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

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving early….

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My best friend at work resigned today. After months and months of “should I or shouldn’t I?”, she finally said “I’m done here.”  She has lupus, an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. While she has not had a flare-up in months, she realized that her health was more important and that she would rather focus on her art full time.   So, good-bye stress and office politics!

I have known her for almost 15 years and I knew that this decision to leave did not come easy.  Lots of sleepless nights and doubts about whether she can finally make the leap to the art world full time.  There were good days and not-so-good days but lately, it may have been more of the not-so-good days.

When I did ask her what finally pushed her to make the decision, it was not that she had shrewdly played the stock market and she was financially secure in her decision to quit, but more of avoiding the stress of quarter-ends (which always made her lupus flare up) and that she was at her happiest when she was making art (encaustic paintings). “Life is too short.  Do something that makes you happy”, she said.

Retire at 45, what a grand concept!

Like a good accountant, she had crunched the numbers and did her risk analysis, quantitatively and qualitatively, leaving no thought unturned between her left brain and right brain.

If I were in her brain, I think this conversation would have happened:

Left brain:   “Am I nuts?  No steady flow of income? What if I live to be a hundred–am I going to have enough money? What about the social interaction–won’t I  be missing that?  I will miss the office and friends–networking will be more difficult”.

Right brain:  “Right on!  Now I can be the best that I can be! If necessary, I can just live off dreams of apple blossoms and rays of sunshine…that would look pretty, yes?”

Left Brain:  “Apple blossoms and daydreams? If it has a dollar sign in front of it, sure!”

Right Brain:  “Art makes me happy….now I can do more…and sell more.”

Left Brain:  “How about day to day expenses?  Medical insurance? Dental care? Trust fund for Sunny?  He is only 11 years old but he may want to go to university? It will be expensive.”

Right brain:   “That is taken care of–took that into consideration when you crunched the numbers, remember?”

Left Brain: “What if….?”

Right brain:  “So ‘what if’…?”

Left Brain:  “I’M SCARED.”

Right brain:   “It will be alright.  If we don’t do this now, we will regret it forever…”

At some point, the left and right would have finally agreed and taken the right course of action:  to be happy.

I must admit, I am a little envious of my best friend having the courage to walk away from a well-paying job and step into a world of uncertainty.  I wish her all the best and knowing her, I am absolutely sure she will do well in her new adventure.

As for those of us left behind, the ripple of her leaving is already being felt in all parts of the team.  She will be sorely missed.  However, most of the topics of conversations around the water cooler were ” Retirement at 45 is possible?! Really?” and  “What makes me happy?  I should really plan for it..and plan well.”

So, the question that you should ask yourself “If I were on my death bed, would I wish that I had spent more time in the office….or more time dreaming about apple blossoms and rays of sunshine?”

Hmmmm….No regrets.

Debbie.