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Is sarcasm a form of bullying?

Titfield

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Moderator note: split from https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/appalling-treatment-by-south-western-railway.223041/

I note with some disappointment that the consensus of opinion is that sarcasm is not a form of bullying.

To those who believe that sarcasm is acceptable behaviour I ask them to consider a scenario.

Your son or daughter in their early 20s works in a customer facing industry and is subject to sarcastic comments in the course of their work either in person or through phone calls. emails, social media postings or in letter form.

How would you react if someone walked up them and said to them "cant you read you jumped up arrogant little self important pip squeak"?

I find it hard to believe that you would subsequently say to your son or daughter that it is perfectly acceptable for them to be treated in such a way.
 
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AlterEgo

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I note with some disappointment that the consensus of opinion is that sarcasm is not a form of bullying.

To those who believe that sarcasm is acceptable behaviour I ask them to consider a scenario.

Your son or daughter in their early 20s works in a customer facing industry and is subject to sarcastic comments in the course of their work either in person or through phone calls. emails, social media postings or in letter form.

How would you react if someone walked up them and said to them "cant you read you jumped up arrogant little self important pip squeak"?

I find it hard to believe that you would subsequently say to your son or daughter that it is perfectly acceptable for them to be treated in such a way.
It very much depends on the context. Reading sarcastic emails like “could you please acquire the necessary literary skills to read my complaint properly” about a colleague isn’t bullying. It’s eye-rolling, perhaps, but it’s also par for the course if you work in customer service. And yes, I’ve been at the sharpest end of that, managing TOC Twitter accounts. People are sarcastic and mean all the time. You eventually learn to roll with it.

Claiming that something is “sarcastic thus bullying” implying that sarcasm is always bullying, minimises what bullying actually is.

Outright abuse, like calling someone directly a “jumped up arrogant little self important pip squeak” is certainly way beyond the line and a whole different kettle of fish. If someone called me that to my face on a gate line I’d be asking for the BTP, and if it was in a letter or phone call I would be playing them strictly by the book with a note on file about the abuse.
 

Haywain

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"cant you read you jumped up arrogant little self important pip squeak"?
I don't disagree with your general comment, but there is no way that is sarcasm - it is an insult, pure and simple.
 

AlterEgo

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That's being rude and insulting.
Yes, I would tend to view that as absolutely unacceptable too.

To me, bullying involves an abusive power dynamic and the requirement for one party to be vulnerable to that, not merely the presence of abuse.
 

Horizon22

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I certainly hope not as I consider myself highly sarcastic (which I will say DOES NOT come out well in text only)! The example you gave is just being insulting.
 

Deafdoggie

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Sarcasm is par for the course in a day in the life of customer service. I've had far worse! People are annoyed they want things sorted out everyone else hasn't helped. Whilst no excuse, they rarely, if ever, mean it personally. Even if it's aimed personally. The key is simply to respond calmly along the lines of "I understand you're upset and annoyed. I'm here to help you & to sort out the problem, so calmly tell me what the main issue is and we will go from there." If you just get into an argument about them bullying you it can only go downhill, get out of the argument and solve the problem they'll soon be singing your praises.
 

Islineclear3_1

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The example quoted in the opening post is not sarcasm; it is disrespectful, rude and a form of verbal aggression. If comments like this were made regularly, then yes, that could fall under the auspices of bullying and harassment. The passive-aggressive managers often use sarcasm to disguise more sinister intentions

I agree it depends on context but it also depends on who is delivering the sarcasm and who is receiving it at the time. I consider myself fairly tough due to working at the sharp end for the best part of my life but many aren't as tough or resilient and would construe sarcasm as a form of bullying

It depends....
 

LOL The Irony

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I note with some disappointment that the consensus of opinion is that sarcasm is not a form of bullying.
To me, bullying is a constant campaign aimed at someone. Calling someone an idiot because they're being, well, a bit of an idiot is not bullying. Constantly calling someone an idiot in a demeaning is bullying.
That's being rude and insulting.
Correct.
 

Ianno87

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To me, bullying is a constant campaign aimed at someone. Calling someone an idiot because they're being, well, a bit of an idiot is not bullying. Constantly calling someone an idiot in a demeaning is bullying.
.

No, you can easily point out somebody's error without calling them an idiot.
 

LOL The Irony

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No, you can easily point out somebody's error without calling them an idiot.
If calling someone an idiot is bullying, then every single member of this forum is a bully. I'm sorry, but calling someone an idiot = bullying is daft. Yes there may be better ways of pointing out someone's error, but if you can't handle being called an idiot once in a blue moon, never leave the house.
 

dakta

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Sarcasm can be a component of bullying if used tactically against someone who would perceive it as such, but it isn't in itself bullying and can range from playful, funny to annoying.

What was posted in the original post doesn't really endear as sarcasm to me and is just a nasty comment and doesn't really weigh in much on the debate.
 

Ianno87

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If calling someone an idiot is bullying, then every single member of this forum is a bully. I'm sorry, but calling someone an idiot = bullying is daft. Yes there may be better ways of pointing out someone's error, but if you can't handle being called an idiot once in a blue moon, never leave the house.

If you insist on calling people an idiot instead of using a more constructive approach, then the problem is very much with you.
 

GB

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No, you can easily point out somebody's error without calling them an idiot.

No where has he said otherwise. This is about whether sarcasm is bullying, not if there are better ways to address issues.
 

DynamicSpirit

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If calling someone an idiot is bullying, then every single member of this forum is a bully. I'm sorry, but calling someone an idiot = bullying is daft. Yes there may be better ways of pointing out someone's error, but if you can't handle being called an idiot once in a blue moon, never leave the house.

