Thursday, July 25, 2013

Evolution of a Work Place Bully

So while bullying may start in childhood, the behaviors follow people throughout their adulthood too.  Especially if they've been rewarded early on as signs of strength, ability to influence and individuality.

Fast forward to being a grown up, and holding down jobs, and the bullying culture is ever more present.  It evolves from hair pulling and name calling.  It gets so much dirtier.  So much more tainted and passive aggressive.  I'm beginning to think the use of social media in bullying for teens is going to make this even more impossible to overcome when in adulthood, they've already honed the passive aggressive mob approach to bullying.  It scares me.  It really does.

My own experience with grown up bullies hasn't been a happy one.  I'm a strong and intelligent person, and as I've recounted before, I've always been the one to stand up and put a stop to bullies.  But at the same time, I've been brought to my most vulnerable by 2 major factors of adulthood:  Becoming a parent and dealing with a workplace bully.

See, on the playground, the only real difference between a bully and his or her prey, is age, size, and whatever social/physical quirks are visible.  It's very much a visual connection that drives a bullying situation to open up and take root.

At work, it's beyond the visible.  It's about inferiority of the mind, inferiority of public persuasion and political influence.  They say preschool is a dog eat dog kind of world.  But the workplace is as cannibalistic as it comes without being you know, a real cannibal.

If someone perceives you to have different methods, ideals or communication're a potential target.  If that person holds a position of authority, they have the added bonus of the big stick, without having to work hard to use it.  If that person has direct authority over you, they have the big stick, they use it, and it takes an awful lot to get them to put it down.  OH, and the whole time you're being bullied at the office, the one thing they can take away from you, means almost more than any amount of pride stinging or self esteem bashing they could have done as children.  They stand between you and your livelihood.  They stand between you and putting food on the table for your children to eat.  They stand between you and your next rent payment, electricity bill.  They stand between you and the necessities of life which let's face it, is the ultimate blow to a person's identity and pride.

So while there were outlets for handling bullies in your childhood, now you have to figure out how to beat the assholes at their own game, and if you thought the mob mentality of the internet was difficult to deal with...try looking at your HR rep, the group benefits guy, and the "employee assistance representative" who are all paid by the same guy who's paying your bully.  Oh - and their job, first and foremost, is to make sure you're "OK enough" to keep going and making the biggest guy the bully, really has you over a barrel, and he or she has the most layers of protection a bully could ever wish for.  That is all to say, in the work world where people have the power to affect change, there really is no such thing as allegiance for the victim.  Any way out means you have to find a new way to earn your living, redefine yourself and re-establish new street cred.  You need to remove yourself from the situation, which you know, just doesn't mesh with the golden rule and the social mores of fairness and justice.

My workplace bully was promoted and rewarded despite the many reports HR, the ethics team and the ombudsman received from several sources.  He was highly scrutinized and his reputation was tarnished, and he STILL came out ahead.  My reputation was tarnished, the perception of me was that I was weak, evasive, incapable of managing my work.  I got punished for being the victim.  In many ways, I'm still being punished through his legacy.  Ever tried rebuilding street cred when nothing else in the environment has changed?  On the playground, one did this by actually fighting back and laying the bully out.  You gain credibility, when the other's perceived superiority is diminished.  In the workplace however, the only way to escape and change this is to literally quit your job, and branch out into a new industry.  Start over.  Let me tell you how impossible that is.  My livelihood is still at stake.  Food on the table for my child is what keeps me in what amounts to an abusive situation.  Supporting my family is what keeps me from doing what is right - standing up for myself and for others, because it's bitten me in the ass once already...who does that twice?

So if bullying takes this route to stardom, and simply not being one makes you the perpetually opportune victim, what's the right answer?  I wish I knew it.  My only advice is to stop it in it's tracks early.  Be less attached to your earnings and earning potential, maybe?  This is one of those things that's easier said than done.  I've been trying to escape this situation going on 10 years.  My bully has moved on, but another one is surely following him.  The pecking orders of a work environment breed and thrive on bullying culture.  The only way to really escape it is self employment, and as a friend once said, then you have the world's worst bosses to answer to...yourself and your customer.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beautiful People Shine

from the inside.  That's because they don't have time or energy to belabour the appearances of beauty on the outside.

They live without malice, anger, jealousy.  They serve others in some way.  They smile, and they provide a beacon of hope to the despondent and the people in need.  They rarely need what they aren't willing to give in return.

