Of Bullies and Bullying

Just read that none other than Newt Gingrich is suggesting that Republicans need to take time out to learn about their own country.  I was amazed; I thought that was unusually insightful of him.

Then I read another article that quoted another Republican pundit making guesses as to what the Republicans need to do to get back on radar (um…they didn’t lose by much, so I would suggest they never went off the radar, but anyway…).  His answer: make a few of the right noises about Hispanics and marijuana, and continue to blame Obama for everything.

Nothing about shutting the fuck up about gay marriage.  Nothing about zippering Republican mouths when it comes to subjects like rape and women’s rights.

Nothing about fixing the economy.

This, I gather, is from the same sort of person who, as CEO of a company that employs a lot of low-wage labor, vows to cut back on job creation because of being “forced” to pay .15 extra per worker (update: per pizza) for health insurance.

Yes, this is all from the same type of individual.  These individuals are bullies.

I have no doubt that all the answers Republicans have and will come up with to address their current unpopularity will be either inadequate or just plain wrong, because that is the hallmark of bullies: they have no clue.  Like my ex-friend, who is one of them, they were all convinced that might makes right; the election was in their pockets (by virtue of their pocketbooks), Romney would be elected and all would be white with America.  But they did not get their way and now they’re having a fit.  When they’re not having a fit, they’re trying to make sense of it all, but the conclusions they come to do not make sense because they haven’t any sense to base their conclusions on.  Further, they have built an entire news network to reassure them that all their wonky beliefs and conclusions are so correct as to be written in the Bible.  Kind of like the kids’ story The Emperor’s New Clothes.

It’s all Wonderland, Republican style.

That’s why I was so astounded by what Gingrich said.  Sometimes I think he’s a bully with perhaps half a lick of emotional intelligence, which is what bullies lack, and is what is needed to understand what’s going on in the U.S. right now.  But then I look at his history and I think, nah.

I’m going to drag the emerging generals-in-bed scandal into this because it’s another thing with hallmarks of the bully all over it…as in, it does not make sense in any light except a Republican attempt to create a scandal.  It’s a Fox-News fodder type of thing.  I mean, who the hell else gives a crap about what a general does in bed but a Republican trying to control something?

I’ll betcha that’s what it will turn out to be in the end, with a few unintended Republican scalps hanging all over it because, again, they did not see it coming.

This is what happens when you deal with life from the safety and unreality of bully-land, where everything goes your way or else: you get surprised a lot.  And sometimes, you really don’t like the surprises.

P.S. Here’s an ode to the blinkered Republican: Put Another Log on the Fire

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Not so sure about performance

Read this article on performance reviews.

Here’s my take on them: not everyone hates them.  I’d say only about 70% of us hate them.

As a person who has seen more than their share of sucky performance reviews over the years, I’m in the 70%.  My reviews have only very rarely represented my work, attitude, and value.  This is true of most people, I suspect.  Performance reviews are a well-instituted lie that perpetuates and promotes corporate aims.  Corporate aims for the last 30 years or so have been mostly to excuse layoffs and “out-sourcing.”  Therefore, the majority of us have been the subjects of sucky reviews, or at least meaningless reviews (as in the case of people who get fabulous reviews and then get laid off anyway — which has also happened to me).

However, even a good review can have its uses.  Remember Nurse Bully?  Yes, that’s the bitch I used to work for…the one who helped drum me out of a job just because she had no idea how much I was doing, and apparently didn’t realize it until after I quit.  Well, I went through several years of performance reviews from that chunky bitch, and none of them had anything to do with reality.  They all had to do with a very nice person who came to work every day and did totally out-of-the-textbook tasks that had nothing to do with the job that I was actually doing, or that anyone in the company was doing.  I signed them because I’d heard from other employees that she did this to everyone; in fact, in one notable case, an employee kept receiving copies of old reviews written by a previous manager.  Nurse Bully simply had no idea what anyone was doing, period.

So why didn’t I mind?  (1) I got raises, and (2) the reviews came in handy when she forced me out of my job.  You see, here I was, this nice person coming to work every day doing her mythical job, actually not seeing nor talking to Nurse Bully for weeks on end, and all of a sudden Nurse Bully was trying to claim I was a sucky old cuss who refused to do any work and was insubordinate and resistant to all her numerous kind efforts to help me.

It became very easy to prove the wide gap between what I’d been like and what I’d been doing, the performance reviews she’d written, and the way she suddenly claimed I was and what she claimed I had been doing.  This was especially damaging to her because for a long period of time I’d been doing work that was normally assigned to those earning at least a third more than I was.  And she had no idea.

And so I may have been eligible for unemployment, even though I had quit the job.  Of course, Nurse Bully, like most bullies, is an extremely lucky bitch, because I found a new job immediately.

Performance reviews at my new job aren’t much better than at the old one in terms of accuracy, but at least I’ve caught on to their value.  I keep a copy of every one.

