Is my team member a bully?

I’m writing this anonymously but I’m sure mine isn’t the only team with this type of issue. One of the other members wants to be the driver. (Doesn’t everyone? ) This team member has a short temper and I’m afraid it will negatively affect the rest of the drive team. No one on the team is willing to compete against him for the position. He is actually well liked by the majority of the team, but I think even the people that like him are intimidated by him. He tends to be very negative and gives people negative comments all the time, and talks about how mad he will be if for some reason he’s not made driver. I think he will try to get everyone else upset about it too, he really is well liked and I think he would succeed and a lot of the students are upset with the mentors for other reasons already. The mentors say they can’t take him off of the team because he’s the only one who is competing for the position. I know many of the other students want the position, but they refuse to compete against him. I’m not looking for the position myself, I’m just trying to see whay can be done to diffuse the situation.
My questions are this: Do you think this is bullying? No one would say they feel bullied. Does that make a difference? What can we do to improve the situation? I know everyone wants to drive and egos have a way of creeping in but, is there a way we can prevent this from getting to this point in the future? We are a community team so we have no school to get involved, is there anyone you can think of we might go to for help? The mentors are afraid of student revolt of they don’t give him the position. I know I’m not the only one that feels this way, but everyone else just wants to not say anything and just let him be driver. Should I do the same? He’s not a bad guy, I just don’t think he’s best for this position.
Thanks for listening, and thanks for any advice you can give.

I think the best place to start is to talk to your member. Ask him if he can and be more eh positive and be nice to any others who compete for the spot, and see what he thinks in order rock make further decisions.

That would be a description of someone very similar to myself in temperament.

If this person is anything like I am, I think Clayton’s suggestion is the best one. It’s likely that they don’t realize the effect they’re having on the team. A discussion of this sort may be best done with a mentor around.

I’ve had to take a few “wake-up calls” in my time. It’s a process to go from where the person is to where they need to be, personally, and I know I’m not quite where I should be yet. I’m reluctant to give any more advice, other than this:

Remind all team members (ALL of them) of rule C02 prior to competition, and prior to drive team selection. This is the “civility rule”. The ramifications of repeated (noticed) violations could range up to yellow and red cards, so that’s something to be cautious with.

Is it too late to implement a driver selection metric? Here is a template of one we use:

Have your leadership help with filling out the matrix. Typically what I have found is that the bad apples weed themselves out using a decision matrix, instead of a popularity contest on the team or those that have “loud mouths”. There is a process to get to this point however.

Communicate with the team exactly how drivers will be selected. Be upfront with everyone on the team, and make it open and inviting.

The first step is that students need to apply for a position. Like a job application. I use JotForm to make all the students apply for a position.
Here is a link to our application process, where it all started:

Next all students have to pass a written driver test. Here is an example of a written driver test:

And finally, we have some drive practices where our team leadership gives them a rating if they should be selected. You can come up with something else, but on our team, our leadership consists of 6 mentors and 6 students. So each of them rate each driver in the Strat-X column.

Finally, all the data is collected and put into the matrix and typically that is a pretty good indication of who on your team should be picked as your drive team, because all the characteristic that you need to look for in a person, should be listed on your decision matrix. Hope that helps. You need those people to have a good attitude, be good representatives of your team, and also have some fun.

It sounds as though you are describing a false harmony. People may disagree, but no one wants to make a fuss. One of the biggest issues with false harmony is that it can build up resentment and animosity in members towards other members, without anyone else knowing, until it all boils over in unrelated and unimportant issues that could be normally solved easily.
In my opinion, the best way to address this is to do so directly, honestly, and with someone you mutually trust to mediate (this could be a mentor, or someone else you both trust). You
don’t want this to be a confrontation (meaning you don’t want to be a bully back), you want to have a fair and objective discussion about what is best for the team. And you want to do this soon.

You could put it to a vote. Cast a secret ballot, go from there. This won’t really fix your problem though, only push it back until the next disagreement, unless it is paired with a open discussion.

If you have access to a good school counselor, I would suggest dropping by. Even though it isn’t a school team, he or she may have advise on how to deal with these complicated team dynamics. Or talk to a parent. This is an issue most people have dealt with before.

