Post by Cheryl Santa Maria, contributing Women On Business writer
Behind his back, we called him Bubba.
Bubba was a mean – and rather large – lawyer with whom I used to work. He was gunning for a partner position and spent most of his time brown nosing (I’m sorry, the correct term is “networking”) with his superiors . Due to bad office planning, Bubba’s secretary was not seated beside him. She sat on the opposite side of the floor meaning that Bubba would come crashing down the (very narrow) corridors at least five times a day. If you ever came face to face with Bubba, the only way to avoid being trampled by his considerable girth was to dive into the closest office/cubicle. If you didn’t clear the way when he came a-stompin’, you – and everything else in his path – would end up getting plowed over. He spared no one: pregnant ladies, people pushing mail carts, even the timid artlicing students that reported to him. If Bubba hadn’t been such a terrifying figure, the situation would have almost been funny.
Curioulsy enough, the senior partners and VPs saw Bubba in a completely different light. When they were around he’d smile and laugh, tell good natured jokes, and offer to buy coffee for his secretary who was, for the most part, petrified of him.
Sadly, Bubba was not an isolated case. In that particular firm, I’d even go so far as to call him the norm.
Office culture is strange, to say the very least. After a year of diving out of Bubba’s way and hiding under my desk from my own terror of a boss (also a very big brown noser – I mean – networker), I was struck with a thought:
Are corporate caste systems brought about by individual companies or do we, as a society, gravitate towards this mentality?
In our society success seems to be largely defined in terms of earning power as opposed to human decency. Many “powerful” public figures, like celebrities and poilticians and even CEOs, have openly commited crimes and thrown public temper tantrums only to be forgiven by the general public. At some point these figures (and we as a society) have decided that holding a certain status allows people to act however they please.
Martin Luther King said it best. During his I Have a Dream speech he championed for a day when we “will be able to work together, to pray together [and] to struggle together”. Today, many businesses boast that they have “equal opportunity” status, refusing to discriminate based upon sex, gender, race, creed, religion, disability, etc. While we have collectively moved forward regarding sexual and racial discrimination in the workplace, we still have a ways to go, because when the “high rollers” in a company are treated with more respect than those on the bottom it creates an air of segregation that directly contrasts the things that Dr. King, and so many others, have fought and continue to fight for.
I’m not sure what happened to Bubba, but I hope he got that partner position. Based on his personality, his career was the only thing he had going for him. Me, on the other hand, I’ve come to realize that I have been, and will continue to be, an asset to every organization I decide to join. If the head honchos don’t realize that fact, I have two options: I can either stick around and take their abuse, or I can seek out an organization that will respect me.
We spend so much time at work. The way we are treated on the job often influences the way we see ourselves and our state of well-being. If you currently hold a position that you are more than qualified for but continually feel exhausted, inexperienced and insecure, it may be time to re-evaluate the company you are working for. Do you feel respected or are you taken for granted? are you able to ask questions, or are your superiors condescending? is there a chance to grow within the company, or will you be stuck in the same position indefinitely?
We owe it to ourselves to find companies that will respect us, allow us to grow, and see us as a person – rather than a position. You owe it to yourself to be happy at work.
The world already has enough Bubbas, after all.