Why Do We Punish Ourselves and Each Other?

In considering today’s title, please understand the format for today’s article will shift.  I will ask you to read how it was written, scenario, question, pause, reflect, and then continue.  The idea is to spark a conversation inside you, launch a discussion with others, and raise awareness.  We need to change how we think about several things if we are ever to move forward.

Scenario:  An employee is hired for a front-line, entry-level position.  Quickly the employee distinguishes themselves, the employee’s experience is an assortment of companies, but the education is first-rate accredited schools.

Questions:  How do you treat the employee?  Do you help them professionally to advance, even if it means they might outrank you?  Do you stifle them and keep them in their position because they have not “paid their dues with the company?”  Does veteran or disability status matter to this scenario?  How long is “long enough” with a company to “prove value” as an employee?

PAUSE

Reflect – Has this happened to you?  Have you treated someone similarly?

Scenario:  Slightly similar to the first one, a competent employee is hired into an entry-level position.  A recruiter needed a slot filled to meet a quota, and a desperate person required employment in a tough job market.  Circumstances led to a poor hiring choice, but the employee is not complaining and is working well but is looking for advancement.  The employee could be considered for a higher-level position if they were not an employee, as the job market has changed dramatically.  Since they are an employee, their pay grade automatically excludes them from consideration for the positions they are applying for.

Questions:  How do you treat the employee?  Do you help them professionally to advance, even if it means they might outrank you?  Do you stifle them and keep them in their position because they have not “paid their dues with the company?”  What matters more time with the company now and paygrade, or the original recruiter decisions?

PAUSE

Reflect – Has this happened to you?  Have you treated someone similarly?

Scenario:  You notice a problem at work.  You raise the concern using standard company protocols to the proper leaders for action.  The company strongly believes in a desire for speedy action and customer service focus.  In this situation, you, as the employee, are the customer and deserve to see an effective but quick response on the issue.  Weeks pass, a co-worker mentions that you should give up your focus as the problem has been around a “long time and has never been resolved.”  Worse, by focusing on the issue and asking for resolution, you are labeled as the problem.

Questions:  Do you keep pressing on “beating your head against the wall until your face is squishy,” or do you drop the issue?  What about from the other perspective, you’re the manager, how do you treat the employee?  What do you say to support the problem-solving skills, even though a situation might not be resolvable?  How would you approach the employee?  What if the employee is correct, the problem is solvable, and the situation could be resolved with a new approach and new eyes?  Are you willing to risk and win?  Are you willing to risk and lose?

PAUSE

Reflect – Where is the line between courage and victory and acceptance and misery?

Scenario:  “A new Chinese restaurant is opening in Phoenix, lots of hype, lots of marketing.  The cook staff is all zombies; the place is called “Deadman Wok’ ing.”  Yes, it’s a corny dad-joke.  Nobody chooses to be offended in a virtual room of 12 people, but the joke teller is advised not to tell jokes as a spouse of an attendee could be offended.  The spouse is not in the room, was not told the joke, and is not in the primary audience.

Questions:  What do you do as the joke teller?  You observe this scenario; what do you choose to support the joke teller or ridicule the joke teller?  Why?  Would the country of origin make the joke more or less acceptable?  Why?

PAUSE

Reflect – Humor has power; when did we stop allowing humor to help?

Scenario:  In a public space, a man strikes a child; you observe this strike.  Before the strike, the child was verbally harangued, assaulted, and abused.  A major public scene has developed, cell phones are recording the incident.

STOP! – Replace Child for Woman, does the significance change?  Why?

STOP! – Replace Woman with Animal, does the significance change?  Why?

STOP! – Replace Animal with Man, does the significance change?  Why?

Questions:  What do you choose to do?  If the significance changes, does your response change?  Why?  If you step to the defense and the situation worsens, are you mentally prepared for the consequences?  If the victim despises you, are you still willing to accept the responsibility for stepping into the fray?

PAUSE

Reflect – The equality of humanity requires mental courage until the first time violence is necessary to back up our choices.  Do you accept the consequences, and are the consequences still worth it?  Even inaction in these situations is a choice with consequences; will you accept inaction and the consequences?

Some will think this post is esoteric, others will disregard it as philosophic, and others will try to ignore it as never happening to them.  Yet, for some people recently on a subway, when a woman was brutally raped in front of them, the last scenario was a reality, and the consequences will be their’s for the rest of their lives.  Recently a woman was stabbed for interfering; she also will have life-changing consequences.

How many others carry scars from choices and actions they never realized would turn out negative from a positive choice?  More, why do they consider a positive became a negative and have they judged themselves too harshly?  I know people who experienced rough childhoods, who now punish the world.  These people gained a little power, as they suppose, and use every means at their disposal to punish and inflict misery and pain.  Worse though, I have met people who had great childhoods who grew up mean, sallow, and they intentionally inflict harm and pain because it is the only way to experience the world.  I actively work to see these people stripped of their power, regardless of what it costs me, for I would see these people’s streak of tyranny end!

I am not here to save the world.  I am just here to influence my small corner for the better.  Maybe, if that is the best we can all do, that is how we make this broken world a little less broken.  Take courage, act!  You will never regret the consequences of standing for the innocent and hurt and helping those who need the hand up.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.