Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Discourtesy And Contention At Work: Is It Bullying?

Bully: An Unproductive Label  

Sensational statistic: 37% of employees surveyed in a study by State University of New York, felt they had been bullied at work. Not an outrageous number, but enough that the authors were probably able to further justify their academic work that studies workplace agression. How accurately does it reflect reality?

Given the list of the behaviors that were considered bullying, I’m surprised that a full 100% did not respond that they had been bullied! Among the statements used to describe a feeling of being bullied are, “Had others fail to give you a promotion that you really needed.” And, “Not being given deserved praise.” Other behaviors certainly could be tormenting or unnerving, and some would be criminal.

Another overused label? It is easy to overuse and misuse an emotional term like bully. It dehumanizes the person being talked about. It also presents the image of a vicious thug who torments a weak, helpless victim (another label that accompanies bully) for no reason. The description might fit occasionally, but it has become a way for some employees to smear others without attempting to do anything to bring change.

Like many surveys there was no requirement to show evidence or to suggest the reasoning of the other person. We could have an equally high–or higher–percentage of affirmative answers if we did a survey that asked questions such as these:

  • Do you have a coworker who refuses to accept his or her role in problems?
  • Have you worked with someone who lied about how you or others treated them, in order to get sympathy?
  • Do you know someone at work who seems to look for reasons to be offended or hurt?
  • Do you know someone who covers up their own misdeeds by blaming others?
  • Have you heard coworkers accuse others of bullying but you could see two sides to the issue?
  • Do you know of someone who says they are being mistreated, but they have never taken strong, productive action to stop it?
  • Do you have a coworker who is disruptive in some way, but if you say something he or she denies it and say you are picking on them?
  • If you are a supervisor, have you ever been accused of bullying when you tried to correct poor performance or behavior?

I do not deny that harassing, mean-spirited, and vile behavior occurs in workplaces. I also do not want to diminish the toll such behavior can take–mentally, physically and emotionally. Whatever your organizational role, you should speak up and stop inappropriate, discourteous, demeaning behavior. (That will be covered in Part Three of this series. 

However, instead of focusing on what type of person is behaving badly–a bully, a jerk, a cruel, evil torturer, a vicious, vengeful witch, or, an inhuman, servant of Satan–we should focus on the behavior that is unacceptable and do something about it, whether is it directed at us or others. And, we must do it in a way that is direct and strong but appropriate, not in a way that only involves name-calling behind someone’s back. 

April 1st, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 7 comments

Life is Like That

Happy Birthday, Mom!My mother, Creola Kincaid Lewis, was a woman of great wisdom and common sense. I was fortunate to have her influence in my life. She had an optimistic–sometimes an unrealistic and foolishly optimistic–way of looking at everything, and a spiritual faith that assumed her optimistic view would come true if she prayed about it and worked at it. And, it usually did! A philosophical approach of hers that I most remember was her ability to say, “Life is like that,” and make it apply to almost anything.

Analogies and metaphors can be very effective in training–although they have to be used carefully because they usually break down at some point and many students will jump on the part that is not applicable. Mother often used analogies and metaphors in the teaching she did at church, and I assume she either purposely looked for examples or she habitually looked at life in that way.

I learned a lot about living and working from listening to Mom as she would observe something and say, “Life is like that.” Then, she would elaborate on the thought, and I would realize she was exactly correct–life was like the situation she had observed. Sometimes she would make it more of a question, “Don’t you think life is like that?” Once, when I was being obnoxious for some reason, I stubbornly said, “No, I don’t think life is like that.” She didn’t seem offended, she just smiled assuredly and said, “I do. And one of these days you will too.” I am sure I did!

I will not take you through the hundreds of memories I have of life being like this or that, but I will give you a short list and you can decide what my mother’s thought processes might have been. Some were obvious, some were obscure, some were very serious and many were meant to be outrageously over-done and amusing. However, she made all of them perfectly logical, and each was a learning moment for me and a teaching moment for her.

*A light bulb burning out with a ping! and sudden darkness. (That’s an easy one, right? One minute we’re burning brightly and the next, our light is gone.) Mother said this: “Wouldn’t we be silly to sit in the dark hoping the bulb will light up again? Life is like that. Sometimes things are over and done, but people sit around hoping something or someone will magically make it the way it was. Instead, they should do something about it themselves. Go get a light bulb, Tina, and let’s get the light back on.” Probably hackneyed and overly dramatic–but I was about seven years old and I still remember it!

*A charred, empty catsup bottle. (My mother burned her hand trying to get it out of the trash my brothers were incinerating.) “I should have known there was a reason it was in the trash–it was trash! Life is like that. I’ve gotten burned the most over things I would have known weren’t worth the pain, if I hadn’t been in such a hurry to grab them without really looking.”

*A four-leafed clover. “Think about that, Tina. There are millions of three-leafed clovers and you could have found one of those easily. Instead, you spent all day stepping on the three-leafed kind to find one with four. Life is like that. You’ll step on things that are perfectly fine, trying to find something that seems better just because it’s hard to get. Sometimes that’s a good idea but a lot of times it isn’t.” I was ten years old and I asked, “How does a person know whether they should do that or not?” She said, with a shocked tone, “How would I know? I’m too busy coming up with these intellectual thoughts!”

*A wrong number on the phone; getting lost; falling on the ice; cleaning; oversleeping; someone acting unpleasant; forgetting to turn on the stove when baking a cake; organizing a closet; cats; a recliner; cooking; and, of course, all the seasons and all the times of day and everything in nature!

I do not want you to think my mother philosophized or made inane comparisons excessively, because she did not. However, it seemed she never overlooked anything that life is like-and there were a lot of those things! Yesterday was the anniversary of my mother’s birthday (March 31, 1910). She has been gone for close to ten years. As you may know, you tend to think of a loved one more than ever on special dates. Yesterday I thought about her “Life is like that” conversations.

In her honor I am going to spend some time this week finding things about which I can make maudlin, outrageous, ridiculous, overly-dramatic, sentimental or introspective comparisons to life.  I have already discovered that although Mom made it looked easy because she had years of practice and a natural gift for it, it is not as easy as I thought it would be. 

Hmmmmmm. I think life is like that!

April 1st, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work | 9 comments