This story came to me in meditation. It is about a time in the 1950s. The attitudes in it are quite shocking to most of us these days, but bullying certainly does still go on, as we all know. It is never acceptable, for any reason. Most people are more broad minded and accepting of those who are not quite like themselves. See what you think. It is an example of bigotry which can appear in many forms.
Bullying in the Workplace
Morag was born in Glasgow. When she went to school everyone spoke in the same way, they used the same slang, they understood each other. She went on to college in Scotland and trained to work in the bank.
Morag found it hard to get a job in Scotland. She decided she would have to travel south of the border to get work. She found a bank teller’s post in Nottingham. Morag found it quite difficult to make friends there. Everyone spoke differently from her and they did not seem to understand what she was saying. She too found that she had to repeat herself a lot. People looked at her as if she was stupid when the words came out of her mouth. She felt it was hard to believe that she and they came from the same country.
She realised that something would have to change if she was to be understood. She started to copy what she heard – the local accent. She did not go as far as calling other people ‘ma dook’ meaning ‘my duck’, the normal friendly way of addressing others in Nottingham. Gradually she found she had tuned in with the locals. She understood them and now with her newly acquired Nottinghamshire accent they understood her. However there was one person whom she could never seem to please or understand. He was the manager of her line manager. Fortunately her line manager was pleasant enough, but Mr Sneyd was not. He took every opportunity to make horrible jibes about the Scots when ever she was in earshot. At the copying machine he would imitate her accent when he spoke to others. He never spoke to Morag but made reference to her in front of her to other people. He was a jokey sort of character, but his jokes were always at someone else’s expense. He was a social climber and endeavoured to impress those above him with his quick wit and self-declared talents.
One day Morag decided she had had enough. She had a choice – to leave the job or to face up to the bully. After all she had done nothing to offend him except to be herself. There were four people standing around the copier, Sneyd was among them, holding forth as usual, bragging about his golfing prowess. Morag approached.
‘Ah, here comes the Gorbals; no golf courses in that part of town, I’ll be bound ‘ said Sneyd.
‘Why?’ asked Morag. The other three staff looked embarrassed. Sneyd was surprised. ‘We weren’t addressing you,’ he said.
‘No,’ said Morag ‘You never do, you just talk about me, not to me and I’m at a loss as to understand why.’
‘Well I couldn’t expect a Scot to understand much, could I? `That thick Scottish accent, it’s a wonder you can understand yourself.’
The other staff looked sheepish, one sniggered. There were no laws against workplace bullying in those days. Morag was furious.
‘You are nothing more than a classroom bully. Don’t you think it’s time you grew out of it?’ she said. Morag decided at that moment that she wanted nothing more to do with her job in that place. She marched into the manager’s office and told him she was leaving because of Sneyd. She poured out her anger and frustration.
‘Miss Fife, why have you not complained before ? This kind of behaviour will never do.’
Morag knew it was an empty platitude as she had seen Sneyd talking to the manager in pally, boastful way about his golf. She guessed they probably discussed her foreign ways on the golf course.
I know all this because she was my mother and she told me the story of her first job in England. She told me she went to London where they were more accepting of people with all sorts of different accents, beliefs and ways of life.
It wouldn’t be tolerated these days – bullying in the workplace is illegal now. No one should get away with it and if it happens to you, you need to be brave and to report it because if someone is bullying you for some reason the chances are that they are bullying someone else too. Only reporting it and standing up for yourself will put a stop to it. You have to report it to a higher and higher level of management if those lower down are not prepared to deal with it. It must not be tolerated or we will be back to the laws of the jungle where might is right.