I think more correctly, calling someone an idiot might be bullying, dependant on the context and your intention, body language and tone of voice. If done in a playful way with someone with whom you've built some rapport, then it's a joke and almost no-one would see it as bullying. On the other hand, if you were saying it in a threatening way, it might be very reasonable to consider it bullying. On the Internet and in text messages, you obviously have to be more careful because there's no tone of voice and it might well not be understood the way you intended.
 

najaB

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I note with some disappointment that the consensus of opinion is that sarcasm is not a form of bullying.
No single act is bullying. A single sarcastic email/comment isn't bullying, calling someone a name to their face once isn't bullying. Even hitting someone once isn't bullying.

As per Wikipedia:
Bullying is a subcategory of aggressive behavior characterized by the following three criteria: (1) hostile intent, (2) imbalance of power, and (3) repetition over a period of time.
So repeated sarcastic comments may be part of a bullying campaign but, taken in isolation, sarcasm is not.
 

gg1

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As per Wikipedia:

Bullying is a subcategory of aggressive behavior characterized by the following three criteria: (1) hostile intent, (2) imbalance of power, and (3) repetition over a period of time.
I don't agree with the second part of that wikipedia definition.

It's perfectly possible to be bullied by someone who isn't in a position of power or authority over you, for example a work colleague of the same level or even junior to you.
 

najaB

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I don't agree with the second part of that wikipedia definition.

It's perfectly possible to be bullied by someone who isn't in a position of power or authority over you, for example a work colleague of the same level or even junior to you.
I think they mean a perceived imbalance of power. If the person didn't have 'something' over you then you'd just tell them to stop it. In the case of a work colleague they might be junior to you in the hierarchy but be best friends with the boss.
 

ComUtoR

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If the person didn't have 'something' over you then you'd just tell them to stop it.

Bullying doesn't require something over someone. Bullying can be physical or even psychological. Online bullying can be anonymous.
 

Taunton

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In the new Woke World it appears that "I'm being bullied" is a get Out Of Jail card for people who have been incompetent to use as a diversion when their lack of ability comes to the attention of management.
 

najaB

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Bullying doesn't require something over someone. Bullying can be physical or even psychological. Online bullying can be anonymous.
One of the key facets of being bullied is a (possibly perceived) inability to get the other party to stop the hurtful conduct/language. With in-person bullying that is typically due to the person doing the bullying having something over the person - be it physical size/strength, a superior position in a hierarchical work/social structure, or through possessing information that the bullied party wouldn't want revealed.

If one or more of those factors wasn't present then the bullied person would either tell the bully to stop or report them to someone who could make them stop. If someone believes that they have the power to stop it but takes no action to do so then, sorry, they're not being bullied!

The anonymity that comes with online bullying allows the bullies to amplify their attack, usually by implying that there are more people involved ("We're all talking about it...") or the victim finds/feels there is no point reporting it because they don't know who the perpetrator is.
 

scotrail158713

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In the new Woke World it appears that "I'm being bullied" is a get Out Of Jail card for people who have been incompetent to use as a diversion when their lack of ability comes to the attention of management.
I was just about to come on here to post that it was impressive that the word "woke" hadn't been mentioned yet :)

I'd agree with previous posters that context is key, as it is with many comments in life.
 

Taunton

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Indeed the context is key.

I recall when Ed Balls was Minister for Education some years ago, he attended a conference on bullying in schools. His opening words in his speech : "There's not a lot to be learned about bullying by someone who was at school with the name of Balls".

I also noticed when Iain Duncan-Smith was physically duffed up in the street in Manchester last week, he just brushed it off with "I don't need to comment". Now politicians above all are subject to constant virulent personal attacks, often by well-educated opposing politicians. But we seem to accept this, none say they are being bullied - unless it's for some political advantage.
 

GusB

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In the new Woke World it appears that "I'm being bullied" is a get Out Of Jail card for people who have been incompetent to use as a diversion when their lack of ability comes to the attention of management.

Or perhaps it's genuinely being used because they're being made to look incompetent by someone in management who has it in for them, even though the person is perfectly capable of doing their job well under normal circumstances.
 

341o2

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Saying someone is behaving stupidly is different to saying someone is stupid.
Bullying is not something done in the heat of the moment, but a sustained personal attack on another over a period of time

To quote the first post

"Can't you read?" is sarcasm
"You etc pipsqueak" is just insulting, and if repeated is bullying
 
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Busaholic

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''Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence'' wrote the great wit, Oscar Wilde, who was certainly made to suffer for it. As others have stated, examples stated in this thread are just insulting and full of abuse, thus containing no wit whatsoever, and the perpetrators of such are usually dimwits themselves. I'd say the person whose only form of wit is sarcasm is best avoided. My classmates and I had to endure a particularly obnoxious new young teacher trying to make a name for himself whom I truly loathed (the feeling was mutual!) and I also worked in a small office for a few months with someone who, though superficially quite bright, seemed only to be able to express it by subtly snide comments, about everybody admittedly, but he had no-one to go to lunch with!

Yes, that teacher was a bully, and continued to be so apparently: about twenty years later I happened to get chatting to someone on a dog walk who'd recently left the same school, in which he was now Deputy Headmaster. I was fascinated to hear that the 'story' of how/why he had always been obnoxious was blamed on losing a young wife and child in a car accident just before he commenced teaching, which I knew to be palpably untrue and he'd remained cantankerous and unloved ever since. I soon scotched that one! His unloveability was completely down to his personality.
 

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