Why it’s important to SPEAK UP

When I was in elementary school, I had many encounters with bullies. I was bullied because I was smart, I was quiet, I looked a certain way, and other reasons I will never understand. I remember the dreaded fear I felt on the school bus (one location of the bullying), praying to disappear in thin air. I think most people, more than who would probably admit, have been bullied at least once in their lives. I’ll save the research for another time though. Those experiences have made me a more compassionate, kind, and considerate person. I’ve invested time over the years in working through insecurities stemming from those experiences and I’m in a much better place…or am I?

I’m here to tell you friends there are real live bullies in the workplace. Some of you know this already and cope the best way you can. I’ve encountered bullies at several agencies I’ve worked for. One bully at a work place is too many yet I’ve seen several over the years. I do believe it speaks to a toxic or an emerging toxic work culture if these people are not stopped and allowed to perpetrate their bad behavior.

You might have heard the best way to deal with a bully is to stand up to them head on. Although this can be very difficult emotionally and mentally, I agree to a point. It also takes courage.. We all knew in school if you told the teacher or other adult in the school you may suffer worse consequences, plus that never stopped the bully anyway. I finally dug up the encourage a time or two to stand up to a few bullies in my preteens. I’ve had to do it in my adulthood too.

The stakes are high in the workplace in that there are risks detrimental to staff morale, staff retention, and whatever the agency’s bottom line is. I think any agency should take bullying seriously because the behaviors are toxic. But what if they don’t know it’s happening in their organization? Then, it’s your job to SPEAK UP and tell them.

Last week was rough and tested my emotional boundaries at work. On top of it, I had a strange interaction with a colleague that made me realize she is a bully. After several email exchanges, she sent a very inappropriate email and there was no mistaking the meaning. I decided not to respond because I will not feed into toxicity. Not only that, I forwarded the email to my direct boss who forwarded it to her boss.

Thankfully, I had a therapy session that afternoon and was able to talk it through with my therapist who validated me. That experience was triggering and I needed to separate myself from the emotion which was difficult at the time. She encouraged me to have peace knowing someone else will handle it.

The next day I was able to speak to my boss and my boss’s boss about it. I felt so much better afterward, especially learning this person has displayed a pattern. My boss’s boss plans to address with this person directly. I emphasized the behavior was manipulative and toxic and because of my choice of words, that got their attention. My boss’s boss stated she had never heard me talk like this so she was definitely taking what I said seriously. She took it a step further and apologized to me which I wasn’t expecting. I’ve reported toxic behaviors to leadership at several agencies and maybe one other person apologized. I was very appreciative, relieved, and felt supported.

This person is not going away anytime soon so I’ll be dealing with her again. What she won’t get from me is a response to her email. She will learn I have boundaries and I will not tolerate the toxicity. I truly care about the people I work with, those I supervise, and most importantly myself too much to not SPEAK UP when I know this isn’t right. I hope if in a similar situation this post encourages you to be brave, stand up for yourself, speak up, and seek support.

There will be a Part II on what happens if nothing changes after you SPEAK UP. In the mean time, I hope you have a productive, exciting, love-filled week with pops of fun and joy.


Learn to say no

In the rental car on the way to my meeting near Lubbock, Texas, I caught the middle of  an interesting discussion on a Christian radio station. From what I gathered, people were calling in to discuss their struggles with saying “no”.  I’ve read countless articles on wellness and self-care that emphasize the benefits of saying “no”.  With age, I’ve vanquished most of my people-pleasing ways. My “no” indicates boundary setting and and acknowledges my limitations. It’s a statement indicating:  I value myself more than I desire to please people.  Let me tell you, it took a long time to get here!

The radio host’s perspective on thinking about saying “no” struck a chord with me. His point was that it’s great for people to take on different tasks, goals, activities, etc. as long as it doesn’t prevent them from doing their very best in their primary God-given assignment. Everybody has an assignment from God whether it’s taking care of their family, community, business, ministry, etc.,. Yet, if you take on so much that you are unable to effectively manage your NUMBER ONE assignment, then it’s time to say “no” to some things.

The radio show resonated with me because I’ve had to learn to say no without feeling guilty, as many people do.  I know that my primary, God-given assignment is to take care of my family. However, there was a point in my life where God had to remind me. I’m a constant learner and overachiever. Upon completing graduate school, I felt like SUPERWOMAN and had to share my SUPERPOWERS with the WORLD.  Who else works full time, raises small children, and earns a graduate degree? Soon after graduation, while working my full time job, I became a board member of a small dance company my daughter attended. I had also been leading a ministry at my church.

Both projects required much time and effort.  I genuinely enjoyed them both, but boy did I OVEREXTEND myself! I started to see the toll this was taking on myself and my family.  I honestly didn’t realize how much work each would take. God was sending me messages that I was doing too much. I was stressed and struggled with resentment. I began questioning my intentions and why I had committed myself in such a way.  Then one day, I heard the message loud and clear, “I should be pouring my gifts into my family”.

I used to pray for God to use me to help others, but he had already entrusted me with my beautiful family (people to help). I had spent so much time away from them while in graduate school and here I was helping other families in projects when I needed to be with my own. Don’t get me wrong, my family was not neglected (that much – I’m an overachiever), but I began to think about what more I could pour into them by redirecting my energy.

I resigned as the board chair of the dance company after a year. That experience taught me to examine my expectations and returns on investment before I agree to extend my time.  What did this project have to do with my larger goals?  I also eventually phased out of leading the ministry at church after several years. Thankfully, the pastors were messaging to all congregants the importance of taking a break from ministry to avoid burnout. It was all coming together.

Another point the radio host stated was to ask God about what to do when approached with the requests for your time and energy. As an intellectual, I can rationalize and come to a solid conclusion on my next steps – participate or not.  I also rely on my gut and determine if I am at a place of peace with my decisions, which I also attribute to me seeking guidance from the God within me. However, I will work on also asking God directly.

Currently, I get offers to participate in  lunches, fitness classes, events, projects, etc.  Similarly to what the radio host indicated, if any of these activities take me too far away from my primary God-given assignment, then I say “no”.  And I do think it’s possible to have more than one God-given assignment although the radio host didn’t mention it. He specified a “primary” assignment.

My family’s happiness is my barometer of performance in my primary assignment.  If my children start having problems of any sort, I pull back on my activities. If I find myself working on projects that cause me to spend less time with my family, I pull back.  If it feels more chaotic at home, I pull pack. If I sense my husband is becoming stressed, I pull back.  If anyone becomes sick, I pull back. If I no longer feel enjoyment, start feeling burdened or stressed by the activity, I pull back.  I coordinate work travel arrangements so that I am not gone for too too long, so I can get back home to my assignment.

I hear someone from the peanut gallery (I haven’t used or heard that expression in years…ha!) frowning and thinking I’m giving too much and should put myself first. I am selfish at times. I also know that my primary God-given assignment (my family) requires me to be selfless too.

What’s your primary assignment?  Is it time to say “no” to some things? What should you be saying “no” to?