Stories from my Past: Hows it going Osama?

The article yesterday about bullies reminded me of a bully that I once worked with and I thought it might be a helpful story to share.

I worked in an office once where one older coworker who was accomplished in his field and really quite a charming and intelligent person was also a major bully. He bullied many people in the office, and management was blind to it. The coworkers knew this person was a jerk, but they just accepted it and didn’t complain because he was so important to the company’s success.

When I started in this company this man was close to his retirement. His importance to the company was less, but he was still being a jerk. Some people haven’t learned how to respect others, and this was clearly one of those people. When I used to help him with his computer issues he would call me Osama bin Laden which he thought was funny. I didn’t see the connection, but I worked on his issues and fixed them anyway. I told my boss about it and he admitted that the guy had been a jerk to him and that was just the way he was. Again, accepting and justifying bad behavior.

One day this man was especially abusive and one of the coworkers he had abused as well overheard it and complained to my boss. Finally my boss realized this situation would continue unless he addressed it. So even though he didn’t solve it for himself when he was the victim, he went to the owner and spoke to him. The owner talked to me about it and apologized and said he would address it with the jerk. The jerk stopped being a jerk.

It was interesting that this happened because I leave workplaces in which are disrespectful and unprofessional. Of course there are always jerks in a company, but when your daily experience is abusive then you have to reevaluate. I wish I could say this was the last time I worked in an abusive company but it was not. It seems that many companies who have trouble holding onto employees are abusive. I have worked at places where I have been yelled at for things that were not my fault nor I had any part in. No amount of money compensates for this kind of treatment. Please treat others with respect or you will find they no longer wish to work for you.

A jerk’s rudeness spreads in the office

Source: It’s official: Workplace rudeness is contagious — ScienceDaily

The article states that rudeness is spread when someone is rude then in the future more rudeness is expected. So instead of giving people the benefit of the doubt, you see this as part of who they are and expect it. The problem is that this thought is a fallacy. People do things because of the situation they feel they are in, not because they have stable non changing qualities that force them to act.

For example, there are studies that show that the difference between Democrats and Republicans is smaller than people believe. We all want the same things, we just have been socialized differently in the best way to achieve it.

It seems to me that people don’t try to actively be hostile and rude, but that standards of acceptable behavior vary widely. I noticed a coworker once order a service worker around what I considered rudely by pointing and raising her voice, but I don’t think she realized how she was coming off. I think it’s just a lack of social feedback that causes these people to act in this manner. They aren’t bad people, just not fully socialized as perhaps others are.

I like the idea of Ms. Manners that the entire idea of manners was to make people feel respected and honored. We get stuck sometimes on which fork to use when we should focus on others feelings and ignore things like this. Yes if you know which fork to use that’s cool, but someone who doesn’t know shouldn’t even be aware of the difference. Our relationship should be tools to empower people, not point out ignorance.