In fact they give more than they take.

Beautiful people are gracious and kind, generous and loving.  Their hearts have all the eloquence of a mozart concierto.

Acknowledge and appreciate the beautiful people in your life.  Because it's damn tiring looking after all the needy, jealous and angry ones and doing a bit more of that appreciation and acknowledgement thing, may make you a bit more beautiful too.

Keeping Tabs

So, I'll admit, I have a great memory.  I never forget those who have wronged me or done right by me for that matter.  It's not because I can't forgive...but not forgetting means that hopefully next time I make better choices.  I also keep friends close and enemies at arms length.  I keep my eye on their weapons, and watch with a cheshire grin when their just desserts are eventually served.  I wouldn't say I'm keeping tabs.  It's not a points system that I work on - it's more like an over-site or governance thing.  I watch Karma because she is the epitome of justice.  And when something goes wrong, I look again to Karma to understand what I've done to precipitate any misfortunes I perceive.

And it's happened again.  I've survived once more to watch someone who once wronged me greatly, be handed a hard dose of Karma because apparently, some people learn some lessons the really hard way.

My old boss, the one who bullied me and put me out of commission for 14 months, has been served another helping of just desserts.  I'm left pondering however, if he's really gathered the lessons he's supposed to have learned.  I had already thought his penance had been served once. While on my medical leave, the entire team I left behind took issues regarding his treatment of them to HR.  He was hauled over the coals, put on watch, and then the entire time I was out on maternity leave, things got tougher for him still - the coals turned into a laboratory table and he was scrutinized as though he were a dead fly under a microscope.  When I came back to work from medical leave he punished me in more passive aggressive ways than he'd previously punished me, but when I got pregnant things changed.  Like we're talking, he did a 180 degree about face, and began treating me gently, with respect, even what some could envision as older brotherly kind of love.  He was suddenly good to me.  Perhaps because he no longer viewed me as a threat because he was busy fighting the foes who attacked in my absence.  Who knows.

(I have just realized that this is the first time I have ever explained the work situation in any detail - I imagine this means it's appropriate then to do an article on how workplace bullies make their mark.)

When I returned from maternity leave, this didn't change.  BUT, I noticed through conversations with other team mates over the past year that he had simply changed the direction of his bullying.  I could write the scripts for some of the things reported to me.  He was dreadful to one of my colleagues, and I realized that perhaps he was being good to me, because he had a new victim.  After all of that, he'd not learned a single lesson.  At least not the right one.

Fast forward to April of this year, and that same boss announced that he got a great new job as CEO at another company and bailed ship.  I'll admit to feeling a bit lost and forlorn - after all, bully or no, I've worked for this man and learned to survive his ways over the course of 9 harrowing years.  Nevertheless, he moved onward and upward, and skipped about 3 levels of professional management statuses to go from a Manager with a Director's title, to CEO.  HUGE step.  Some may have wondered (ehem) if he were ready for such a step.

Fast forward once again to yesterday when Karma showed me I was wrong to have been feeling this way about the change his departure had introduced into my life.  In a flash he emailed the old team letting us know that after a whirlwind 10 weeks in his new job as CEO, his entire management team resigned effective immediately, and well, that left him with no new job.  Seriously.  10 weeks as a CEO has to be a new record.  The tone of his email was upbeat, crisp and simple.  Didn't go into details, but he noted that a lot of lessons were learned.  My goodness, I lasted longer as CEO of my own company and never got to sell a damn thing before calling it quits! And I dealt with months, no years, of regret and pangs of wanting to reinvigorate and start it all up again and do it right this time.  He seems chipper.  Ready for the next challenge, and is seeing humour in the amount of free time he has available suddenly.

Which leads me to two independent conclusions:

1) Not a bad attitude to have if you can afford it.  Job markets being what they are, he's still too young to retire and too old to bounce back quickly...I hope he can afford it.
2) When after your entire staff has taken you to HR, and you've survived to play another day, and your approach to that new opportunity leads your next entire management staff  to actually coordinate a mass resignation to occur on the same day in a job market where many people are lucky to find anything that will pay them a livable wage, what lesson has been learned?  Especially if you nonchalantly announce it by email to your old team, with a positive, upbeat attitude?

