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Archive for the category “bullying”

The Good Samaritans

Previously I wrote, What’s Wrong with People and why are Cyclists the Targets of Their Stupidity, a jaded look at a trend in society toward disrespect, rudeness, coarseness and in-your-face, bullying behavior, often manifested in belligerence toward cyclists.  Today I experienced the opposite type of behavior, a boost for my faith in humanity (although, maybe not coincidentally, the graciousness came from a fellow cyclist).

I was riding a 6.75-mile trail in my new hometown of Summerville, SC when my back tire went flat more than five miles from the trail’s start and my parked car. I was unprepared BikeFlatTireAnimated– no patch kit, no extra inner tube.  What can I say? I was never a Boy Scout. It was a Flat Tire, Choose moment: Either throw a fit, swear to the gods, kick the back tire and throw the bike into the adjacent creek, or suck it up, accept bad luck and solve the problem.

I began backtracking the five-plus miles I had already cycled on foot, pushing the bike, not wanting to damage the rim by riding on a flat. I was resigned to a walk of at least one hour and 15 minutes to get back to my car. Soon after I began my walk, a woman on a bike passed me going the opposite direction. About 15 minutes later, a mile or so into my trek, I heard a voice from behind me.

“Excuse me, do you need some help?”

I turned around to find the same woman who had passed me earlier, now alongside me, straddling her bike.

“I got a flat and I don’t have what I need to fix it.”

“Where are you heading?”

“To the beginning of the trail.”

“How far is that?”

“About four or five miles.”

“My husband is walking our dog. He’s going to meet me at the parking lot at the bridge. I just have to find him and we could give you a ride in our truck,” she offered.

“You mean the bridge we passed about a half-mile back?”

“Yeah, there’s a path up to the parking lot. You may beat us back there.”

Having watched too many Dateline and 48 Hours episodes, and living with a wife who often warns me of hypothetical criminals who could be lurking around every corner, I momentarily imagined myself naively getting in the couple’s pickup truck, and in short order, being taken hostage, tortured at gunpoint and my lifeless body dumped in a swamp off the road, a vision that conjures up the derelict, sociopathic Brad Pitt character Early in Kalifornia.

I could have been fooled badly, but I detected genuine goodness in my fellow cyclist, and went on faith that her husband would be similarly congenial.

“I’ll meet you at the parking lot,” I said, and turned around to head from whence I just came.

The young couple, likely in their 20s, met me at the parking lot just like she said, helped me load my bike into the pickup along with her bike, gave me the front seat, and drove me five miles out of their way to my car. We engaged in conversation during the drive, with her husband referring to me respectfully as “sir” (not that I expect to be called “sir” by people junior to me in age, but I have experienced that a lot in the South so far).

I thanked them multiple times for their graciousness. I wanted to bottle the moment to revisit every time I feel myself becoming cynical about mankind. They were the type of people I would like to corral as new friends, if not for our generation gap.

We parted. I may never see them again, unless I run into them on the trail. No life was at stake; the situation was not desperate. Nevertheless, I likely will never forget their act of pure kindness for a complete stranger. Thank you Angela and Chris, Good Samaritans both.

What’s Wrong with People and Why are Cyclists Targets of Their Stupidity

I went for an bike ride last evening on a usual route in a semi-rural/wealthy suburban region of my county. The weather was perfect, with the sun beginning to set, and the ride was peaceful – except for the three different motorists who either hurled epithets at me or yelled and waved their arms at me from behind, apparently trying to scare me.

And all I can think is, What the hell is wrong with these people? And why do they love making cyclists the target of their displaced anger or desire to harass or bully? Because that’s what it is.

The worst offender was the man driving in the opposite direction that I was cycling, in the opposite lane. He purposefully slowed down, pointed his arm at me out the window and RoadRageyelled a few indecipherable words followed by a clear, “Faggot!” What inspires such unprovoked anger and hatred, I have no idea.

On my way back on my circuitous route, two times people yelled and screeched at me from behind and stuck arms out the window. One seemed to be a carload of teenagers. This happens often to cyclists, perpetrated by ignorant and disrespectful people who have no concept that cyclists take risks every time they ride the roads, and that being startled by a piercing scream coming from an approaching vehicle can cause a cyclist to swerve and lose balance just enough to wipe out.

I’ve never had the desire to yell at a cyclist from a vehicle. I don’t know where that comes from. We do have a lot of anger problems in our society, and I suppose it has to get displaced somewhere. In my counseling internship, I counseled several people with nearly uncontrollable rage, including one who could be set off by a look or slightest misstep by another. They had no idea why they felt that way, but desperately wanted to get rid of it.

