Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Strong women

I've been thinking today of my strong women friends, clients and colleagues who have been the victims of workplace bullying and sexual predators. In truth they haven't been "victims". That word seems to conjure up visions of people who have given in, and these women certainly haven't done that. They have, by their tenacity and courage, bucked the system and stood firm, in effect saying "ENOUGH!"

How strong they've been to stick by their values and go against the stream of "Let it be dear." "Ignore it and it'll go away" kind of advice. Or the sad, and untrue "He didn't mean it, you must have misunderstood".

How alone they've felt at times, they've all questioned their motives and wisdom. One, I know, stood firm in the clear knowledge that if she didn't, then the problems would persist with others, until the perpetrator eventually retired. After all, this had been going on for far too many years, known, but ignored by those who could have 'nipped it in the bud', the person moved on from job to job, smilingly giving plausible reasons for being made redundant.

Our whistle blowers are possibly never emotionally prepared for the toll their actions will take on their mental and physical health. How could they be? They're generally alone in speaking out at the organization, and it can take months to find the courage to approach the union or human resources management:  The very nature of the offenses can be sneaky and hidden so there are no witnesses,  or else so blatant that you are unsure if it could have been accidental after all.

The 'victim' has been deliberately chosen; they might be alone, vulnerable, insecure or new to the position. The perpetrator in all the cases I've been privy to, is an established member of that workplace, seemingly respected, and with a strong connection to management.

This is a celebration of ethical behaviour and strong values! Well done my friends! I believe each of you began - almost innocently - alerting the management to untoward events. Each of you started a journey that took well over a year exposing the perpetrator. Justice, no matter how insignificant, was such a long time coming.

Would you do it again? Knowing what you know now?

The actions of those who have suffered bullying or intimidation and who have found the strength to stand firm, has come at huge personal cost. You deserve to be showered in rose petals and have beautiful marble monuments erected, so that others can learn from you, and be inspired. Instead, far too many of you are still shunned as trouble makers.

And what of the others who were there before you, who left without "creating trouble". What damage has been done and what silent cries are buried by those who weren't believed and supported?

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