding event in Providence today with the Rhode Island Healthy Workplace Advocates in preparation for Boston’s first annual bullying walk next weekend, it’s the perfect time to remind us all of our power to create change: by posting an event on our Action Team event page, you can:
- Spread the word about what workplace bullying is and why it needs to end.
- Mobilize advocates in your area to support each other and to feel empowered.
- Show legislators how much of a force is behind this cause.
There’s no better way to take back the power than to take action (if you’ve healed from the trauma of workplace bullying). You can:
- Host a gathering at your home to talk about what workplace bullying is and what you can do in your local area to spread the word about ending it.
- Hold signs while the weather is warmer and politics are on people’s minds. For less than $10, you can buy posters, markers, and some cocoa and pick a high-traffic corner in your town to stand on for a couple of hours.
- Get creative. Come up with another easy concept to bring people together and spread the word.
We’re behind you 100%. You have our full support to take action to help make history. All you need is a couple hours and a partner. We’ll even post the event on Facebook for you to help spread the word.
Bullying of any kind involves boundary crossing. Bullies can selfishly take without asking, including your kindness, patience, and need for respect.
But bully targets aren’t helpless. In her Psychology Today article “If you set a boundary, expect to deal with anger,” Susan Biali M.D. says that “in most cases when our boundaries are crossed, we’ve allowed it. As a child, we may have learned to allow it because we were helpless and depended on the big boundary-crossers for survival. But as an adult, unless a situation is extreme, we usually participate in the violation of our own boundaries by failing to properly defend them.”
So what do we do when we were raised as children to accept boundary crossing – maybe from a parent or sibling? How to we begin to defend our boundaries? Says Biali:
I remember a few years ago, when someone wanted me to make a major change in my plans in order to accommodate their plans. My plans had been in place for months, they had just decided upon theirs. When I suggested that we reach a compromise by changing our respective plans slightly, the other person totally freaked out. Suddenly it wasn’t about the plans anymore. The words came fast and furious, hitting me in the chest like a barrage of machine gun bullets: I was a control freak. I was selfish and always had to get my way. I was mean and unreasonable.
Seriously, all I had done was gently suggest a compromise (I know I did it gently, because this person is intimidating to begin with). At no point had I ever implied that I would insist on my way, or even insist on the compromise I’d suggested. Yet the fact that I hadn’t immediately gone along with their plan was enough to unleash the beast. And it was really scary.
I remember physically shaking in the face of it all (thankfully it was over email). My heart was pounding, and I’m sure my eyes were bulging out of my head. I backed down immediately. I let them have their plans. It just wasn’t worth it to fight, not when something as mild as suggesting compromise provoked this intense a response.
It may be easier to not defend our boundaries, but then we’re left with pain, frustration, and resentment, especially when we feel powerless to change the behavior.
“Bullies keep boundary-less people in line with anger,” says Biali, but adds that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem.
In their book Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend say:
Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn what their families of origin did not teach them: to respect other people.
Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just allow him to be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.
In other words: do not give your power away. Instead, stand firm and then just do nothing. And practice. “Get a support group (or person) to help you through this process, someone who can help you stand strong and maintain the boundary even when everything in you wants to crumble,” add Cloud and Townsend.
Help pass anti-workplace bullying legislation in Massachusetts before the summer, when the legislative session ends:
- Call Speaker DeLeo at 617-722-2500 or email him at Robert.DeLeo@mahouse.gov to ask him to make the Healthy Workplace Bill, H 1771, a priority.
- Email your State Rep (listed under House once you type in your address at this link) and ask him or her to support it and to convince the House leaders to make the bill a priority.
- Ask colleagues and friends to do the same.
We only have until this summer to pass this bill or we have to start over again next January. So the more people you can get to contact Speaker DeLeo and their State Reps, the sooner we can make workplace bullying illegal in Massachusetts.