When I get cursed or screeched at while riding a bike, I can feel a little road rage coming on myself. I have the desire to track down the motorist and get in his face (perpetrators are always male) and yell, What the f*** is wrong with you, a**hole! Or at least get the license plate, though I don’t know what I would do with that information. But of course the motorist is long gone before I can do anything. So I just put it in perspective, shake my head, let any feelings of anger dissolve quickly, try to feel compassion for the disturbed motorist and keep on pedaling.

Speaking of road rage, it’s a growing epidemic, an indication of our frantic, largely self-absorbed society. In the last week, right in front of my son’s high school, a man driving erratically during the morning commuting hours pulled out a gun and shot at another motorist, hitting the driver’s side door. I can’t say I would be totally surprised if someday I see a driver pointing a gun at me as I cycle the road, especially someone with explosive anger who believes I have held him up from his destination.

Do any cyclists out there have similar stories of being targeted by angry or just plain stupid motorists attempting to torment you as a lark? I’d love to read them.

A Different Perch for the Schoolyard Bully: The Boss’s Seat

You would think this would be an enlightened era in the arena of workplace conduct, civility and respect, with increased awareness of women’s and minority rights, civil rights, equal opportunity, discrimination, sexual and other forms of harassment, and generally boorish behavior.

Yet workplace bullying appears to be pervasive and an expanding style and strategy of management, with little or no repercussions for the perpetrators, who use this style to enhance their power and intimidate, victimize, marginalize, humiliate and deflate their subordinates. Or in some cases, it’s a tactic used by peers to assert dominance and solidify position in the pecking order.

Management, including human resources departments, often has more interest in protecting the bully, who may be perceived as productive, effective and a company loyalist. The victim of the bully may be viewed as a whiner or troublemaker, and doubted and even blamed. Bullying in the workplace is not illegal, and any legal remedies for discrimination or hostile work environment can be time-consuming, costly, stressful, hard to prove and difficult to achieve.

It is not just the young, inept or the weak who are victims. In fact, skilled, seasoned, accomplished, competent and productive workers – many who are in midlife and at a time they should be thriving professionally – are the most likely to experience bullying at work.

In my career, workplace bullying has been alive and well in work environments. In one job at a health care nonprofit, a complaint about pervasive bullying by supervisors was expressed clearly and anonymously by employees in a survey, to the surprise and apparent dismay of top management.  You would think a health care organization would embody the values of caring, dignity, respect and fair treatment, but it was not immune from bullying behavior.

Bullying can thrive in any work environment, not just in testosterone-stoked, competitive industries, especially if management is oblivious, willfully ignores – or even worse, insidiously defends or condones — such conduct.

My employer had no policy or system in place to address bullying behavior. The stopgap remedy? Make a complaint to the organization’s compliance officer, the corporate attorney, whose main job was to protect management and the organization. Would you think that would engender confidence in an employee that their concern would be taken seriously and that they would have a fair chance at redress?

I’m no expert on workplace bullying. The Workplace Bullying Institute is. WBI defines workplace bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment” and abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; verbally abusive; or which sabotages, or interferes with or prevents work from getting done. Bullying is driven by a perpetrator who feels compelled to control the targeted individual, and who chooses targets, timing, location, and methods to inflict emotional abuse. Bullying behavior can be acts of commission or omission.

WBI has surveyed workers and studied the targets, causes, effects and prevalence of workplace bullying. The Institute’s 2014 survey showed that more than 1 of 4 workers had current or past direct experience with abusive conduct at work. WBI cautions workers about being overly reliant on their HR department to provide support and relief; HR’s main function may be to buttress management and maintain status quo.

WBI has found that likely targets of workplace bullying are:

  • A “threat” to the perpetrator.
  • Independent and refuse to be subservient. In reaction, bullies escalate their campaigns of intimidation to wrest control of the target’s work.
  • More technically skilled. Insecure bosses don’t like to share credit, and steal credit from targets.
  • Better liked, have more social skills, and may possess greater emotional intelligence. Others appreciate the warmth that the targets bring to the workplace.
  • Ethical and honest. The most easily exploited targets exhibit a desire to help, heal, teach, develop, and nurture others.
  • Not likely to confront, or respond to aggression with aggression. They pay the price in that the bully can act with impunity if the employer is unaware or does nothing in response.
  • Likely to suffer stress-related health problems (nearly half, according to the 2007 WBI-Zogby Survey).

The loser in workplace bullying scenarios is far more likely to be the target than the perpetrator, according to a 2014 WBI survey. In 61 percent of cases, the target quit or lost his job, compared to 15 percent for the perpetrator.

If you are being bullied at work, you should know you are not alone. Then again, as research shows, the discouraging truth is that you may likely have a lonely battle on your hands to do anything constructive about it other than leaving your job or sucking it up and dealing, with all the attendant potential consequences to your health.workplacebullying

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