Monday, September 8, 2014

ONE OF THEM

“Should you find yourself the victim of other people's bitterness, ignorance, smallness, or insecurities, Remember this, things could be much worse. You could be one of them!”

These words resonate more as time goes on. 

A few months ago, I wrote a series of posts on bullying in the adult working world. linked here 

The stories resonated with my readers and I was moved as I read their stories. Back then the focus was on the tale of Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito and the Miami Dolphins. Trailing are new stories others have shared, in light of recent developments. (The Usual Disclaimer goes here, any resemblance to living people is both coincidental and is mainly due to the fact there are certain archetypes everywhere that any of us may have met.) 

PARABLES

J. Willard Marriott and Norman Brinker succeeded by leveraging the idea that the cornerstone of business is “treating people right.” In that spirit the stories that follow are marginally less than obscenities. 

The first writer tells a story that involves nepotism and the despicable behavior of a person hired to a job she was totally unqualified for by experience and personality, by her good friend, who happened to be “the big boss.” As time went by, and mistakes multiplied, each day brought metastasizing dishonesty, attempts to undermine other managers, and bullying. This person sacrificed her own integrity in the name of putting lipstick upon errors, to the point of screaming at the team in the presence of clients and demanding they be questionably disciplined or even wrongfully fired, with her scowling presence in the same room . 

Almost all experienced managers have come across this type of employee. Over the years we all see these types of people come. The best of us have discernment, and see to it that those people are excised from the body of an organization when they play that type of game. Sadly in this case “friendship” seems to have trumped all with the usual results, a business harmed by the defection of those working hard and playing by the rules. And that is no wonder, when the corporate response to her bullying is to retaliate on team members/victims whenever a customer complains. Coach Marv Levy often said, "nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills."  Apparently the same can be said for certain companies. 

Another reader writes, "Sad are the times where people are placed into positions of trust that should not be." Even in the most nepotism ridden situations, an annual turnover of thirty team members in a twenty person operation would invite some scrutiny. Especially when coupled with employee surveys that recounted in wrenching detail, the injustices and pain one misplaced person can cause a group of people. Hannah Arendt once wrote of the “banality of evil”. Perhaps that was the reason a manager was actually transferred to her domain, with the express purpose of securing a pretext for a questionable termination. To the unknowing it was difficult to equate the well crafted innocent voice and demeanor with the person who has made an art form of the pre-textural termination. 

To those who confront this drama, it conjures memories of Joan Didion’s take on Nancy Reagan, “her face was a mask of frozen insincerity". Yet the sadness continues unabated even with moments caught on security cameras of mocking discourtesy in the workplace, replete with this alleged leader openly making faces and issuing unflattering impressions of others. More amazing still, is her termination of an assistant manager for "insubordination". The sin was accurately translating the exact words of Spanish speaking team members in a meeting she instigated with a notoriously overworked department. Known for broadcasting in the public domain the minute details of an apparently unhappy private life, the weight of her public/private pain makes her appear decades older than her years, lending credence to the idea that unabated anger ages faster and misery is like hemlock upon our souls. 

 Left unheard is what the team says when asked in surveys: things such as "this is not right" and "when it is going to end?" Thanks to recent legal developments the time for taking personal pain out on others may be drawing to an end. In the interim, the person in question occupies herself in assuring the recently terminated remain unemployed by the artful use of backdoor references. 

A NEW LEGAL RECOURSE

Many are the workplaces that live by the tactic called “constructive discharge.” Sadly many readers have seen its application. Sometimes a resignation is not really voluntary choice; many feel forced to quit jobs due to mistreatment. Often a resignation is really a “firing without good cause” through being “forced to quit”. Until recently there was limited recourse for victims. On June 14, 2004 a shaft of light cut through the darkness. The United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision setting some new standards for the law of “Constructive Discharge” in Federal Title VII Employment Discrimination cases. In the opinion PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE V. SUDERS  - the Justices write of,

“...harassment so intolerable as to cause a resignation may be effected through co-worker conduct, unofficial supervisory conduct, or official company acts. Unlike an actual termination, which is always effected through an official act of the company, a constructive discharge need not be. 

A constructive discharge involves both an employee’s decision to leave and precipitating conduct: The former involves no official action; the latter, like a harassment claim without any constructive discharge assertion, may or may not involve official action.” 


Surveys note people most often quit their jobs after being faced with insurmountable job problems, high stress, or depression. The unethical manager seeks to “shock and awe” the team member into quitting, before they can find a more rational means of resolving their pain. The team member is continually badgered into having the powerful urge to quit or be fired. because they cannot relieve the pressure or end the job-related suffering. In more cases than not, such as those noted above, escalating the matter through the HR chain does not work. Sadly there are certain companies that address their “problems” by creating pretexts for termination or simply by “beating people up. “ There will be fewer as time goes by, as cases percolate through the judicial system. 

We face challenges in our journeys by happenstance, or having to shine daylight upon mistakes of actions that are plainly wrong. Thankfully there appears to be a greater legal understanding of the challenges faced by those who choose to be better than them, in places defined by behaviors somewhere between simply unfortunate and inept, and in a blue moon - even evil. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Leaders should have zero tolerance for people who are dishonest, disloyal, and who undermine those around them for their own selfish purposes. 

Like it or not, we encounter people, companies and even communities who act this way because of insecurity, bitterness, or narcissistic entitlement. It is really unfortunate that anyone would treat other people so inappropriately, while occupying a position of trust over another family’s economic well being. Most unfortunate is when people are willing to sacrifice their own integrity in life to do so. 

Take this advice from Gandhi “the way of truth and love always wins. “ Even the cases noted above may be able to seemingly succeed in undermining and lying to and about others, but the truth eventually come out. Karma always catches up either now or later. When it does - the damage to a transgressor reputation endures far longer than whatever temporary achieved through despicable behavior.

For those wronged by someone else, it is tempting to stoop down to their level. It is our obligation to do the right thing no matter what the other person does. Life is short, but people’s memories are long, and it will catch up to them at day’s end. It is difficult to handle reptilian bullies and liars with grace and integrity. A greater tragedy is becoming “one of them” as a response. 

To those who rightly or wrongly read these words and believe it's about them - my advice is simple. Don’t trade integrity for anything, as truth is not a fungible asset. There is not one ounce of anything that is worth trading it for. Guard the legacy you will leave behind. It’s never too late to do the right thing. 

MANY BLESSINGS- NOEL

A Great Link follows.