Can we stop the nonsense about how to solve violence in the workplace?
Violence is a symptom of an American Culture that has been shaped by the momentum of the decades of the last century. Today, you might find yourself the victim of violence at work, home or in public. Do you avoid someone in the halls, elevators or public and work areas? Is the fashionably decorated workplace a disguise for a dark place where frustration, bullying, stress, expectations of doing more with less, nothing but rushing and hurrying, anger, exist instead of peace and joy and celebrating a job well done together?
There are many reasons for violence in the workplace but in this post, I’d like to make one comparison, what if we compare to an extreme opposite of violence in the workplace.
Violence starts small
First, a short note about the origin of violence. Have you been a victim of someone’s violence? Answer a few questions from your everyday life. In your own story, what are your relationships like at home with your spouse, children, parents, siblings, boyfriend/girlfriend or others? What about at work, coworkers, vendors, customers, bosses, owners? Are you the victim of a grudge, or have resentment about something, have they said a mean thing to you, or have they taken liberties with your things or property, pay, or have they injured you in some way? In other words, has someone you spend time with each day caused you disappointment, sadness, or hurt?
Not to pile on here, but has the person who has done this justified it to themselves, have they made light of it? Is the other person trying to laugh it off, explain it away, brush it under the carpet or in any other way minimize their behavior toward you? Why do they do that? Have they taken to pretending you don’t exist, ignoring you, unfriending you, etc.? Have you thought about why they are able to hurt you and then worse, justify it to themselves and others? They seem to be able to justify and ignore it? How’s the working for you as the recipient?
Violence starts with a division between us. Violence begins with the smallest division between human beings, between you and others.
Our culture, the last 70 years, teaches us to do what we want, when we want, how we want, it says be yourself in any way we think works for yourself.
Culture Change To Individualism
I propose American culture has changed and the change is not good. I’m privileged to have grown up in a time where there was, by my own experience, a kinder gentler nation compared to today. How about you? Can you think back far enough to recognize how things have changed? Maybe you’re younger and missed those days but maybe you have read about it in school and wondered about a day gone by. Do they teach cultural change in school? I don’t know.
I did some looking to prove to myself that “American Culture” is real and it has changed. To my surprise, it was an easy find. I’m sure there’s many culprits but the one I first looked at was our schools. I found a person who did teach new cultural norms. He threw out hardwork, religion, family and replaced it by promoting personal self-interest. Over the last 60 years individual interest is more important than the collective. The Harvard Ph’D taught teachers beginning in the 60’s. And, what a legacy it has left.
The Selfie Replaces God’s Guide for Happiness
What’s changed? The American culture (not sure what this means? Try this.) has pushed God out of the public square and workplace. TIME magazine’s Top 25 moments in American history is only one example. Cultural change to rugged individualism promotes the selfish motives that you come up against when people are self-serving, can’t say oops, my bad, hold onto grudges and all the other items you may have experienced in the opening of this post. The wording TIME uses means something, read it below. The author praises Gibran’s exhortations denigrating religions, reducing them to, “tired orthodoxies and oppressive ideologies.” The author at TIME chooses words to promote “self-trust” the “counterculture.”
They weren’t selfish, they were selfless.
Just to wonder aloud, what would WWII have been without the “Greatest Generation” dying and sacrificing themselves for the betterment of the world. For a time, the US was the worlds peace keeper because we held a selfless belief.
Here’s the TIME quote praising “self-trust” and “counterculture”:
The Prophet. This collection of inspirational sermons delivered by a fictional prophet—on love, marriage, work, reason, self-knowledge and ethics—challenged tired orthodoxies and oppressive ideologies. Though Gibran’s exaltation of human individuality, creativity and difference was not entirely original, the book’s success lay in his ability to make his insights feel like revelations. Ever since its publication in 1923, The Prophet has been a salve for readers who tried—in good American fashion—to break from conformity. Gibran readers include Woodrow Wilson and American soldiers during World War II (thanks to its selection for the American Services Editions in 1943); Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash; members of the 1960s counterculture and now Salma Hayek. The Prophet taught self-trust amid the buzzing, blooming confusion of modern America. http://time.com/3889533/25-moments-changed-america
Violence Will Continue Until We Return To Selfless
Hmmm, have you made a connection I hope? If not yet, then ask the question of yourself. Stop the phone use, stop thinking of the million things you have to do, and think. Take a breath. Think of the person providing you the pain of even a small amount thinking about your needs or how they can benefit you?
Is the person who has made you a victim, taken from you, made you disappointed, or sad or hurt explaining away what they’ve done? Does what they say sound like they’re “right” or “entitled” or otherwise given themselves permission to do what they did?
