I have witnessed great injustice.
I have observed a bully, driven by paranoia, repeat the same pattern of discrimination and harassment over and over, like Groundhog Day; in dreadful increasingly-predictable clarity.
I have seen the cycle begin with misinterpretation, leading to presumed maliciousness, before the unsuspecting victim is written-off entirely. Perhaps they have a certain manner or style about them which appears casual. Or perhaps, after repeated attempts and mounting pressure, they can’t quite manage to write the perfect report, or deliver the faultless project.
The culprit is not a wicked person. She does not take pleasure in causing pain to others. She just does not know how to understand the vast and variable peculiarities of fellow man. She is unnerved when others do not conform with her model. All parts of her machine must click-clack in sync and in obedience. Anything less than high standards are unacceptable.
And so begins the attack in earnest. Said individual finds him/herself set up for failure. Suddenly nothing is good enough. They are overwhelmed by unreasonable demands, pressure, aggression and intimidation.
I have seen a senior manager stand by the bully’s side and feign sternness. He too is scared, but panic has driven him to dishonesty.
I have seen the head of the company pull rank, slick and seamless, without the faintest interest in establishing facts, and with unwavering (blind) faith in herself and her senior team.
And I have watched the victims try to reason, argue, cope, rationalise. All to no avail. And they are broken.
For many, the cost of fighting back would be too great – emotionally and materially. Maybe one day someone will have the tenacity and strength to make a case. Tricky, as the oppression is so subtle. How can misconduct be proven? The bully will have her own examples and records. And even if there is success, what of the others complicit in the attack? Look how closely they are knit. When the rot runs deep, what hope is there for purity?
Me, I confided in her victims. I did my best to prepare them and tell them the tricks – what to look out for. And when the cosh loomed above them, I told them that they were not alone, not mad, or hopeless. Sadly, they had just walked into the wrong workplace. Who was to know? And the best solution: to get out and move on.
It would take time. They would feel feeble and haunted at first; confidence eroded. BUT, they would have done the right thing, and a kind thing to themselves. And for all its darkness, the experience would have given them invaluable insight and appreciation for every other workplace which was less dark.
I fantasise about how I might end this miserable business. But what troubles me more than anything, is all the people who witness but do not feel the injustice. Perhaps some can be forgiven for self-absorption or poor perception, but many routinely sit on the fence. They say that it’s never been a problem for them, as if their experience is the only yardstick with which to measure. Or worse still, they benefit from the system and wish to protect their own interests first and foremost.
Of course, this behaviour exists outside of the workplace. People are weak. While there may be individual perpetrators of injustice, there are too many who choose not to see it. Yes, it is maddening.
I guess all I can do is be realistic, do what I can, and remember my own advice.