Friday, April 18, 2008

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Day in and day out, the bully Kate worked with attempted to micromanage her, and turn their boss against her. He picked fights with her, harassed her, and showed up in her office once in awhile to yell at her. Over the course of Kate’s employment in that position her mental health declined steadily, with stress and anxiety increasing almost daily.

Toward the end of her five-year stint in that position, a tattered lined piece of paper hung above her alarm clock with the words “Get up! Get up! Get up!” written in blue highlighter. It was her only source of inspiration, and an ever failing attempt at motivating herself to actually get out of bed when the alarm went off. Depression increasing, so was the number of times she hit the sleep button each morning.

On the drive home the day Kate finally quit, she swore she’d never be that unhappy again. The decision had been made, and she learned later that the desire to follow through with it was immensely powerful. One day in her next position, where work days were normally happy and even fun, her boss sent her a rather scathing email in response to a mistake she’d made, which he cc’ed to half the company and all of the management team. He also heckled Kate a few separate times as he walked by her desk to the water cooler, and in an office with no cubicle walls or privacy, everyone could hear him.

At the receipt of the email, Kate had a few choices.

She could ignore it, or write a timid apology claiming she would never let it happen again. But that would have led her down the path of becoming yet another victim of yet another office bully. The other option was to stand up for herself, and compose a polite, yet firm, response.

So she clicked “reply to all”, acknowledged (not apologized for) her mistake, provided several options for solution, and advised she was free to discuss them further with him that afternoon, behind a closed door, if he felt so inclined. Within thirty seconds of Kate's clicking “send,” her boss' office door flew open; he marched straight over to Kate, and said, “Fantastic email Kate! Way to put the hammer down!”

The moral: He respected Kate’s new found ability to stand up for herself. He knew he’d bullied her, and he also knew now that she would not allow it. She’d ended it once and for all by standing up for herself, and it did not happen again.

You have the ability to change your situation, and as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.

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