America recently experienced an odd skirmish in the culture war between the GLBT community and the traditional values crowd. Chick-Fil-A was the focal point of the conflict. Those who paid attention witnessed a fascinating spectrum of bullying behaviors.
- The LGBT community fabricated a crisis.
- The Mayors of Chicago, Boston, and D.C. attacked Chick-Fil-A to score political points.
- Roseanne Bar graciously tweeted “anyone who eats S— Fil-A deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating antibiotic filled tortured chickens 4Christ.”
- The “kiss-in” was a bullying event designed to inflict business losses on Chick-Fil-A.
It really does not matter if we are talking about a playground, the workplace, or a social movement, bullies are easy to identify. They may be individual tormentors or a mob. Yet, the principles are the same (as you will see below). Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as follows:
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
Eliminate the line: “among school aged children,” and I would bet that you have worked with a bully at one time or another. Let’s look at that list again:
- Unwanted, aggressive behavior
- Real or perceived power imbalance.
- Repeated or potentially repeated attacks
- Making threats
- Spreading rumors
- Attacking someone verbally
- Intentionally excluding someone from a group
Now that we know what bullying is, how does one beat a bully? We have three options.
- Hit back
- Forgive them
- Let them beat themselves
Hit the Bully Back.
The first school of thought is championed by Donald Trump, who writes, “When you hit a bully back, they always fold. I learned it in high school, you’ve got to hit a bully really strongly, right between the eyes.” (Trump, 2007, p. 190)
Taking Trump’s advice, those who embrace traditional marriage might decide to march on Ben and Jerry’s locations. But like most people, when I don’t like a social cause, I simply choose not to patronize the businesses that support it. I may go as far as telling someone that Ben and Jerry’s is fattening, but I do not drive to Vermont with a Bible and a bullhorn. Besides, I have to be home for dinner. After all, I have kids to raise.
There were many displays of bad behavior last week including cursing, obnoxious exhibitions, and vandalism. However, first prize for last week’s bullying behavior goes to Adam Smith [Not the cool Adam Smith who developed classical economics and moved us away from the idea that “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” toward the idea that:
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them out of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chuses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens. Even a beggar does not depend upon it entirely.(Wealth of Nations Book I.2.2) But I digress.
Our hero, the other Adam Smith, decided that would take too much effort to drive to Chick-Fil-A corporate headquarters to confront his nemesis, Dan Cathy.
Instead, with righteous indignation, he drove to his local Chick-Fil-A, ordered a free water and berated the cashier (You simply have to see this video to believe it). The next day, the Blaze carried the headline: COLLEGE LECTURER BERATES LOCAL CHICK-FIL-A EMPLOYEE AT THE DRIVE-THRU: ‘HORRIBLE CORPORATION’ Writing: “We offer the re-posted video for your viewing pleasure.”
Maybe we should march on Ben and Jerry’s after all. And they’ll know we are Christians by our ….love? (John 13:35). Perhaps there is a better way.
During the verbal abuse that Smith inflicted, Rachel (the cashier) was unfailingly polite. Her demeanor provided a sharp contrast to Mr. Smith’s bullying behavior. Why was she so polite? In her own words, she said “I’m Christian and God tells us to love thy neighbor.” In an August 7 interview on FoxNews, she publically forgave him. Editor’s Note: This is the proper place for the: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love” reference (John 13:35).
What happened during the “kiss-in” protest on Friday? Intimidating behavior was met by Chick-Fil-A staff who served water and mints in a number of locations. It is hard to be angry with someone who returns your anger with love. It is even harder to play the victim when the villains serve you water and mints.
Let them beat themselves.
When social bullies picked on Chick-Fil-A, the restaurant had its best single day ever as millions of average Americans went out of their way to defend cherished values.
What about Adam Smith?
We only know about this incident because Smith decided to tape his exploits. Apparently, he thought this was a good idea and that he would be some kind of champion for the movement—the king of the bullies. Proud of the tongue-lashing he gave to his unsuspecting victim, he promptly uploaded it to You-Tube. It was picked up by the news, and the next day he was fired from the Tucson-based medical manufacturing company where he was the Chief Financial Officer. He was also an occasional adjunct professor at Eller College (but his faculty page has been removed).
Why was he fired? I can only speculate, but my guess is that Rachel was not the first to feel Smith’s wrath. People are consistent. The bully at work will be a bully at home or on the playground. If he was treating the cashier like this, just imagine what it would be like to work for him the quarter that you did not make your numbers. As I thought about this, I wondered whether this might have been just the opportunity the CEO needed to give his staff some peace. In the end, bullies don’t do well.
You can punch a bully harder, but that will only cause him to leave you alone. Or, you can forgive him and perhaps cause an existential crisis. If that does not work, just wait. Bullies tend to self-destruct.
August 8, 2012
Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University