So should we eliminate them?  Probably.  Will we?  No.  Like miniskirts worn by most women, and jeans 20 sizes too large worn by boys and men, they are a bad idea that refuses to be forced to go away.

And so we must figure out a way to make them such a liability that they eventually go away willingly.  In the case of performance reviews, I have figured out how we might do that, and I invite all workers to do the same.

It’s job insecurity, stupid

Big news of today is that U.S. Americans are, in record numbers, dissatisfied with their jobs. 

No big news is that two of the three guesses of the experts regarding this matter are at best redundant:

(1) people who are unhappy with their jobs are underemployed because of the economy, which does not explain why dissatisfaction continued to increase even when we had a strong economy, and

(2) people who are unhappy with their jobs are unhappy because health insurance and other factors have cut into their wages, effectively reducing what they earn.  This point does partially explain why workplace unhappiness continued to grow even during the good times, although it sort of cancels out that fondly-held wishful thinking among employers that fat paychecks do not equal happiness.   And it does not address a core issue; in fact, none of the theories I read did. 

What needs to be addressed?  The fact that our present work environment breeds bullies like rabbits at a fur farm.  How?  Job insecurity.  Bullies thrive on making others feel, well, bullied — and being able to threaten people’s jobs and emotional well-being without fear of retribution is a bully’s paradise.

I started to work over 30 years ago.  It was different back then.  Yes, we had our malcontents — I was often one of them — but the majority of people felt secure and, if not outright happy, then at least content with their jobs.  You could depend on your job being there for decades to come, and your coworkers became an extended family.

As the years went by, that sense of security and permanence slipped away.  (I commented on a key reason for this a few days ago.) Along with the security went the real teamwork and comradery.  Nowadays what one is left with is something akin to a jungle, complete with eyes glaring out of bushes and sharp teeth and claws digging into one’s back.  Life at work is precarious and cheap.

When management promotes this, it is called bullying.  Having been a bullying victim several times before I was forced to quit my secretarial career, I can write a book about it — and probably will someday, naming names and places.

As I said, the last and most notable time, the bullying cost me my career.  In that situation my primary bully was a nurse-turned-manager (although in my case, she had two arrogant doctors unwittingly assisting her).  She was well-known throughout the organization as a bully, and mine wasn’t the first career she had either damaged or ended.  In fact, soon after I started there I was told by an outside source that Nurse Bully had recently driven out a well-regarded secretary whose career at that facility predated hers (“watch your back,” said this person, “they go through a lot of secretaries here…”).  Later I found out about an extraordinary story: at some point Nurse Bully had fired two secretaries on the same day, and they both went to H.R. and got their jobs back immediately.  I’ve never heard a story like that before or since.

The career of my immediate predecessor ended equally as badly as that of her predecessor, although that didn’t happen for some months after I started, because this young woman was herself a tough little corporate-game player who managed to get herself promoted, which is why I was hired.  But in the end it wasn’t enough to save her career in that facility; she ended up getting mowed down by the 200-lb. bowling ball called Nurse Bully just like the rest of us did.

The point of all this is that in spite of the tangible results of her serial bullying, management refused to do anything about Nurse Bully even though she was not only a bully, but an incompetent manager (incompetence and bullying tend to go together — and the bullying tends to be directed at underlings who threaten the bully by being competent in their own roles).  I understand she’s still there, blithely untouched by anything she’s done to anyone else.  Why is anybody’s guess, but the point is that most bullies seem to go unpunished for far too long, free to multiply the damage they cause for ages before anything happens to them.  Some go through their entire careers unscathed.

Because of all this I maintain that the issue of job security must be strongly considered, and this business of bullying — and it is a business by now, as it ‘s so institutionalized — is a byproduct of the lack of job security that needs to be addressed.  Bullies need to lose their jobs before anyone else does, period.  Management needs to stop protecting them, or at least figure out why they are being protected and eliminate whatever it is doing the protecting.  What’s in it for management?  Increased worker satisfaction and retention (starting with management’s own intention to retain workers, which has to be more than words on paper), and reduced healthcare costs — even if wages remain static.

That’s right — while some people may be underemployed these days, and many are losing increasingly substantial parts of their static paychecks to health insurance companies (Fat Man, do you hear me?  No?  Oh yeah..you’re deaf), it’s not the whole story.  The rest of the story is that bullies are costing U.S. business billions — and bullies are partially a byproduct of job insecurity.

I’ll wager that by increasing job security so that everyone doesn’t feel so damn scared, you will reduce satisfaction for bullies and ultimately, bullying itself.  The recalcitrant cases like Nurse Bully, the bitch I worked for, could be sent off for professional help or just plain old fired, which would embarrass at least some of them into behaving like human beings.  (But no, I do not feel that even being fired would get anything through the thick skull of Nurse Bully.)

To put it very briefly once again, the issue of job satisfaction is strongly related to job security, and bullying is often a byproduct of the lack of job security.

It’s just a thought.