What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That’s what little boys are made of!
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!
You know the stereotypes.
Boys – vocal and violent – the feared fifth-grader beating up the first-grader for his lunch money.
Girls – quiet and subversive – a best friend suddenly turning on another, sabotaging friendships with silent but knowing looks.
Most people would agree that bullying is an unpleasant situation, but people have differing opinions on what constitutes bullying. Any mistreatment of another can be considered bullying; so let’s just say bullying is making someone else feel shitty, and like a loser.
But if everyone has experienced bullying in childhood – what happens when we grow up? (Not much new.)
CubicleViews recently questioned the practice of bullying in the workplace. (He used more colorful/colloquial language.)
Nice guys finish last. Hmmm, here we go down the rabbit hole of my mind further, which led to another thought. Am I too nice? Should I be tougher in the workplace? Will that get me farther up the corporate ladder?
(Short answer – no you shouldn’t, but a ton of people are.)
In homage to upcoming second half of the 2012 Major League Baseball season, let me attempt to explain.
A pitcher on the baseball field uses a variety of pitches against his or her opponent.
A fastball provides a metaphor for the notion of masculine bullying. The ball is thrown hard, fast and directly towards the strike zone in front of the batter – a direct and visible challenge.
In contrast, a curve ball represents feminine bullying. The pitch appears as though it is heading toward home plate in one direction, but slyly changes its route at the end – tricking the batter’s perception of when and where to swing the bat.
Pitcher and team alike agree that both types of pitches are necessary to win. As adults, the mean girls use both masculine and feminine forms of bullying against their chosen target.
And while the childhood stereotypes do fade with time – you don’t often see the boss storm out of an office, punch a minion in the face, and steal a report – but you do experience a lot of the subversive manipulative making-people-feel-bad techniques. And also yelling alongside the occasional temper tantrum.
If a pitcher in a baseball game hits the opposing batter with the ball, there is a chance it was a wild pitch. (“Juuuuust a bit outside…”)
Also possible is that the pitcher’s team is angry with the batter’s team, and the batter is receiving a painful warning or retaliation. (“This son of a bitch is shaking me off. You believe that shit? Charlie, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well.”)
Regardless of the reason, pitchers on each team receive a warning by the umpire when they bean a batter. If it happens again, the pitcher will be thrown out of the game, regardless of intent.
Some people say hitting a batter with a pitch is unacceptable sportsmanship, while others believe it is merely a part of the game.
These opinions are strikingly similar to the way bullying is handled – the first offense receives a warning, and the second (and beyond) receives some form of punishment such as a written reprimand. Maybe even something in your “official file” <gasp>!
More than 90% of adults experience workplace bullying – psychological and/or emotional abuse – at some point within their work careers. Employees who perceive themselves as victims experience high levels of fear and anxiety – paranoid that others may be “out to get them.”
In his post, CubicleViews acknowledges that the workplace is much like a sports team.
I view it as we’re not that much different from a professional sports team. All players in a team sport have a role. You have quarterbacks and linemen. You have pitchers and right fielders. Goalies and defensemen. Drivers and pit crew tire guys.
In baseball, a foul ball counts as up to two strikes, but a batter can only be called out if a subsequent foul ball is caught in the air.
This is often how aggression is played out in the workplace – the victim may potentially lose face with colleagues, but he or she cannot be fired for the actions (or comments) of others. After a while however, victims may feel that they are standing at home plate, swinging away, just trying to stay alive.
Those who do eventually strike out are often captured on camera throwing equipment or punching the water cooler.
But let’s all remember the sage advice of the great Crash Davis. “Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic.”