If you address the situation head on, you want to be fair and not let emotions and passions get in the way of a respectful and honest discussion. This is an obstacle almost every team faces, and not just robotics. Working in groups in high school to college to the real world face similar situations. It can be an opportunity to grow as a team, although it may not look like one.

There are tons of resources online, if you have the time. This is a fairly common, but nevertheless difficult problem, and there are people out there who will do a much better job then me of giving advise.

Watch these videos.

Then decide if sharing them with your mentors and your fellow students might be helpful. Driver Qualities Drive Coach Qualities Selecting a drive team

I have never heard that term before. After researching it, it sounds like that describes our situation perfectly. And not just with this one student. It seams like everyone doesn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings so badly (and we really don’t) that they let their own resentment build up and they end up just complaining about it behind the back of the person that they really should talk to.
I know several people have talked to the “driver” student in the past. Both mentors and students have talked to him. (He’s a senior) He seems to try and work on it, but it’s when emotions run high and he’s not thinking that it’s at it’s worst, of course. I think we will continue to try and talk openly and calmly when we’re not directly in the situation, but with the idea of “false harmony” maybe we need to change the words we use to talk about it. Definitely something to study up on and bring up with mentors.

Thanks for all the encouraging words and for the drive team metrics. I think we should be able to develop a more clear plan in the future for choosing our drive team. I think that would help a lot.

If anyone else has more suggestions, I would appreciate all of them. I’m glad to have the input of a great community like this to think of things I never considered and help me out with situations like this. I really didn’t want to think of him as a bully (or call him one either for fear of reputation with all the recent issues) It’s nice to have a more precise description and a much better way of dealing with it I think. It gives me a bit more hope that with a little more work (in the right direction) we can make things better for everyone on the team.

My team did not do anything except get angry at the kid which did not work. It ended up getting so bad that one of my mentors yelled at the top of his lungs at him and which by the way, that mentor is the sweetest, kindest person ever. Think of the kindest person you know and multiply that by 10. I doubt he would yell if 2 kids got in a fist fight but the student had been rude and inconsiderate for so long that he just couldn’t take it. I suggest a calm intervention of some kind. The student was also well liked despite his behavior. I hated him because he was always so rude to me. I knew he never meant to be rude, it is just who he is and how he is but it still isn’t ok. He just had trouble being nice, i guess. I fortunatly know a decent bit of physchology because I study it in my free time. Some people are rude but do not intend to be. Sometimes they try to be funny but end up accidentally being rude. My mom said she was leaving during a meet to do laundry and then my mentor tried to joke by saying “I have been here weeks, I haven’t been able to do laundry!” He tried to joke as I could tell by looking at his face when my mom started getting angry. So just because they are rude does not mean they mean to be rude which is why interventions work. Someone who intends to be rude will not listen during an intervention but since most people do not intend to be rude, interventions work.:smiley:

Bullying? I guess I’m not sure. Depends on how exactly you want to define what a “bully” is.

Is the student creating an imbalance of power that degrades the ability of the team to act as a team? Seems like it at least.

In general, many people will have “strong” personalities. This is an asset which can be leveraged, but can also be damaging if unchecked. Leadership is required to channel these behaviors positively.

This leadership may come from mentors, other students, or occasionally from within the individual themselves.

The best I can think of - the leadership of the team needs to establish a consensus on how the team wants to do driver selection. Ensure everyone gets an appropriate say in the discussion. This is where individual leaders are needed to direct this discussion, and record its results.

Perhaps the answer of the team is “we choose our driveteam to avoid internal conflict”. I believe this is an objectively poor way to select a drive team, and will not lead to top performance. But, what I believe is not very important here - it’s how your team wants collectively to decide this.

Once you have a team-based answer for how drivers are selected, you can have leaders individually address behaviors like what you described. The behaviors can be compared/contrasted with established team standards. Behaviors which do not align should be corrected, or some level of punishment should be expected.

Discipline options are a bit more limited on a community team. We have ours laid out in a handbook that all students & parents sign. Intermediate levels involve temporary suspensions, warnings, parent discussions, etc. For us, the top level is basically “Never come back”. It’s a sucky way to end things since I’m not sure how much it can truly teach an individual, but at least it gives the team the “out” to remove extremely harmful members.

