The Legacy of Silence
2017 has been a very difficult year to find the silver lining amidst the storm clouds that constantly loom over our horizon. As a writer it presents a very different challenge particularly when your company is centred around "Positive Solutions". Lately however, I have seen a call to action that has gripped the world. Women from all walks of life are finally speaking out about the harassment they have faced in the workplace.
We've Worn Blinders Too Long
Having spent part of my career as a union representative and later in management I was often privy to the closed door conversations that "others shouldn't hear". Incidents where employees were devastated by a manager's relentless bullying, even situations where co-workers alienated a member of their team because they were different. If you could imagine it, I likely heard it. What most people didn't hear was a level of accountability when bad behaviour happened. Instead, someone would say sorry, take a course and all would be swept under the carpet until it happened again.
You're Making a Mountain Out of A Mole Hill
The worst situations occurred with serial offenders who would make small repeated actions towards another individual. In isolation, it never appeared bad, however, to the person on the receiving end it was like being sliced and diced with meticulous precision, over and over with an inability to heal. These were the bullies, or harassers that flew under the radar. Nothing ever went into their personnel files. Of course, there was always someone who knew. As a union rep, I knew the numerous incidents that involved the same individual, just as the HR manager knew. While I would request transfers for employees for their safety and mental health, I was advised I was "Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill". This inaction is what has contributed to a legacy of bullying and harassment that has filled our workplaces.
Silent No More
This past week I heard some news about a former peer who was being promoted in the organization. This was an individual who had methodically sliced and diced numerous people in the organization under the guise of performance management and righting all the neglected wrongs she came across. Unfortunately, this individual also demonstrated a dangerous personality type that lured people in via friendship then used that to demoralize them. We should be aware of leaders who find a path to the top by stepping on the lifeless employees they have broken along the way. But what if these leaders were part of those closed door conversations where only a few people knew the truth? On first glance they appear charismatic, a team player, focused on doing their best. This is the person we want to believe we see when we don't know better. Unfortunately, our past silences just perpetuate the culture of bullying. This week I spoke up and broke the silence. I have nothing to gain personally or professionally from this action except gaining a sense of solidarity with everyone who has been speaking up. The times are changing and it's time we all used our voices. It doesn't matter if it was a man or woman who harassed or bullied we need to take a part in making it stop. .