The Workplace Runt



Have you taken an assessment of your workplace culture, and noticed there is someone on the team who seems to be, for lack of a better word, the “runt of the litter”? You know what a runt is, right? In a litter of animals the runt is the one with a disadvantage because of its rank and stature among the litter; it’s weaker than others, and perhaps less likely to defend itself and survive. The workplace has “runts” as well. What I mean is the one employee everyone seems to single out, demean or gossip about during lunch or the break room. “Runts” are not bad people, they are just misunderstood. How serious is this problem in the workplace? Well, the Online article How Serious a Problem is Workplace Bullying?, notes:

Research indicates workplace bullying often involves an abuse or misuse of power that can include behavior that intimidates, degrades, offends or humiliates a worker, often in front of others. More often than not, bullying behavior at work creates feelings of defenselessness and undermines an individual’s right to dignity at work. It has been found that many bullying situations involve employees bullying their peers, rather than a supervisor bullying an employee.”

The Department of Labor and Industries provides examples of workplace bullying:

  • Unwarranted or invalid criticism.

  • Blame without factual justification.

  • Being treated differently than the rest of your work group.

  • Being sworn at.

  • Exclusion or social isolation.

  • Being shouted at or being humiliated.

  • Being the target of practical jokes.

  • Excessive monitoring.

So why do some employees do this to others? I have three thoughts about this matter:

1. Having a “runt” employee makes us feel better about ourselves

We feel better about ourselves when there is someone else we can demean or pick on at work. Personal insecurity breeds a level of disrespect in the workplace. Have you ever worked with someone where the problem lies with everyone else instead of one’s own performance? Of course you have. It’s easier to point the finger than see our own reflection in the mirror.

2. Having a “runt” employee deflects our personal flaws onto someone else

We all have flaws of some kind; the list varies from person to person. However, having a runt employee deflects all of our own personal flaws onto someone else, and of course, we are blind to our own. It’s easier to deflect than to own up to the obvious.

3. Having a “runt” employee makes us feel more secure about our jobs

When there is someone else to blame about the team’s performance and production, a person or group can feel more secure about their job(s). Why not? It’s always someone else who is not producing to organizational standards, right? Pointing the finger or shifting blame is easy and common in the workplace.

So what do you do when someone attempts to pull you into their game of demeaning others. The best way is to stop the person and take the lead in the conversation by saying sometime like, “Let’s go talk to ‘Bob’ together and see if we can work this out.” Most of the time the person doing the gossiping will stop. Don’t buy into their game. Rather build a culture of respect and dignity.

Have you been the object of someone else’s wrath in the workplace? How did you feel? Have you seen this scenario play out in the workplace?

Endnotes:
1. How serious a problem is workplace bullying? by Terry Parker. Times and Transcript, Wednesday October 6th, 2010. http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com/news/article/1250675
2. Workplace Bullying: What Everyone needs to Know. Department of Labor and Industries. April 2008. http://www.lni.wa.gov/safety/research/files/bullying.pdf

The 3 A’s of Capacity Building


Building capacity is essential for expansion in many areas; personal as well as professionally. Capacity is the place we create within ourselves to hold and sustain something greater. So how does a person increase capacity? First, you have to identify the lids that keep you static and remove these obstacles. Second, find the right people or institutions that can shape new thinking. Finally, you must act upon the new knowledge you gain, and gain new knowledge along the way. Building capacity is basically renewing our mind so we can believe in ourselves as to create and engage new opportunities that will challenge you to grow. I have found three essential principles for building capacity. First and foremost you need an honest assessment of yourself.

1.
Assessment

Before you can increase any personal or professional capacity you must assess yourself. Where do you stand today, and where do you want to be tomorrow? What gifts, talents and knowledge do you possess, and are you maximizing them? And what new experiences do you need in your life that will expose you to new knowledge? There are many types of assessments. I recommend a varied sample:

a. Personal or Life Assessment – This assessment requires a self-evaluation. Try taking a week or so, a total of 20 hours of silence to think about your life: Where do you want to be in 5 years from now? What is required to get you there? What people and resources will you need in your journey? What are your strengths/weaknesses? This evaluation will require an honest assessment. However, this is only the beginning, you will need other assessment components to complete this process.

b. Innate Gifts and Personality Assessment – Online offers many assessments; some are free, while others will require money. Many people don’t know “what” they have. I spoke to an adult male who sat at my table during Bible study, and asked him the simple question, “What are your spiritual gifts?” He simply answered, “I have been a Christian for 12 years and I don’t know the answer to that question.” Here are some online assessments:

c. Mentor Assessment – You will need to gather at least two or three assessments, not from your friends, but from three people who know you enough to give you honest feedback about your blind spots, character flaws, personal lids. Who qualifies? Individuals such as a pastor, your employer, a teacher or a mature person you know and respect. During this meeting you must come with a list of questions for them to answer, question such as… what they think about you and what they see in you, and your future.

2. Acumen

Education expands the mind and opens new portals of learning. Where can you go to gain more acumen for internal growth? Here’s my personal example. At the age of 44 I hit a personal barrier in my life, so I needed to find a new context for learning. So I acquired a master’s degree in the area of my passion, which happens to be the area of leadership/mentoring. So I searched out many colleges and universities and finally settled on Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. For me it was an opportunity to integrate my faith with new knowledge. It took me four years to complete my Master’s Online but the new knowledge and relationships I acquired were second to none. I had excellent teachers who cared about my personal growth and were always helpful answering my questions and providing feedback during each course. One of my teachers continues being a personal friend and coach. We communicate through social media, email and phone calls. These relationships and insights gained, especially in the area of your life’s work are essential to increase capacity.

3. Action

Capacity increases through action. The story of Gideon comes to mind. In Judges 6:5 it notes:

The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Gideon felt inadequate but capacity was to be gained along the journey through faith and action. Many people won’t start anything without having everything they need for the journey. This is not always true. Take for instance, the story of the Talents in Luke 19. The Noble gathers his servants and gives one five talents, the other two and the other servant his gives only one talent. Then he leaves on a long journey. There are no instructions given, no strategy was spoken about. He gave them different sums according to their existing capacity. Then the story quickly shifts to the Nobleman’s return, avoiding the strategies employed to increase their shares. The Nobleman expected an increase of the money left to each person. The one with the five came before him and gave him five more. The one with the two gave him two more… each one increasing their gains by 100%. The last one came with excuses and kept the money hidden for fear of personal failure. The moral of the story is about increasing capacity. As you are given responsibility, you are expected to increase the return within a period of time. Capacity was built along the journey through engagement, interaction, and transacting commerce along the way. It was through the process of engagement that increased their personal capacity. Capacity building requires action, and action creates capacity.

How do you build capacity? Have you used any of this three areas in your life to grow capacity?