Honestly, that's where my analysis of it ends with a shaking head, confusion evident in my brow, because the truth is, this is the type of person who repeats bad behaviour because he never learned the good kind.  BUT, it's ability to baffle me so made me re-examine things in my own life.

Living by a mantra of dying without regrets, and knocking as much off my bucket list as I can as evidence that I've lived a life worth living, also means learning lessons.  By doing and by watching others in every single way I can.  So I pulled out the bucket list to see if I'd made any progress.  It's been a year or so since I checked in on it.  I was able to edit it a bit (the beauty of making your own bucket list is that it's your prerogative to update it).  And I knocked a couple other things off too!  WoooHOO!

This is a list I don't mind keeping tabs on.

·       Show Maggie Aurora Borealis
·       Take Mike to Asia
·       Take Mike to the Rocky Mountains
ü  Write a book
ü  Be paid to write
·       Have another baby   Love another baby
·       Retire early   Retire with time to spare
ü  Own a cottage   Rent a cottage
·       Weekend in Paris
·       Vacation in Italy
·       Vacation in London, Eng.
·       Travel all over Europe
·       Weekend in New York City
·       Eat at the Russian Tea Room
·       Shop at FAO Schwartz
·       Shop in Greenwich village
ü  Learn to cook like a chef
ü  Visit a town called Rebecca   Find a street named Rebecca
ü  Diners, Drive Ins and Dives Road Trip
ü  Host a fabulous cocktail and dinner party catered by professional chefs and wait staff
·       Custom build my own house
ü  Decorate a professional looking tiered cake
·       Got to the ballet or the opera
·       Watch Maggie graduate university
·       Give Maggie away with her dad at her wedding

·       Watch my first grandchild be born

Friday, July 12, 2013

Accepting Inadequacies

It takes a lot of introspection for people to even recognize inadequacies.  It takes frail self esteem and a biochemical problem for people to take those inadequacies and explode them to unrealistic perceptions of ones capabilities.

I have long wished I could be one of those people who don't even think of themselves in terms good enough at something or not even.  One of those people who are great at everything they try.

I wonder if those kinds of people even exist?  If they do, what do they do for a living?  Do they have families?  Are they taking some other kind of medication that I am not even aware of?  How easy is it to get your hands on such a drug...cuz let me tell ya, I could do with a healthy dose of "I'm fucking awesome thank you very much and every thing I touch turns to fucking gold."  Yes sir.  I could do with that right...about...NOW.

So for someone who struggles in dealing with significant change like I do, I have to admit I love it at the same time.  I can't imagine a life wherein each new day was remarkably similar to the last.  I can't stand monotony.  Love adventure.  But I have my limits, and I fear I may have opened up flood gates to where I've invited more than I can control into my personal space at work.

My old boss (the one who once represented most of my trigger issues that related to a 14 month stint on medical leave) was also the one who took it on the chin hard enough, that when I returned from Mat leave and was dealing with a sick child, he stood up for me, and protected me, and basically made things much better for me.  He got hit from all sides while I was out on medical and maternity leave, and well, I guess he realized I wasn't his worst enemy - and that meant I was no longer his victim.  I never fully trusted the man again, but I think the best reasoning for that was that I now knew where he kept the knife he'd use to stab people in the back.  You live, you learn is the expression...and I learned to watch the knife closely.  I learned how to duck and weave, like any good boxer.  I studied my opponent so I could better succeed in going the next round with him in the ring.  At the same time, his level of protection was leaving my days pretty empty and unfulfilled.  After a while, this gets dreadfully boring, empty and meaningless...I get restless and need visceral change to keep me focused/interested.  So...

Well, he's left the company and moved on to bigger/better things.  And that means I've been re-aligned to someone new.  My first order of business was to beg "Please God, give me something cool to do!"  Historically, she and I have been very friendly, but it's a completely different management style.  I know there's a knife in her arsenal, she's not afraid to use it, but I have no idea where she keeps it.  Seems too, that several of the people on her staff also have them, and use them often.  They're sharp, miniature knives, and their particular brand of torture is more like leaving little nicks in your soft side as you walk by through the veils of their cloaks.  Make it worse, these people are many cases, smarter than me.  So I need a new survival mechanism, and I'm floundering with not having figured it out.

In the old arrangement, my strengths were noticed, and accepted, and my weaknesses were noted without being highlighted, as were everyone else's for the most part.  You had to be REALLY annoying to be called out for your inadequacies, and generally, if they were that obvious, they were likely related to communication skills or poor etiquette.