Our culture encourages individualism at the expense of others; us, me, you. I LOL because who wants violence toward themselves? And yet, human nature is understood in a Catholic way as naturally prideful and selfish. It says we have to work at being unselfish. The human tendency, without a Godly guide, tends to move toward selfishness. This is exactly what we have now.
LOL, I guess the farther away we get from God’s teachings the more we live with the natural consquences. Maybe the thousands of years invested in “tired orthodoxies and oppressive ideologies” isn’t so bad.
It’s one more reason to return to a Godly day in the public square and workplace.
comparisons just to make the point
A 2 Year Old Temper Tantrum
Can you see the connection, violence starts with permission given to people to justify in their minds their own behavior without anyone else being able to correct them.
Parents know a temper tantrum when they see or experience one. Often, the crowd around sees it too. A two-year-old wants what they want when they want it. Sound familiar as we just discussed violence using the same language? Parents we know who have successfully raised young adults did not give in to tantrums. They understand how giving into the tantrum only promotes more selfishness by the child.
Leadership and Employee Greed?
Let’s take this to the workplace now. You may be an employee whose boss made more money at your expense? I’ve seen cases where I negotiated contracts for thousands of employees, on the side of labor, and the midnight negotiation was over a few million dollars for 8,000 employees. This was less than the bonus’ paid to the two people negotiating for the company. Hmmmm.
On the other hand, maybe, you’re an owner or manager and your employees’ greed cost you missing office supplies, tools, lost productivity from web searching or non-productive time, or lost or stolen inventory?
There is a natural consequence for promoting “do what you feel” without any objective criteria of right and wrong. The workplace violence is just one result.
The last example of a natural consequence for our change in culture can be seen in crime stats moving up rather dramatically. To learn more read a book called, “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray, it is about how American demographics are changing for the worse.
How People Behave, that’s me and you.
Economics is about measuring how people behave when they make choices about their resources. Their resources include time, money, power, work-life-balance, vacation, personal interests, volunteering and other things. Economics measures how people think and how they’re likely to act; including the choice of violence or peace in the workplace. It’s the social science of people and uses measurables to quantify how people will think and subsequently act.
I laugh at our culture and cry that no one seems to pay attention. It’s as if, everyone says to themselves, this violence doesn’t affect me too badly, so I’ll ignore it.
In my experience of the workplace, we are grinding down people, equipment, wasting time, and promoting values of money, sex and power. These are all formed around the selfish individual, and that’s hard to get away from.
HR Professionals and Thought Leaders
When I look at the professionals in HR, labor and management leadership and their thought leaders. I’m disappointed that none are making the connections many American Founding Fathers made. That God’s guide for living would make for a utopia.
“Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God … What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.”
One Last Measure
Economists like to measure and compare and without a report in hand, a simple google search makes a point. So, what is the point?
In the last month, there were 61,400 searches on “violence in the workplace” and 5,730 searches for “peace in the workplace.” Look to the top image thath shows the Google search for peace.
What About Yourself?
So, let me ask an introspective question of you? Are you ready? Have you thought about how others may be thinking about your actions toward them? Who have you taken advantage of in some way? What have you explained away in your mind, in that conversation with yourself? What permission have you given yourself to be mad at someone, hold a grudge, justify anger and resentment? Have you “borrowed” from the office, been unproductive at work, or otherwise harmed your employer and coworkers, etc…. ?
Undoubtedly, you have experienced a loss because someone else lived out our cultures push away from doing “good” for others and toward selfishness, self-reliance, greed, and power. But, what about you? Have you done the same?
God Can Be Natural In The WorkPlace
To contrast our the state of “violence in the workplace” with an extreme opposite I found a BBC article on Nunn’s and Sisters.
There’s a profound difference between living in modern America and living as a Nunn, Sister or consecrated women. Their workplace is full of peace because they’re called to be peaceful. They use the teachings of the Church to guide their behavior toward each other.
I’m very fortunate to have Carmela working with me. She is a Sister, formerly cloistered for 20 years. She’s now working in God’s vineyard bringing peace everywhere she goes. She’s not perfect as she will say, but she has a sense of calm the workplace could use. Her love of God trumps her love of money, sex, power. Just like the article below suggests.
On this topic Carmela said, “The facade of this world is not the real world, you have no clue what the real world is.” She regularly prays for people to be healthy, happy and Holy. ” Sounds good to me.
A long rant to be sure but getting God back in the workplace will undoubtedly reduce the violence. At least, this is true for me.