Be careful to look at how your own personal bias may color your opinions. You say “No one on the team is willing to compete against him” and then follow it with “He is actually well liked by the majority of the team”, but then try to walk that back with " I think even the people that like him are intimidated by him". All of this, to me, sounds like mixed messaging. If everyone likes him, maybe many of them think he’s the best person for the job. I know, it shouldn’t be a popularity contest, but all to often it can be.

You say he “talks about how mad he will be if for some reason he’s not made driver”… well, I’ve spent the past 5 weeks talking about how mad I’d be if we didn’t finish the robot by the end of week 5 (And here we are in week 6 and we aren’t done!). Does that make me a bully?

In reality, I don’t think this is about bullying. It sounds to me like it’s more an issue of communication. Open and honest communication with your team leadership is what’s needed. All anyone on here has to go on is a 2 paragraph description from someone who is, most likely, biased. None of us have experience with your team or the individual involved, so it’s pretty much impossible for anyone here to give you any advice other than “talk with your team leadership”. Sure, we can talk about the qualities needed for the drive team, how we go about selecting our drive teams… but that’s not the answer you’re looking for. Even if you got 1000 CD users to come on here and say “we would never select a driver with a temper”, it won’t help you at all. Open communication is the only way to find the best solution for your team. And I think you need to go into the discussion willing to be persuaded, not adamant that it has to be someone else. Otherwise it’s not a discussion, it’s a fight. And those don’t help anything.

  1. You and a mentor might try to talk to the student about the “negativity” being a necessity at certain times, like being a Devil’s Advocate, but other times being a hindrance to getting things accomplished. If you approach it this way, it might be less likely to upset the student.

  2. If a lot of students want to be drivers, then set up a “back-up” drive team. If you are attending more than one competition, you can let the student choose whether to be the driver at the first competition or another. The back-up drive team gets to do the other competition. Be sure that you explain this is not about him not being the driver, but allowing others to try.

  3. Make sure you do NOT make this about him and his behaviors. If you talk to him, let him know that YOU are the one that has issues and it would help you greatly if he could do X, Y, and Z. This prevents him from getting defensive.

  4. Is it bullying? Not if the team is silently allowing it to happen.

My two cents…
" and talks about how mad he will be if for some reason he’s not made driver"
If that’s an accurate representation of how he handles a failure state, being a driver might not be the best choice.

However I just want to hit on what I have noticed in your post.
“I know many of the other students want the position, but they refuse to compete against him.”
“The mentors say they can’t take him off of the team because he’s the only one who is competing for the position.”
Those two quotes indicate that there is a disconnect between students and mentors. On top of that you said the following…
“The mentors are afraid of student revolt of they don’t give him the position”
as well as
“a lot of the students are upset with the mentors for other reasons already.”

It kinda sounds like you guys don’t have the healthiest culture going on, and that the issue you want to address is just a symptom of a greater problem.
No offense.

I have been to many FIRST events in the Northeast events as both a spectator & FIRST volunteer on the field I have in the past approached team members of situation similar to this. Sometimes it takes someone away from the team to make that member realize what they are doing. If I have to speak to an individual about their attitude/temper I will report them to FIRST officials who will take the proper action, including disqualifying them in the match. There is no place in these competitions for angry people. There are ways to work around this & learn from it.

This person reminds me of myself on a bad day, and am sending sympathy to you. The best thing I can tell you is to let the person mature, I know that it’s annoying. Last year I was a total punk to many people and brought down the team with my negativity sometimes. But a year has passed and I have matured drastically, and this temperament shows itself rarely, just as everyone does.

For now (presuming that this person is similar to me), outright beat them, show them that they aren’t the best by proving them wrong. Only then will he/she realize their failures and will be forced to confront them. Good luck!

Also, I think do not think this person is a bully, and that he/she is showing self doubt. A bully will intentionally go out of its way to harm someone(s), and will fixate on getting a reaction from them. This situation does not scream bullying but I am not there. Like everyone else, if this person is driving you insane: mentors are here for a reason, use them