I worked with a colleague whose manager spent a good bit of her time discrediting him. I personally witnessed instances of verbal attacks in meetings, public reprimands, and relentless mocking. Amazingly, my colleague contributed superior work that served his abusive boss well and made him well respected in the company.
One day, after a particularly bad meeting, I asked him, “Why do you stay in this job?”
“I’ve adapted to it,” he said.
I wanted to shake him out of his complacency, but he stayed for several more years and finally left due to deteriorating health, hardly surprising.
While I’m a huge fan of adapting to circumstances and moving forward during times of change, we need to understand that adaptation to abusive situations is NOT healthy. Nobody should tolerate a demeaning situation in the name of survival, because every attack robs us of another piece of our soul.
Crows and Adaptation
The crows, as always, have the answer. I am a huge fan of crows for a variety of reasons, and they’ve been the subject of multiple studies on social intelligence and their astonishing ability to adapt to new circumstances. Crows are my change heroes.
Recent studies of crows have found that they recognize faces for up to five years. This was determined by a series of experiments, including one conducted by a wildlife biologist at the University of Washington.
To test the birds’ recognition of faces separately from that of clothing, gait and other individual human characteristics, Dr. Marzluff and two students wore “menacing” rubber masks during the capture of crows.
Others, not involved in the capture, wore “neutral” masks. Once the caged crows were released on the campus, the scientists studied their reactions.
They found that when the scientists walked around campus with no masks or a ‘neutral’ mask, nothing occurred. However, on the days that they wore the “menacing” masks they were verbally and sometimes physically attacked by the crows, even if they added a hat to the mask or wore it upside down.
The crows had not forgotten.
Bottom-line, crows are among some of the most adaptive creatures on earth, but they don’t “adapt” to abuse. Neither should anyone in the workforce.
Do good work, do what’s right, but if you are being demeaned or taunted or even repressed by a passive-aggressive personality, break out of the cage. Don’t accept it.
We should accept nothing less than freedom and civility in our workplace.