The aim of this article is to shed a light on the repression (silencing) that employees face in the workplace. In some extreme cases, holding the employees back lead to bullying. We will explore the potential reasons for this treatment of the employees, as well as, few ideas on how to listen to your employees or coworkers at your current level. Most of my career, I have been an employee. In the hierarchical sense, I was at the bottom of the decision tree. I had to cope with very bad bosses but luckily for me, I also had great leaders. I observed that most of us face treatments from our bad boss in our daily life and accept it because “this is how it is”. It seems like the boss has the right to undermine you, humiliate you, and worse manipulating you because he has the “power” for it. My stance on this is that it’s a wrong statement. It is disrespectful to people’s intelligence, talents, and personality. However, it is in our power to take action and face that kind of behavior by either changing our own behavior or finding a way out if we have no other option.
Internet: an awareness tool
Internet and the widespread use of social media changed the way people communicate about bullying at work. The way some bosses act can be compared to some level of bullying. More and more testimonials appear online to denounce bad treatments in the workplace. We tend to label bullying or harassment as racism, sexism and any kind of -ism that exist but what it truly is, is a human rights issue. We are witnesses to the rise of awareness regarding workplace bullying. This is the first phase of change. We are becoming aware that bad employee treatment is an issue that we need to deal with. Bullied people can find platforms to share their stories and connect with other victims. They are able to find the support they need to take the necessary actions such as quitting a job or going to court. The bullies on the other side, are now exposed to the public. Reputation websites or recommendations can be used to warn people about a bully.
The victims of bullying, sexual harassment and racism are always asked to prove their accusation. As a victim always try to keep a journal and copies of potential emails, text or anything that could be seen as a proof that you are a victim. Unfortunately, the society accuses the victim first before believing them.
Confined to our roles and stereotypes
Some people I exchanged with complained about not working in a good condition to thrive at work. I want to add that each situation is different because of the company size, culture, and ecosystem. Each individual face injustice or unfairness differently. I realized that the role separation between man/women, black/white, boss/employee originates from a lack of communication. Those roles come with a list of prejudice, conjecture, stereotypes, and misunderstandings that are not easily identified because we have biases.We grew in a one-way communication paradigm. “I” express myself without listening to the other person.
“I”—the women/men, black/white, boss/employee—interpret all actions and intentions. I know exactly what the other person is thinking or feeling about me. I know! I am so sure about their bad intentions. They either want to take something from me or do not want to give me something.
The “I” from the Ego confines us in isolation. We are deaf to others’ point of view and clutch our role (women/men, black/white, boss/employee) to justify our own actions. We work together in a stereotypical world.
Separation & globalisation
We are attached to the masks we wear as a women/men, black/white, boss/employee. Each one of us has a definition of what it is to be who we are in our society. These definitions came from a mix of culture, life experience, and our own ” built-up identity”. These definitions are like a mask that we wear, but who is truly hiding behind it?
Diversity in the workplace rises because of migration, a lack of workforce inland and international companies that are present in different countries with a multitude of cultures, languages, and habits. In this context, we use stereotypes to better anticipate what the other nationalities may do in some situation. There are many debates about the rightness of stereotypes and I agree with the following fact: All French people are not sommelier who love to eat snails. Some of us hate wine and cannot even cook. Sorry to hurt your feelings here. Some stereotypes are almost right and many are totally wrong but it shows how our brain functions. There is a need for us to categorize people.
It is complex to deal with the multitude of masks we wear and clearly see the masks others are wearing. We are so consumed with being a women/men, black/white, boss/employee that we lose sight of living for who we are. We also forgot that the person in front of us is a human being with his/her very own struggles and needs. Now, that we know that. How can we better deal with it?
Learn to listen vs. shut down people
It is always fascinating to observe society in order to understand our individual behavior. It can help us find a solution to a problem because we are looking at it from a different perspective. We know that the separation between boss & employees originated from our identification of our role. As an employee/boss, I am allowed/expected to behave a certain way. I am allowed and can expect certain things. How can we free ourselves from this binary point of view?
In order to move from “I vs. you” to “us”, we can start looking for similarities between us. It happens when we open a dialogue to deepen our understanding of the other person. Each time I had an open communication with people, I realized that on some grounding facts we are pretty similar.
You may not agree with all the things that the person says, thinks and does. The good thing is, you do not have to but now you can understand why the person came to that specific conclusion. You can put yourself in their shoes for a while. If you have lived exactly the same life, with the exact same feelings and thoughts, would you have behaved differently?
I invite you to try to listen to the other person and try to keep your mind open. Ask questions to understand their point of view. Maybe there is a missing information that would explain their behavior. If you understand the person’s point of view you can suggest another approach. You can open new doors and find new opportunities. By doing so, you have prepared yourself to face a person who has different values and beliefs than you. You may tolerate them or not. Most importantly, you can decide if you want to keep the relationship alive or let it go.
Listen more, talk less. Try to understand others point of view. Feel free to register to the newsletter to receive Worksheet #005