I really don’t do conflict well, the last couple of weeks have been simply awful. Every now and then I have to attend a meeting of colleagues and I know enough about group dynamics to understand that someone is always in charge and its not necessarily the manager.
It doesn’t matter if I change jobs, in every workplace there is one queen bee who wields power and influence, treating those around her with contempt -they are privately hated and despised but are woefully oblivious. I have lost count of the number of personal remarks and public humiliations – this particular queen bee dishes up under the label of ‘helpful advice’ She crossed the line so far – I couldn’t step back anymore, I had to speak up – I would like to say I did it well, but I didn’t.
What irks me is this, within all groups there is a surface tension of appropriate behaviour, we all pretend that we are a ‘team’ we don’t upset the applecart – we ignore nastiness because the only option is to break below the surface tension of politeness and start ripples that make everyone feel more uncomfortable.
Believe me in these circumstances, there will be sympathetic colleagues who will listen to you, they will even site their own experiences, and there are others who like you are upset, but won’t complain. Don’t be lulled into imagining this support will be there if you speak out. The moment you break the surface, you will be alone, friendless, facing a battle not just of the bully but your team will pick their side against you.
You see, everyone hates wars, division, having to choose sides – its as if by revealing the nasty underbelly you are opening up a huge wiggly, slimy can of worms and everyone backs off in horror.
Your manager is the person who has to take action, you are the softest target, no one wants an uprising and usurp the queen bee, better take out the weaker team member, load lots of guilt and blame their way, suggest they are being ‘overly sensitive’ that no-one else is complaining – the Manager can file the incident away nicely, ticking off their boxes, equilibrium restored.
I don’t think there is a bullying policy that can tackle the sad fact that in all groups power has a role to play. I am still not sure what I need to do to ‘pass this life lesson’ or how to walk in among a group of colleagues and not tremble. Someone might have the power to make me cry, or belittle me in the eyes of team mates, but I don’t have to play the incident over in my mind a hundred times; worse listen to my inner critic, how I should have said this or shouldn’t have said that. I make such a mess of the whole thing, that I end up wishing I never started.
In the last few days I realise I have an overly optimistic view of society, I blithely go through life imagining that we live in a wonderful world. I expect people to be kind, I try not to back bite, gossip or belittle people, not because I am ‘good’ but my self esteem scaffolding is based around acts that uphold who I want to be. Spite, running people down is self sabotage that hacks away at our inner self esteem – it never occurs to me that people do this and so when it happens it really knocks me hard. I blame all the books I have read over the years, where friendships were deep, tightly bound by loyalty. Where wrongs were always righted, the bad people were easily identified and satisfyingly punished – a world where justice reigns.
My naivety has been well and truly smashed (again!), people aren’t nice, it is rare that people are challenged on their behaviour let alone punished, colleagues let you down and queen bees get to reign another day. Its not personal, I believe that most of us can’t express our anger to the right people, so we offload to the next available target, the guy who cuts us up on the road, the telesales caller, the person who looks sublimely happy, what has she got to smile about!
Mindfulness tells us that stress begins with wanting to alter what is; that peace comes from acceptance.
Maybe I finally understand we live in a world that is half in light and half in darkness,
We have never been able to explain why there is suffering, only that it exists.
A world of breath taking beauty where earth quakes kill innocent people, just like me.
Where the miracle of birth happens in the same hospital where it’s a battle to live, many don’t win.
I know that the longest night is also the longest day,
In order to have winners, we also have to have losers
That you can only see the stars at night because the sun’s light blocks them from view.
I understand that you find the darkest shadows in the brightest sunlight
And being happy attracts bitchiness like a magnet,
I may take the odd knock to my confidence,
but my self belief is shored up by acts of kindness,
loving has never been difficult,
I haven’t had to choose between satisfying my hunger or that of a child,
Or facing prison because loving someone is deemed illegal.
I have never needed to put someone else down in order to lift myself up
I haven’t had to close my eyes to someone else’s suffering, for self preservation.
I am not entirely sure the laws of Karma are as fixed as the laws of gravity,
But I can dream, cling to the belief that somewhere out there, its all in some form of balance
I can imagine I have the power to change the world, a little bit,
That my smile to a stranger lightens their load,
or the compliment to the tired bank clerk rises above the complaints when she remembers her day.
I have faith that these small acts ripple on our world wide web
After an awful week – there is a warm hug,
visits from friends, a smiles from a strangers
Even the darkest night weakens with the first rays of a new day,
Malice might hurt but it needn’t be fatal.