Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Insidious Bullies

You know what one of the greatest evils of the world is? Bullies. Definitely within the top 3. Not school yard bullies. School yard bullies are nothing. I should qualify that, if you live in an inner city and your bullies are members of the bloods and crips then granted you have something to worry about. Run of the mill school yard bullies can ruin your day and steal your lunch money. They might make your life miserable for a while but they don't have the ability to make the lives of your family miserable. The bullies I loath, the ones that do real damage are the ones you end up working for, at least those of us who are not rocket scientists, don't have some killer talent people will kiss your ass for and never had any real ambition other than to get a decent paying skilled job that was moderately challenging. These bullies prey on us and not with threats of physical violence or verbal taunts. They prey on us with the veiled threat of hurting our careers, making us failures before our families, using their position of power to berate, bully and terrorize us because they can. We can leave anytime we want except we have taken the bait of stability and security to raise our families. We stay in a position because we don't want to take a chance, we are afraid to go elsewhere for fear of our families financial security. We also stay because after years of being blamed, abused, and terrorized we begin to doubt ourselves. How did we get into this awful position. We must be losers, we tell ourselves that is the only way to explain it. We see other people having successful careers and we blame ourselves because we have to. We can't change the boss, we can only change ourselves so it is our fault. We just did not work hard enough or smart enough. The fault has to be with us for that is the only variable we can control. "Change jobs go somewhere else" we hear. Yes our family is financially secure, uproot that and go somewhere else, take a chance. And if that chance does not work out, there are real consequences to deal with.

It didn't start out like this. If it had we never would have gone along. We started out full of excitement. We weren't going to change the world we were just going to make some decent money at something we kind of enjoyed. We weren't Michael Jordan, George Clooney or Bill Gates. We were however of slightly above average intelligence, hard working and mildly ambitious. So we went to college worked nights and then got our first "career" job. It wasn't what we wanted so we changed jobs. This one was a little better. It wasn't what we thought it would be but the money was decent and it was not bad enough that we wanted to leave. So we stayed. We had a few kids. The job became mostly mindless clerical work, our marketable skills faded, our mortgage increased along with all the other costs of raising a family. Things weren't bliss but they were ok. Somewhere in your subconscious we were thinking I'm stuck here, I can't leave anymore but every week we checked our 401k balance and told ourselves someday we would have enough security to do what we wanted. We didn't want to be managers. We liked problem solving, fixing things, figuring out how technology worked. We did not care about leading big projects and managing people. Someone did however. Someone loved managing people, loved telling people what to do and that someone would one day be our boss.

So 10 years in our life is going merrily along and then came the reorg. Suddenly one day the part of the business we support is being sold and we are given the option to leave or take a different postion. The severance offer if we leave is pretty modest since we only have 10 years in and we have all those mounting expenses at home so we take the new position and the new boss. There were some minor differences at first. This one was not as organized. This one did not keep track of things like when it was time for our evaluation. Then we started getting buried with work. We started getting request after request from many different people. So we went to the new boss and tried to work out a schedule to get everything done. Instead of working with us, the response was we needed to work smarter, work harder we were not putting in the overtime. Ok, so we have had tough bosses before. The first boss we had was a nitpicker who picked apart everything we did. We hated him at first, but he only had one goal, to get projects done the right way. As much of a pain as he was we respected him. We could work with him. This new boss has no interest in working with us. This new boss is almost as happy to have us as a scapegoat if we fail. Sometimes it appears we are intentionally setup to fail. Well that was life so we grinned and bore it. We kept up with the workload but just barely. Then during a particularly busy strecth we got behind. We worked 12 hour days during the week, and we came in on the weekend. Come Monday we were still behind and the boss called us into the office for a status update. Their mouth hung open as we told them things they should have already known. Despite having done everything humanly possible you were not going to be able to meet a deadline. Problems that came up last week that they demanded we fix put us hoplessly behind schedule. Then they turned red and started screaming at us. "What you mean you can't meet the deadline! You promised me you were going to meet the deadline! I don't want to hear it! Your going to meet this if you have to stay all night! Pull in whoever you need. Get this done! I don't care!". It went on like this, a blizzard of requests that we could barely keep track of let alone keep up with. So eventually we stopped trying to keep up. We started guessing what they were going ask us about and started working in such a way to give the appearance we were covering all the bases. We kept living in fear knowing that we would get caught from time to time for something that was not done, never knowing when this would happen. So we went on working, for years with periods of dull tedious tasks punctuated by periodic verbal beatings and beratings for things we determined were beyond our ability to control. One time, after a particular grueling couple of weeks where we worked ourselves to exhaustion only to be questioned about a project that suddenly had changed to high priority, we were accused of surfing the internet instead of working. We know this is made up since we had barely had time to eat lunch but after a few days of sheer anger bordering on filing a complaint with human resources we decide to shutup and take it. We endure miscellaneous other occurences, being accused of not doing anything right, being lazy, being stupid. We don't divulge any personal information as we see how it gets used. The one time we mistakenly confide that one of our children is having difficulty in a class at school we are told there are always "trade schools". When not being berated we are treated to long conversations with the boss about their personal problems, their childhood, their large house, the expensive colleges their kids are going to while we are wondering if this person is going to deliberately torpedo our career on a whim. We wonder if we will be able to pay for our childrens college, whether we will be able to spend time with our 14 year old at home that weekend as his own college days when he will be leaving us are just around the corner.

So we end up being 40 years old dragging ourselves to a place we hate day in and day out just hoping that today is another day we go unnoticed under the radar. We want every day to be part of the 80% or so of the time that we are not the pinata in the boss's sights while knowing like death and taxes that our time will come round again. And when it does we grit our teeth and try to get through it. You can feel your blood pressure rising, your body aging. You find yourself watching your kids getting older missing out on their lives as the stress and worry overwhelm the times you should be enjoying. So what do we get from this? 30 or 40 years of paychecks and a family that thinks you are distant and don't care? A thief takes things you can get back, bullies like this take things that can never be replaced. Whats worse is we let them.


Grumpy Ol' Man said...

When we were kids our fathers hated their jobs so much they drank like fish then kicked the living hell out of us. We didn't cry or whimper like a pansy even though we had busted heads and split lips.
That was the way it was and we liked it.

Elroy said...

Can't do that today, they lock you up, take the kids. Say the wrong thing at work and you get to go to a bunch of "classes" for "training".

Pat said...

When government is predominately backyard bullies in disguise, there is no stopping them - in either party. When public trust is abused, there is little choice but term limits, and to remove the powers that have contributed to the power to oppress, rather than to administrate. Government was never convened to make millionaires from ordinary people sent to government for the people. When both parties participate, what else can people do but take the power back from the power brokers to whom they have entrusted it? Public Servants do not seek the thrill of the win in order to abuse their privilege of trust, and to flaunt their power among those for whom the power was granted - but in each nation, it is seen every day. Administrative power is not a power to steal, nor a privilege designed to provide access for that purpose. The stealing begins when the access begins. If adults cannot make this distinction between temptation and governing, a child's harness and monitoring is the only solution for a people with any power left. Without it, they are mere captives.

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