Do Bully Bosses employ Apprentice Thugs*? *Yes It was my assumption that bullies always operate with a gang of thugs. I posed this to the group, who offered several other scenarios as to what actually happens and how bullies create in-groups and out-groups.

Thesis: bully bosses employ apprentice thugs.

Antithesis: no, bullies employ yes men. The yes men then learn to act as behaviour as it is seen to get the bullies what they want. Also, it was noted that bullying was not only a successful tactic but a rewarded one. Audiences, being unaware of processes, still applaud and still give money to the Box Office for those productions which have been run by bullies. Why, then, should a bully change tactics? This problem is exasperated by the yes men, who enforce antisocial behaviours and mimic them.

The term ‘employ’ was also highlighted as being problematic. It is not that bullies are necessarily high up the organisational tree, and therefore do not have the power to employ inferiors. They do, however, have the ability to find out those people who are most likely to bend to their will and work exclusively with them. This creates an in-group or clique. From this position the bully may assert her or his will further than if she or he acted alone.

One way to do this is by the creation of an out-group, and by identifying ‘enemies’ within an organisation against whom the in-group must both defend themselves and be aggressors against. It was explained by one member of the group how this had happened across a large organisation in order to manipulate a team to working fiercely in opposition against another team.

It was mooted that the need for yes men reflects an insecurity in the bully’s abilities to make decisions or lack of faith in her or his own talent. It was asked if this is more prevalent in the arts than other industries. This led to a conversation about popularity, and how theatre is either an act for others (ie for someone’s enjoyment) or an act for one’s self. Is there a clear divide between those people who make theatre to please and those who make it to be popular? The conversation then led on to upward bullying, with an example being given of an AD being bullied by an administrative officer. Can any of us realistically expect to work in an environment where there is a complete absence of nastiness? Seemingly yes. A couple of examples came to light of venues and directors who established a clear code of decency when employees joined or at the beginning of the rehearsal period. An important factor here is the self-identification of the party as the in-group and acknowledging that this may accidentally cause an out-group. Awareness is, as always, very important.

One member of the group voiced the concern that those members of an organisation who had the 9-5 office roles were treated as being emotionless by the more artistic members of a venue due to ignorance. On this matter, the discussion moved to the problem of how much actors and performers are asked to bare or reveal parts of their actual emotional selves in order to create a piece. This emotional outlet can be abused by people in the right mind, and bullies within the arts do not seem to be afraid to address personal matters in their victims which would be entirely inappropriate in other industries.

Synthesis: it is not the case that bullies employ thugs, but rather turn those who are willing to be turned into replicas in miniature of their own bully selves. There is not necessarily a solution to this, but the matter may be cleared by either removing the reward from the behaviour or by establishing a self-aware policy of decency.