Saturday, July 9, 2011

Showcase: Scott J Shea's "Subtle workplace bullying"

Subtle workplace bullying; give yourself credit for saying something

I cannot say whether I like the book Moby Dick or not. This is only my second time reading. The first time I read it, 23 years ago, it impacted me so much I ordered a personalized license plate for my car that read PEQUOD.

In any case, on this my second reading, I was struck by the bravery of Starbuck to voice his concerns about the captain's mission of seeking revenge on the whale that took his leg. Captain Ahab is not portrayed as a very open boss and indeed implies that further disagreement from his first officer will be seen as potential mutiny. Faced with that threat and the fact that the crew seemed to back the Captain, Starbuck stands down and in a moment of foreshadowing remarks that he hopes the entire compliment is not doomed (SPOILER ALERT: all but Ishmael die).

It is easy to criticize Starbuck for his capitulation but in reality we should praise him for even offering resistance. How many times have we seen it where no one wants to risk the wrath of authority so does not say anything?

While working in the mortgage industry I saw first hand where people who knew certain practices were wrong or harmful did not say anything because the boss/leader wanted to pursue the course of action. Everyone around them followed the boss because they thought that was where their fortune lay.

It is a subtle form of bullying that comes into play at that time. The leader questions your loyalty, paints you as a traitor and worse, alone in your thoughts. Others see the humiliation or aggression and turtle up abandoning you. For those of us on the Spectrum any one of those things can be a devastating reminder of how we are not part of the majority group. Put together it is a psychological blow that is hard to recover from.

So if you ever have stood up to someone in that setting do not get down on yourself for what followed. Instead, give yourself credit for saying something... and try to find the nearest life raft; don't gamble that you will be the Ishmael of the group.

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