If there’s one thing I forgot to mention in my note to my 18-year-old self, it would be that although I did leave behind the high school bullies, I wasn’t exactly done with them. And no amount of weight lost or skin clearing up or change in the way I dressed could prepare me for the next generation of holier-than-thou assholes who were just jealous that I had FAR more self-assurance than any of them ever would.

Not too long ago, in one of my “lives,” I remember making the case to do something in the marketing. I remember clearly the return e-mail telling me what a stupid fucking idea it was. (I still have that e-mail.) And then I was just going through some new e-mails (I grudgingly read the marketing to see what they’re up to.) And it looks like that company implemented my idea — word for fucking word.

I thought it was the stupidest thing they had ever heard and what was wrong with me for suggesting it?

I could waste time being angry. But it really makes me think about how people are evaluated on their performance. Especially now at year-end when so many of us are doing reviews and raises, it really brings to light that everything is simply based on someone’s judgments of value.

That situation this morning tells me that my old reviewer could evaluate me as having no usable ideas, and therefore unworthy of promotion or an increase in compensation. But no one will ever take back those words when it is suddenly decided that I had a nugget of sense in my brain after all.

Hell, in my experience, historical amnesia tends to set in and the person who was given the idea, is suddenly the author of it anyway. I just happen to be in a field where we don’t miss a trick and can at least pat ourselves on the back for having a good idea after all.

I know that stemming the bullying in our nation’s schools is on Washington’s to-do list right now. As well it should be. Especially with this week’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it does a lot for the GLBT population of all ages. And since that’s the group that has been most notably bullied to death (literally), I am glad that we are getting our priorities — er — straight.

It will probably take at least three generations for the bullying problem to truly abate. But what I wish I could be around for is its long-term impact on the workplace. Let’s face it, bullying happens every day … whether it’s a boss to a supervisee, or a supervisee who kicks and screams and threatens upper management.

I remember several mid-level managers who drove staff away by the dozens each year but who made too much money for the company to fire. I always suggested that we calculate the churn for always losing employees (and the actual plus opportunity costs of replacing them) versus what was earned/banked through performance metrics. My bet was always that it came out nearly even.

In any case, I do wonder what the workforce will be like if ever we can stem the childhood bullying problem. I’ve analyzed everyone I’ve ever worked with. I can easily see who was the bossy kid. I can pick out the shrinking violets with my eyes closed. And I can VERY quickly spot the ones who got their asses handed to them as kids … the ones who let 30 years of repressed anger explode at truly the weirdest moments.

Moreover, I see the rest who don’t mean to be bullies, per se, who have the tendency. Mostly it’s because they’re having a tough time at home in one form or another (i.e., a stressful time in their marriage, an uncontrollable kid, a dependent parent, an affair they’re trying to cover up) that causes them to misdirect their emotions.

I ain’t defending it — just trying to rationalize it. We all have our breaking points and woe be the person standing too close.

But to the point when it means that an employee is judged based on factors they don’t — and won’t — ever even KNOW about, well that’s what makes me nuts. Sure, it can always be brought around to the employee. You handled this wrong. You suck at this. You “disappointed” me. You “aren’t who I thought you were.” You “clearly don’t get it.”

It’s those blanket summations that we’ve all heard over the years — when we were truly just trying to figure out what was best for the company, even if it was a colossal mistake based on simply not knowing that we were standing in front of a dam with a pocket knife — that come to define us. If not in our eyes, then in someone else’s. That’s bullying in its purest sense, to me — the bully puts a label on someone and reinforces it so much that they have no other choice but to believe it because they can’t break out of that mold otherwise.

I realize this is quite the tirade for basically what amounts to my idea being validated after the fact. I’m just saying that I didn’t need the whole “you’re an idiot” riot act in the first place when I suggested it. Because while I know better than to let anyone define who I am, their actions and words do have an impact on the person I’m supposed to become. Imagine all the ideas I squelched that day after that little slap in the face … the idea that might have made THAT idiot a million dollars.

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