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    Inspired to extend a helping hand to ambitious women working in corporate America, a veteran executive offers honest, practical, slightly irreverent advice about navigating companies that are run and populated predominately by men: how to interpret their sometimes surprising behavior, avoid common mistakes, flourish with the good guys, deal with the bad guys, and nurture a wonderful, satisfying career in a non-traditional role.

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  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    The Spirit of the Discreet Guide
    FIRST PRINCIPLES
    The Facts of Life
    In and Out of the Men’s Room
    Tuning In and Dropping Out
    Hold It Right There, Lady
    Skeptical Spectacles and a Critical-Thinking Cap
    YOUR SISTAS AND YOU
    Whose Girl Are You?
    Taking Care
    You’re Different, and That’s Only Mostly Bad
    Impressions and the Real Thing
    Sistas
    EARLY MANEUVERS
    School Days
    Your First Company
    The Cubette
    NAVIGATION TIPS
    Guiding Lights
    The Big C’s: Competition, Challenge, and Conflict
    DANGER—FALLING COCONUTS
    Sit Down and Shut Up
    How Do You Get Anything Done?
    He Doesn’t Think You’re Very Smart
    But Don’t Be Dumb
    TOUCHY SUBJECTS
    After Hours
    One-on-One: Danger Zones
    Sex At Work
    GUYS, GUYS, GUYS
    The Big Guy
    The Good Guys
    International Guys
    The Messed-Up Ones
    Bad Guys
    Super Bad Guys
    YOU’RE A BIG GIRL NOW
    Managing—Between a Rock and a Hard Place
    Work—Why You’re Paid
    THE EXECUTIVE WOMAN’S DILEMMA
    What? I Can’t Hear You
    Courage
    Common Sense
    A Powerful Combination
    THE PRIDE OF THE LIONESS
    Power and Risk
    Leadership
    THE DIAMOND

Bullies at Large

In Is Bullying the New Witch Hunt?, I object to calling all viciousness, or even criticism, as bullying, but don’t get me wrong. There are still lots of bullies out there, and they come in lots of forms: the abusive older brother, the mean fat kid at school, the cruel warehouse supervisor. By the tried and true methods of intimidation, by physical size, status, or power, they seek to manipulate, control, humiliate, or torture those who are not in a position to fight back. They should be stopped but often are not, as we know from just about every movie about middle school. Surprisingly, this sadistic behavior is often tolerated, for complicated reasons, societal, political correctness, or tacit collaboration. We explore a few examples below.

The most classic kid bully I ever met was a sixth-grader at my son’s school. I knew more about this boy than most mothers because by coincidence I had come across his notebook on the playground one day after he had forgotten it. Trying to figure out whose it was, I peeked inside. As I paged through it, it became apparent that this was a very special notebook. It was a journal laid out day by day in which the teachers would keep track of incidents involving the bully that took place in their classrooms or on the playground, for what purpose I wasn’t sure. To show to the parents? To embarrass the child? For the principal’s use? It read like a montage from a Month in the Life of a Bully: shoving a kindergartener in the mud, pulling a second-grader’s hair, kicking a boy in the shin after he beat him in a footrace. It was none of my business, but I couldn’t stop reading the appalling litany.

So I was armed for bear when the principal asked to talk to me after I had witnessed the bully twisting a neighbor’s son’s wrist and making him cry.

“You say that the school has a ‘no-bullying’ policy,” I said. Although privately I thought that was pretty much the same thing as saying “we have no children at this school.” Out loud, I continued, “But this kid is textbook. Why is that allowed to go on?”
“It’s not that simple,” she countered. “He’s a very lonely boy. And I’ve observed situations in which he was being bullied.” The idea that big tough kid was being bullied seemed unlikely. By whom? I thought. His parents? The CIA?

I suspect that she didn’t really know what to do with this kid and probably didn’t have the heart to kick him out if she even had the right to. In this day and age, and in that school, who knows what legal tightropes you’d have to tiptoe over to get rid of a kid. In the end, she and I both heaved a sigh of relief when the boy graduated sixth grade and moved on to another school to become someone else’s problem.

Even adult bullies are tolerated. Bosses who bully are often allowed to roam free because no one can control them, or everyone is afraid to try. They may bully in private, and their victims are afraid to speak up. Or public bullying is a source of general amusement, at the victim’s expense. Bullies can flourish in environments where cruelty is considered funny.

In my observation, in the corporate world, bullying is sometimes even encouraged. Some executives find bullies useful, to do their dirty work. They might bring in a bully to crack some heads, if they think a department is full of insubordinates. Some like to hire a meanie when they go into labor negotiations (which is a big mistake, and counter-productive). Aggressive litigators are admired for their willingness to go after a victim in court. Not all meanness is bullying, but for all our alleged political correctness, bullying is still alive and well.

 

© 2016 Jennifer K. Crittenden

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    Raised on a farm in southern Indiana by an idealistic professor and a feminist homemaker, and after language and film studies in Europe, Jennifer was an unlikely candidate to graduate from a leading business school and enter corporate America. To her surprise, she excelled in her new world and spent the next twenty years building a scintillating career, rising from Financial Analyst to Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Secretary, working for big pharma and biotech companies in the US, Europe, and the UK.

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