Are you truly ‘mindful’ at work?

Whenever I read about workplace bullying I think about the boy in my class at school who, years later, took his own life.

I hope it’s not gratuitous to mention it.

For me, as someone who was bullied a bit at school but, at other times, left alone, I think a lot about my part in it. And the uncomfortable truth that, while often I stood up for him, at other times, I didn’t get involved because I was just glad to be left alone by the bullies.

The truth is that school can be a pretty grim experience.

But work can be too.

And often bullying comes in more nuanced forms. Being ignored, ‘ghosted’, frozen out, passed over for work, whispered about in corridors. That can be even more upsetting and unsettling than the more obvious forms.

The truth is this happens in so many law firms and other workplaces.

So this report referencing bystander behaviour is important.

We all have a duty as humans to be mindful. To be conscious of whether we’re marginalising others (either intentionally or inadvertently).

We all like to form groups. But we need to notice when those groups become cliquey. And to bear in mind how it feels to be left outside those groups.

You see it everywhere.

I see it these days in playgroups I go to with my baby where people don’t say hi. Even if it’s patently obvious that it’s your first time there.

I see it in the many experiences my mum (who is profoundly deaf) has had of people talking over her. Not being willing to make the effort to try to communicate with her (there’s a great scene about this experience for deaf people in the latest series of Sex Education by the way).

Sometimes it’s shyness that stops people from being mindful about this stuff.

Sometimes it’s busyness.

Sometimes (as was sometimes the case with me at school), we like being members of the group and we don’t want to stand out.

But we need to notice it. And to try to act against this instinct.

Let’s not fall prey to ‘group think’. Let’s notice this stuff in the office. And let’s try to be inclusive. It’s ok to have preferences about who we work with and who we spend time with. But it’s not ok to marginalise people.

Thank you Lucinda Soon for this post.

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