In the new arrangement, it seems as though everyone may be aware of both strengths and weaknesses, but they are far more likely to point out the weaknesses.  Whether this is in the interest of assisting others to grow, or to take advantage of the opportunity to shine - I think the jury is still out.  And so, the more I try to better myself and elevate my once dumbed down and severely softened communication style to something more direct (what I was accustomed to doing say 15 years ago) to meet with the communication style largely in use by my new teammates, the more I seem to recognize that I've allowed myself to "dumb down" full stop.  I feel absolutely out-shined and overshadowed by others ability to communicate, process information, and poke holes in "everything".  And the fact that "everything" is up for grabs and "everything" is scrutinized with a fine tooth metal comb, is wearing on my nerves.  Probably because I'm rusty from being bored for so long, and likely too, because I've signed myself up for stuff that's a bit outside my comfort zone already.  Add scrutiny on top of that and well, it's making me feel absolutely inadequate, in way over my head, and wishing I had a Joe know, one where very little thinking is required - one that requires repetitive action and minimal focus.  One that I can shut off at 4 pm without giving it a second thought.

I just wish I knew what parts of my perception were physically real and what parts were fictitious strings of brain chemicals and anxiety based coping mechanisms making everything seem a million times worse than they potentially are.  I think it's time to make a dr's appt before it goes too far.  Anxiety attacks are on the rise for me...and time to meditate and exercise have been absorbed by new projects at work...bye bye coping mechanisms, hello depression.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Developing a Child's Self Image

There are no easy answers to what ways are the best ways for us to help our children develop a healthy self image, or to help them achieve a strong and confident sense of self ability.

I got a screaming view into this conundrum just the other day when I tried to explain (the way you would to a 3 year old) that my little girl didn't always need to wear a dress to feel like a princess.  My goal was to reinforce that she is awesome just the way she is, and that she may be missing something by  doing things (wearing a dress) that prevent her from really getting dirty and enjoying the grittier side of life (climbing tress and playing in the sand).

ehem...and then after losing the fight to get dirty and love grit, wearing her dress and snuggling into my bosom the way any awesome, snuggly 3 year old can, daddy came up the stairs and commented on her pretty dress.

My daughter's response?  "Mommy said I'm not pretty."

In no way ever, did I say this.  It never even entered my mind.  My thinking was, be strong and capable...not wishy washy and wasted.

So where in the world did this view of herself come from?  I've never said this.  In fact, I can assure you I've done absolutely the opposite, and have been extra conscientious to reinforce it regularly.

I always knew I had an intuitive child.  But for the life of me, I'm half ready to shut off any Disney movie that involves depictions of princesses or fairies full stop.  Somehow, somewhere in my child's wee brain, there is an interpretation that princesses wear dresses and glass slippers, and that princesses who wear such accouterments are the "pretty ones".  How in the world do you combat these impressions when they are so relentless?

I recall once writing about the fact that without even having seen ANYTHING princess related, my daughter was able to pin point the Disney Princess pink colour from across the Walmart.  It's that pervasive in our culture, and there's simply no avoiding it.  How do you consistently tell a 3 year old that the characteristics of "most" Disney princesses are tolerable at best in the real world?  What if she really is that wishy washy and gut wrenchingly in need of saving all the time - if that's truly her character, can that be so bad?  Certainly not simply because I wish it to be different.  She's perfect no matter how she chooses to live her life...which then leads me back to the beginning of this circle of insanity - does it matter then if she wants to be a princess all the time?

Well ultimately, yes.  Because we are neither royalty, nor do we hang in those circles.  My child has to be prepared for the real world, and I know all too well that the real world crashes in on us far sooner than any of us would prefer.

We named her for a strong leader.  Her namesake was highly criticized, even burned in effigy.  And while I've been clear that my choosing this namesake had nothing to do with her politics, it did have something to do with her will, her umph, and her tenacity.  She was a trailblazer and marked the shift in our western world for women in positions of power.  Her namesake was known as the "Iron Lady".  If I were to desire something more than mere contentment and happiness and safety for my child for her whole entire life, I'd only wish this:

  1. That she be confident in recognizing her ability and her capability, for driving change and doing incredible things 
  2. That she be energized and edgy enough to try almost anything once
  3. That she be willing to get her hands dirty and driven enough to make them clean again.  

