Let’s talk about bullies—not the kind you find lurking around a playground or smacking bubblegum in a school locker-room. I’m talking about those who feed off of the subordination of an unwilling participant in an environment that would otherwise be considered “mature”. With the very powerful anti-bullying movement that has spawned tragic documentaries and news reports of the unfortunate victims it is impossible to say that bullying is a thing of the past or a term that only applies to pimply faced teens of 80’s movies. I never thought that in my mid-twenties I would encounter a conceptual bully, especially since it was never really an issue for me in school. Now that self-doubt is no longer crippling and peer approval isn’t as much of a necessity, but rather a bonus of office life, mature cooperation seems like the inevitable future once you’ve passed the threshold into adulthood.
However, I think people fail to address the enormous pressure that lies behind the brick walls of a business office where (like in high school) 8 hours of your day is spent with the same people, most of which you did not choose to be around. Washrooms are used for light socialization and kitchens are shared; you basically have more than a dozen roommates and don’t necessarily know the last names of all of them. This observation then insights the question “how does everyone get along?”. The fact of the matter is, not everyone does. Hostilities can run high amongst a group of 20 or more people that can tear a hole in the stitching of a team when someone no longer wants to work alongside their peers.
I regret to say that this has happened to me, bright and early on a Monday morning as if the Monday memes on Instagram didn’t ring true enough. The inspiration for this article didn’t come from the situation that occurred and it’s outcome, but rather the fact that something like that could happen amidst a group of adults—many of them seasoned employees who specialize in customer service. The complete shock I experienced at being blatantly disrespected in front of my peers and manager did not come from a mental place of vanity, but a place that had begun to believe childhood antics were left amongst the echoes of sneakers on asphalt. Have we just regressed into simplistic notions of speaking whatever is on our mind despite feelings being hurt? And is this the new status of a “bad bitch” or someone who isn’t “fake”? It seems like the pendulum of societal norms and political correctness has begun swinging the other way and a sense of blatant disregard is now appreciated as a “no bullshit” mentality.
I am completely for freedom of speech and expressing yourself despite how risqué a topic may be, but when that is distorted into an attempt at purposefully upsetting someone, then a line must be drawn. I have watched a person be made to feel lesser by someone who has no reason to feel superior and have stayed quiet because snarky remarks and obscene attitudes seem to be more acceptable than taking the initiative to outright say “I’m offended”. When that step is taken, as I have recently learned, it can be interpreted as more confrontational on your end to voice your discomfort than the original offensive comment was.
While I’m not the most talkative person, I can’t help but voice an opinion on this topic seeing as those I’m directing it to have no reservations when voicing their own. Just because we are young and fresh employees does not mean that the respect of our elders is simply given. As in any environment, respect is earned and returned with equal ferocity as it is shown. Our age does not signify weakness, but rather the fight still left in us to stand up for ourselves when we are being underappreciated for a job equivalent to someone else’s. And finally, we should not be afraid to voice our discomfort in our work environment because without the first word there can be no action taken. I may sound like a righteous revolutionary, but I like to think of myself as encouragement for those thinking of taking the first step. Work shouldn’t be a hostile environment; it should be a placed for collaboration in order to keep the machine of any business well-oiled and innovative.