Donato J. Tramuto
September 30, 2020


Last night’s debate was a painful reminder of how systemic bullying, like systemic racism, is dividing our country. For too long we have overlooked the verbal attacks from others categorizing them simply as a “style” issue while ignoring the significant emotional harm done to someone who is being bullied. By allowing the persistent mistreatment of another person or not calling out the verbal or nonverbal attacks from someone, we are condoning behaviors that have the potential for long lasting damage. 60 million Americans have classified themselves as having been bullied at the workplace. From my experience, any kind of systemic bullying will undoubtedly find its origin in fractured leadership within the organization itself whether it be the workplace or political institutions. Additionally, aged old biases brought into the workplace or into a conversation perpetuated over many years and ignored by many in authority contributes immensely to systemic bullying. I can no longer sit back and remain silent! The Dalai Lama once said: “The only way you can truly understand one’s pain is for you to experience the suffering being endured by that individual.” With that in mind and regardless of your political affiliation, last night’s debate heightened the long term generational divide and enduring nightmare of the mental, emotional, and physical pain that come from tactics like verbal assaults, humiliation, not listening to the other person, embracing diversity and the list goes on. I remember many years ago the painful moment endured by me when trying to explain the rationale behind paying bonuses to employees at the HealthCare Company where I was serving as a Divisional CEO. To my utter shock, my plea was met with the following answer by my supervisor: “Donato, you only feel that way because your Catholic, Italian, and gay”. Admittedly speaking, there is no denying my individual persona included all three descriptive words used by this senior executive, however, I also had the right to have my dignity as a human being embraced and accepted and the insults communicated to me in the presence of many others was simply unacceptable.

As we witnessed last night, bullying can be covert or overt and it may be missed by many observing it even though it may be known by many. Negative effects are not limited to the targeted individuals and the scars are unfortunately not left at the steps of the office building and rather they are carried into the homes where further turmoil occurs leading to loneliness within one’s own family environment.

According to experts, bullying means harassing, offending, socially excluding someone or negatively affecting someone’s confidence and self-esteem. Unfortunately, it is not just in the workplace that this definition applies and anyone who witnessed last night’s debate performance had a front row seat to the bullying in full play.

My home – my workplace – my conversations have no room for bullying and neither should the highest office in our land endorse such behavior especially at a time when we need compassion and kindness in a country – a world – that has suffered so much in the last 6 months. I accept and endorse that each political candidate must be provided the platform to convey their point of view and at the same time the American people deserve the right to hear the candidate’s thoughts, ideas, long term strategies and allow for healthy and robust debate affording the observer the opportunity to review the facts and then make an informed decision. Unfortunately, and what we watched last night did not provide that forum and rather bullying was amplified and further confirmed, in my opinion, the need to add systemic bullying to the growing list of what needs to change in America.

To our children and young adults watching the debate last night and wondering whether bullying is the right prescription to success, it is not! I am here to remind you that bullying accomplishes only one outcome and that is: it leads to a “versation” and not a conversation the latter which is sorely needed to solve many of the thorniest problems we now face in our country and our world.
In closing, we need herd immunity and perhaps even more – we need herd compassion and herd kindness. 

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