I don't wish her to be hardened, or mean or resentful and aggressive.  But I do want her to fully comprehend her potential to turn things on their end, shake them out and make something new from the pieces.  Can she do this in a ballgown and high heels?  Of course.  I just want those fashion statements to be just that - fashion statements.  They should make herself feel that her outside matches the opulence of her inside, but not that they define or help her divine what she is supposed to feel on the inside.

I've spent so much of my life grappling with the issue of self image and how disconnected it has always been from my self confidence.

How in the world does someone as broken as me, figure that out for her very impressionable child?

Monday, July 8, 2013

10 Ways to Live an Unapologetic Life - Says the Canadian

So, I'm sorry if this rubs anyone the wrong way, but there comes a point in I think everyone's life where they begin to feel like they do nothing but apologize for their very existence, and that my friends is how it feels when you begin on the downward funnel of depression.

You apologize for yourself until well, there's not much point in apologizing any longer, is there?  Then you start to feel absolutely nothing at all.  It's a void.  An abyss of nothing thank you very much.  Articulated in far better ways than I could ever dream of describing it, too.

But there is also a point in time where owning your life and your experiences and living for them is something you resoundingly refuse to apologize for.  Living a happy life means being unapologetic for living it.  Means that the things you do with purpose, are in fact purposeful and therefore don't require an apology when they offend someone or something.

  1. Live with a clean and open heart.  You may regret being hurt by someone else in the process, but you could not truly apologize for being hurt.  And if you live with a clean and open heart, you'll have done nothing that requires an apology to someone else.
  2. Humility is so much more than embarrassment.  True humility is about recognizing your smallness in a universe so large.  The pinnacle of achievement in humility is one where the people around you, recognize how you view your place in the world.  Not typically one you recognize in yourself.  The smallest footprint, makes the loudest boom.
  3. Live with social purpose.  A purpose driven life for social issues makes room to focus one's activities in a way that ultimately keeps them out of trouble.  If you look at what you aim to achieve in your lifetime, and focus your energies on that path, anything you would have to apologize for along the way would be a result of true misunderstandings and not malcontent.
  4. Have fun.  If it doesn't happen naturally, make it happen.  Have fun as often as you can.  Someone who is happy, isn't wasting time apologizing for much.
  5. Laugh often.  Part and parcel of having fun, having a good laugh and smiling every day is indicative that even when and if you don't always mean it, there's hope in your life.
  6. Hope for better.  I think a life without hope is tantamount to not living.  There's always something to hope for - worst case, you can hope for world peace.  It may be futile, but hope is a very powerful ideology, and it's honestly the only way society can change.
  7. Chose your friends wisely.  A loyal and long time friend never needs an apology for the every day gaffes.  And it means that you can reserve an apology for when it's absolutely necessary and ever so clear that it's sincere.
  8. Pick a good partner in life and stick with that partner for life.  Divorces and splits happen, and often it's the healthiest option a couple may have to choose from.  Picking the right partner then is pretty important.  The right partner in life helps you choose the right path every day.  They keep you grounded and they keep you out of the kind of trouble that creates necessity for an apology.  
  9. Grip it and Rip it!  Don't waste precious time over-weighing risks and payoffs.  Sometimes if the risk is calculated and the reward is great, it's best to jump in with both feet.  A regret can often lead to an apology - even if it's to yourself.  
  10. Have children.  Having a child puts all of this into perspective and helps you to get it aligned timing wise.  Having children makes you pretty humble, while allowing you to boast about the stuff that really matters.  Helps you hold back a bit more than you would have done pre-children, and makes certain that you're putting as much into this life, as you hope to get out.  This isn't intended to discriminate or put down people who are childless.  There are a million ways to "have a child".  I've even got a few young ones I've adopted into my heart that don't even belong to me.  As an umbrella concept, it means find someone or something that depends upon you for nurturing and/or for sustenance.  Find something you can be obligated to, that would limp along to survive when you are gone.  And love it like you've never loved anything before.
Love is the key - It sounds cheesy, and in some ways it really is.  But the only thing that can actually change the world we live in, and can change our lives for the better is love.  The investment we make in real unconditional love with ourselves and with the others around us ultimately makes us more well grounded beings, with lives which are pretty clean and content, and therefore unrepentant.