I was at an Alumni event for Carnegie-Mellon University at the home of a wonderful professor who has hosted this incredible clam bake for nearly 25 years.
I have helped him with directing traffic from a main street down to his home, coordinating vehicles going down with vehicles coming up for about 5 years. Another pair of people I don’t know who were married or not either were assigned to help or volunteered.
The male of the two immediately took over all operations (set himself up as THE LEADER) despite possibly hearing that I had taken care of all aspects of the job for years. He was totally insensitive and yet a “nice guy.” I COULD have kept my mouth shut, thinking about how such “outbursts” from female complainants are usually experienced and described – oh, and especially those in their 60’s. I said, “Not to seem like a rabid feminist or anything but would you mind not stepping in and assuming control? I HAVE done this very thing single handedly for about 5 years.” He stared straight at me, unblinking then said “I AM on the Alumni board” as if that allowed him to treat me as if and my experience literally did not exist. He orchestrated who was to do what when, such as “Do you want to call Steve and let him know a car is coming down?” This is relevant to what I want to write about in that people who are not being inclusive literally DO NOT KNOW how to do that or simply do not WANT to. If I complained further about his actions and words, it would be pushing things to where they could become unpleasant – for me – because in my experience, controlling males WILL NOT BACK DOWN.
Later he attempted to speak to workplace bullying but from a position of control and male privilege.
The woman of the pair was an HR person. I immediately asked her about the presence of workplace bullying at her company and asked if they had one of the new programs to combat bullying: Civility training. She said they didn’t have that but had something they called Diversity Training. To her and her company, that means honoring everyone’s point of view. I am a potential sucker for euphemistic sounding words, but often, I have become jaded about those words. How exactly is that implemented? OK, training. Being a rabid feminist who is trying not to act like a crazy one, whatever that looks like, how do they implement or train people to accept a feminist viewpoint in a male dominated society often led by males? “Listen to women?” “Agree with them (????)” “Allow them to make REALLY BIG decisions every once in a while??” (then put them back in their box?) Who decides how often a woman should lead a big decision? A man? Which woman should be given power to decide THOSE THINGS?
Then I asked her if there was a workplace bullying incident, how would that be handled? She described investigations. I asked if the bully would be investigated and she said they would. Also, if the target wasn’t satisfied, there were guidelines for ramping up the investigations and looking to see if the bully had been targeting others before.
I don’t know. I had no reason to believe the guy of the pair understood what women want in a mixed gender group nor did I think he was willing to entertain it. I had HR investigate my bullying. They didn’t. ***I*** was the problem, end of story. I filed internal dispute resolutions, filed a gender-age discrimination claim but I was laid off anyway and EEOC denied I had a valid claim. I got an NELA lawyer who guaranteed I’d get a half a year’s salary as severance, but I didn’t – HE did. He shafted me, the victim-target. THEN because my W4 LOOKED like I HAD gotten that money, it negatively impacted my unemployment insurance and TDI for my PTSD.
When I hear HR people describe their work from an internal or external viewpoint, I cringe and feel I know that targets of bullying will continue to be targeted at every point in the company’s hierarchy because I don’t feel companies CAN view employees as human beings. Or, like the guy I was interacting with, they have a hard-wired mindset where they can speak the proper words but they aren’t willing to understand what they mean.
I have witnessed employees being assigned PIPs and other plans to corral them into “performing better” which usually means increasing their output, putting in more hours, being more robot than human being. I have experienced another real human being’s – a person’s – breakdown – an IT guy I was working with to install and test a laboratory interface. He had my cell phone number. We had only gone over tech specifications relating to our work on company calls using the company phone line. I got a message on my cell phone from him, yelling, screaming, calling me every foul name he could think of. There was NO relationship to the work we had been doing. It was shocking. BUT I later understood it was a safety release, though an inappropriate one. How does a company make someone having a break down use correct policy? Is the broken person being bad because they couldn’t hold their tongue and find an “appropriate outlet?” What IS an appropriate outlet when a person is in that space?
What about people killed in a workplace violence event followed by the target’s suicide? Can that be managed by civility or other training? How can we, as a society, prevent these and other highly destructive scenarios: The destructive harassment of an individual to and past a breaking point followed by the unimaginable.
I have heard talk of companies trying to “manage” what has been described as a tsunami of law suits regarding workplace bullying coming. What would be better than lawsuits and laws? Let’s have a discussion and brain storm. Do companies with “nap rooms” or game rooms have less bullying?
Maybe civility and diversity training and future HR objectives will help by just acknowledging they need to address workplace bullying, but something else needs to be in place to work for the employee target who has been harmed. Getting the [Anti Bullying] Healthy Workplace Bill, now introduced in 30 states, passed into law is one thing but there MUST be more we can do instead of allowing people to be put in boxes – women, people of color, disabled – then targeted.