They come in all shapes and sizes…

School is out and so my daughter is now off for the summer. This is also the time that she looks back over the past school year and how it went.

She doesn’t talk much about marks or the classes. She knows she was excellent in that front. Instead, one lazy afternoon, over a plate of paleo cookies and milk, she talked about how some of her classmates were trying to bully her and how she dealt with it.

Actually, this gave me pause since I knew she was going through a rough time with some kids ever since she told the principal that one of the kids (let’s call him JD) was saying nasty things and throwing things at another (let’s call him AD). AD was in tears but JD was on a roll and everyone just stood by laughing..that is until my daughter decided to call the principal to break it up. My daughter knew she could not handle JD on her own so she called someone who could.

The backlash for what she did was immediate.

Who she thought were her friends went up to her and asked why she called the principal over and got JD in trouble. They called her a “snitch”, that they would never trust her again, that she would never survive high school, that she was just trying to get attention, and that she is a teacher’s pet.

Whatever name she was called, my daughter stood her ground.  She asked her accusers what they would do if it was their sister or brother that was being bullied.  Would they just stand by?  Or what if they saw a murder happening, what would they just keep it to themselves?

Not sure how the battle of wills ended but as she was telling me this story, I could see the steely look of conviction in her eyes and it was then and there that I realized that my daughter is STRONG. Somehow, somewhere, she learned to stand strong for what she believes in.

….and then she said “I’m sure bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They are all around us and we just have to deal with them.”

Interesting.

I think I agree. I would think that bullies are not isolated to the playground…they could happen in the workplace as well.

The difficult part of workplace bullying may be recognizing that you are being bullied!

Let’s think about that for a minute….

Imagine this….

Your supervisors yells and accuses you of not doing your job, for leaving early, or showing up late and other insidious deeds you are apparently guilty of. Your supervisor’s angry voice is interspersed with profanities and for added effect, papers are thrown around on the desk.

You know the accusations are without merit and will not stand up in court in the event you are wrongfully dismissed.

Would this be workplace bullying?

Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

I guess if this has only happened once, then I would probably chalk it up to heat of the moment, a momentary lapse of judgement or maybe low blood sugar…

Now consider this….

What if….say, in addition to the above case and on a regular basis, the supervisor makes you feel stupid in public, says profanities to attendees during meetings, or talks about people behind their backs, or will give you work that sets you up for failure so you would leave, or coerces you to put favourable insights in employee satisfaction survey.

Would this be workplace bullying…? or just normal office politics gone crazy?

Whatever name you put on this, this supervisor is definitely not someone you want to work for.

Even if you wanted to report these incidences, I don’t believe there would be an appetite for such confrontation…especially when  you have bills to pay.

The sad part about workplace bullying is that the backlash would likely not be immediate but rather very slow and painful….and the stress of dealing with such a roller coaster at work will likely take a toll over your health, both mentally and physically.

I feel for those  who are unfortunate enough to be in this position since the feeling of hopelessness AND helplessness must seem insurmountable. Anxiety and depression may become constant companions much like unwanted visitors who have overstayed their welcome.

Fear is probably the main factor behind one’s inability to act in these circumstances….fear of losing one’s job, fear of not getting another job, fear of looking like a failure, fear of what people are going to say, fear of going out of one’s comfort zone, fear of the uncertainty and the unknown.

I must admit, that is a lot of fear to carry around inside your head.

So, what would you do?

My daughter’s way is face it head on and damn the consequences.  As for me, I am not sure how I would deal with bullying in the office (or anywhere for that matter!) but I certainly wish for all of her courage if and when I find myself in such a dire situation.

As she finished her milk and brushed away the crumbs,  I could not help but be proud that she is growing up to be an admirable young lady….

I also thought that maybe we should have more cookies with milk over this summer….

Debbie

 

 

 

 

 

The injustice of it all…

My daughter got an A on her school essay about Canadian history. However, instead of being happy with her mark, she felt that she did not deserve it and thought that compared to a fellow classmate’s piece, it was just an A- or just a solid B+.

“JD should have gotten a higher mark than me but Mr.S gave me a better mark because everyone thinks I am one of his favourite students.”

I have always known Mr.S to be a fair teacher and so I would not put a lot of weight on that reasoning.  He would have taken all the factors into consideration–the perspectives presented, the flow of the writing, the research gathered and conclusions reached. After reading the essay, I thought it was deserving of the A.

But, let’s step back for a minute.

What if…someone you did not perceive to deserve such accolades but due to favouritism, received more opportunities than others?

Not quite fair, is it?

This is of course assuming that your perspective is accurate that they do not deserve to be the favourite and the opportunities in question are truly opportunities that everyone would die for…

I recall a recent conversation with one of my closest friends from school …the promotion she was working hard for was given to a more junior person (let’s call him Junior) who always went for coffee with the boss, did not rock the boat and followed whatever was asked of him. Whatever his work ethic was, I did not know and my friend was not in the mood to tell me.

“I went to MIT and Wharton! Junior went to a small college in the US!”

“I had all these ideas and he had none!”

“He made all these mistakes that cost millions but no consequences!”

At any rate, the comparisons went on and on and all one sided. I don’t think she even spared a thought of how Junior must feel…perhaps he doesn’t really want to be the favoured one? I am not entirely sure if all of it were true or even relevant but at that time, it was not a good idea to interrupt her rant..

Sound familiar?

Last I heard from my dear friend, she quit and moved to a better job where she makes loads more money…and more importantly, where favoritism is not as crippling. She is happier and I’m extremely glad that all turned out fine for her.

Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario where it doesn’t impact yourself directly but you may have to take on more work to help the favoured one out?

Or how about when the favoured one has a protective shield and is immune to any consequences while the ordinary people have to watch out for their own backs?

I hear lots of these types of indignant stories….in the elevator, on the train to and from work, while waiting in line at Starbucks…and almost always involves the workplace.

So, what is one to do when faced with such injustice?

I personally think…do nothing.

It is what it is.

I think it is part of our human nature to indulge in favoritism and try as you might to change someone’s perspective about their favorite person, you cannot do anything until that person is ready to open their eyes to what is happening in front of them.

My daughter says “sounds like a defeatist attitude to me.”

Is it?

I don’t believe so. Doing nothing does not mean that I consider favoritism in the workplace to be okay. On the contrary. It does a great disservice to everyone in the team and no one wins. However, most of the time, one cannot do anything about it.

So, I accept that it is unfair but it is out of my control. Continue doing a good job and move on. Focus on something else more important outside of work and move on.

Of course, if it becomes intolerable, doing what my dear friend did would be the best course of action….leave a potentially toxic environment and hope that you find greener pastures.

In the perfect world, we would all be the favoured ones….but sadly, the world is not perfect.

Accept and move on.

Debbie.