Yesterday was a day full of one of my favorite activities: Talking with friends. I spent time with a new friend and later, dinner and chatting with my dear friend of 33 years. Relationships are a quiet gift. I need to be more mindful of the richness in the small moments of my life.
As my friend and I sat chatting about our many thoughts, we hit upon the chord of bullying. I was talking about situations in my employment where people go out of their way to be nasty and impose their toxins in the environment with the verbal assaults. I have been a target quite often of this barrage. I wish I could say it does not bother me, as that would be the outcome I desire. But it does bother me. It bothers me a lot when I hear people belittling someone, cutting them down in front of others only in an attempt to make them self look mightier. The effect is the opposite. The only result procured when someone destroys another by vocalizing inappropriate comments created by their inflated sense of importance is two people losing a piece of their soul.
We pondered our childhood, gone many years, and reflected on our own exposure to bullying. As I have talked about before, my home life was a battlefield littered with bullets of nastiness and hurtful comments. But I do not remember a sense of being bullied at school. Not so my friend, who had clear recollection of inappropriate comments and cruelty directed at her and others. The residual effect on both of us is the vestiges of our self-esteem. The power of these ancient acts did not completely dissipate over time.
We talked about the prevalence of sexual abuse in the world we live in. We talked about people we know who have bravely come forward to talk and heal from this heinous act and what happened to the life of these survivors. I chose survivors over victims. The residual effect is a disproportionate loss of self-esteem and ability to cope. It takes years to recover, if recovery is even obtainable. All from this random act of cruelty. And the perpetrator is often excused with a reminder to the jury that this is a sustainable action, passed from generation to generation. But, wake up every one: it is a choice.
As I sat in the comfort of knowing I could freely say anything I wanted to my friend and not incur judgment, I innocently asked why are people mean? We talked about community activities we are involved in when the meetings are derailed from actions based solely on inflated egos. We both have participated in organizations where our membership was based on improving the corner of the world we inhabit. Both of us have left situations deflated on our sincere attempt to make things better because someone overrode the cause with pontification of their own needs. She reflected on a situation where at a recent meeting, someone’s hard work on obtaining financial backing for a non-profit organization was derailed by the pompous dictate of the a few members of the group. Obvious from her dissertation, the true goal of these participants was not the forward direction of the cause. And yet they remain a powerful impact on the group.
Today I launch an initiative of my own volition. I am tagging the principals on to an action that was a goal of the CEO and I have her blessings. I had articulated this movement before only to be dismissed for the futility of the possible success. I was told just a day ago in these exact words:” I am shooting at windmills”. It was said with pathos, because in truth most secretly hope that it will be successful. I am launching a campaign to eradicate negativity in the organization. It is a huge culture change. (By the way readers, I can hear you clicking your tongues at me.) I presented my basic concept at a steering committee and it was immediately embraced and already has momentum. I handpicked the group for their readiness to champion this cause. They already have this “do right” attitude.
It is all about choices. The choice to “be nice when playing in the sandbox” is one we all have. I am not going to single handed get rid of the bullies, but in force, we can lessen their power. It is all based on peer acceptance. Those who want a pleasant work environment will, on their own volition, get rid of the nasty ones by making them the outcasts. But then, they too will have a choice to join the ranks of being nice. The hard part is getting the wave going. I was shocked actually how quickly people got on board. Now I need to keep it going.
The fear for those who love me is that the outcome will not be positive and will destroy me in my attempts to make it so. But I too have a choice. I can sit back with my anxiety and my feet rooted in the mire, or I can take the first strong steps to institute a change. I have learned about accepting the misdeeds of others as being out of my control. But as a teacher, I have a duty to try to impart a different approach to work with each other. If I have learned anything from all that I have been through in the past months it is that nothing good changes without hard work. Will I be successful? I do not know, but if I approach this with trepidation it certainly will not be. And what is the worse that could happen? The work environment remains hostile. I will be defeating in my attempts. But I am immediately defeated if I do not try. This is my choice.