Toxic Workplace

The long conference table was full of drinks, notebooks, buzzing cell phones, tubes of chap stick and napkins with cookie crumbs. A different woman sat in front of each microworld of her own creation.  Some had a place at the table for years, others only months. There was no cohesion between the co-workers, they were better termed as workers in the same agency rather than teammates or colleagues.

Another client had just been reviewed. Opinions about how to move clients forward or out of the program were tossed about as carelessly as the meeting had been planned and executed. The tension kept everyone on edge, outbursts and barely veiled insults took the place of constructive feedback or actual planning. This was all normal for a Wednesday.

One woman, a graduate-of-the-program-turned-employee-human-behavior-expert, ran her long black nails through her jet-black bangs, over and over. Someone had just suggested the use of empathy and another chance in making a major life change.  

Staring up towards the ceiling as though summoning strength from her higher power, she declared, “Y’all don’t know sh*t about sh*t.”  

And since that time, I have surrendered to this new understanding. I don’t know anything about anything. Everything is new and amazing with this perspective, especially all the potential job listings, as I also reached the realization that this unique environment is not the place for me.

The Airing Of Grievances

The large conference room was filled with angry faces. Several tables were configured in a semi-circle around the accused and her comrades, who happened to be the management.  The workers were on the edge of turning savage; they snarled and breathed heavily as they prepared for the meeting.

It was an airing of grievances, of which there were many.

Icily the accused stared out at the workers, refusing to look away. She sat with her straight back in perfect composure.  There was no reason for her to answer to these swine.  In front of her, she had neatly folded her hands one over the other, which would have been non-confrontational, if she hadn’t been wearing a pair of tight, black leather gloves.

Everything else about her was normal; light pink blouse, pleated slacks, modest, black heels and a dainty gold chain that lay softly over her collarbone and around her neck. She wore just a hint of makeup and kept her intricately braided hair pulled back with a clip.

Everything but those damned black leather gloves said she was willing to make peace.

Almost certainly, it was the gloves that tipped the workers over the fine line of decency. The gloves proved that she had something to hide, a reason to veil her dishonest hands and a lack of shame that anyone else was implicated.

The first stone was thrown, followed by another and then another. Her comrades stepped away, unwilling to risk being struck as well.  Out of respect, they lowered their eyes, unwilling to participate in the violence but unable to stop it.  Small pebbles grew into rocks with the workers’ confidence until finally a boulder was pushed over onto the accused.  She held her hands up to shield the blow; the gloves did nothing to save her but they did send her out in criminal style.

gloves-2