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If I have unkind things to say, it’s because I’ve experienced unkind things [Nepo, 2000].

If you take someone who is uncelebrated and put a crown on their head, they will rise to the occasion. In the movie My Fair Lady, you’ve no doubt witnessed the impact that differential treatment can have on recipients. Individuals thus grow to behave according to the mirror image they see in the reactions of other people. We therefore flinch when the most “important” voices are left with the remains of the day.

Experiments of the Pygmalion Effect assumed a real world dimension when Janet Elliott conducted her famous “Brown-Eyed Blue-Eyed” grade school assignment. She divided the class by eye color, and then assigned special privileges and status to students based on that phenotype. Within minutes, she saw formerly outgoing, happy, and vivacious students transformed into sullen, scared, and suspicious classmates. Multiply this impact over a period of years, and you can see the destructive impact that bullying can have on its targets (and the horror that lackadaisical management can exact on employees).

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, bullying is an infraction with few consequences for the abuser. Complaining may in fact multiply the target’s problems, because they are then seen as a workplace nuisance. In a company where there is no recourse regarding bad behavior, the impacted party must manufacture massive psychological defenses to cope with the onslaught of abuse. Ignorance is a not a victimless crime when it’s projected outward. Psychological desecration which passes for tough management results in psychic immolation.

In an office devoid of positive sentiment, we need to stop being our own worst enemy. Stop worrying about whether others like what you’re doing, and forge ahead with what you think is appropriate. This does not give us licensure to behave as we please, but rather the maturity to not be a “people pleaser.”

You’ve arrived when you don’t feel the need to get a stamp of approval from another person.


Nepo, M. (2000). The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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