A Bully Free Zone sign - School in Berea, OhioI’m looking forward to seeing the new movie Bully because I think it’s an important film.

I also think it will be a helpful reminder of what bullying is and isn’t.

Bullying is all about intimidation and power — and it can take various forms. I also think bullying is trendy. I recently had to tell one of my favorite readers that her boss — who is shitty human being and gives her extra work — isn’t a bully. She’s just a bad boss who is taking advantage of an employee. That’s capitalism. And coworkers who are cliquish and exclude you from major social activities at work aren’t bullies. They are bitches.

Sometimes we lack the right words to define our experiences. A former colleague of mine came to HR and accused a fellow employee of sexual harassment. She was sleeping with him, then stopped, then started up again, and then stopped. The dude was calling her repeatedly.

I asked, “Did you tell him to stop calling you?”

She said, “I don’t want to take his calls.”

Oh. How nice that you have an HR department to break-up with your boyfriend for you.

I said, “That’s not harassment. The guy is looking for closure. Give it to him. That’s not my job.”

I wish HR professionals were more comfortable saying, “Hey, Jane Employee. Shit is fucked up and bullshit. Deal with it on your own. Labeling your experience as ‘harassment’ is unfortunate and devalues all of the real experiences women have in the workforce. Get a spine.”

So back to bullying — there is a clear and succinct definition of bullying. Victims should be treated with compassion. Aggressors should be punished. But not everyone who is mean is a bully. People can be toxic and overbearing without being thugs.

If you’re going to use the word bully, I just ask that you honor the victims of bullying by using it properly.

And go see the movie. Take your kids. It’s important.

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