We have an entire generation emerging from schools that had zero tolerance for bullying, and I think we're already seeing the effects. I have some hypotheses on how zero tolerance in schools is changing the American workplace. Here are some of my thoughts. Do you agree with me?
Cocky nerd: With no bullies to suppress nerds, we're seeing the advent of the cocky nerd. Nerds used to be shy and hardly emerge into the light, but now they can be the most popular kids at school. I see a lot of cocky nerds emerging in music, and I think they're showing up everywhere. This is probably a good thing. If smart kids thrive, then everyone benefits when they come up with the cure for cancer, the personal helicopter I've always dreamed of, or a way to colonize Mars.
Lazy smart people: I was talking to my office manager about the disconnect between the younger generation and mine in the workplace. One of the big complaints I hear pretty universally is that the best and brightest grads can be downright lazy. They want to put in their hours, not work too hard, and go home at 5. My theory on this is that bullies in school made my generation's smart kids feel like they had something to prove. They'd become billionaires or cure heart disease and show everyone at the next reunion. Bwahahaha! Fast forward. This generation of smart kids were the cream of the crop in their schools and they were treated like gold. They won student elections, ran the clubs, and even became cheerleaders and captained the football team. They have nothing to prove. They're kinder and gentler, sure, but where's the motivation, the willingness to work late and put in that extra mile? Do bullies serve a purpose in society after all? What other explanation is there for some of the workplace behavior I see reported by frustrated HR people and supervisors? Where's the joy in working hard to accomplish a task exceptionally well?
Culture shock: With bullying alive and well in the workplace, we have a generation that is utterly unprepared to deal with workplace bullies. They think they can tell HR and everything will be taken care of, like dropping the anonymous bullying complaint in the middle school office. Ha! What a rude surprise they're getting. When this generation grabs some power in the workplace and the legislatures, bullying will disappear from the workplace too.
I think the trick here will to be for my generation and Gen X to figure out how to motivate the millennials (without bullying, obviously). I'm not sure what the answer is. These are obviously gross generalizations and purely untested hypotheses, but I think we'll have some unexpected effects when the zero tolerance generation takes over.
Bullies need to be eliminated in workplaces as well as schools. I think it's overall an improvement that this generation is a bully-free zone. Will they figure out how to end wars? Will they shun bullies instead of rewarding them? Or will they bask in the glory days when they were kings and queens of the school and wonder why they are getting poor performance reviews from the mean old boss?
So, do you think I may be right? Any other theories on how anti-bullying laws for schools will impact the workplace? I'd love to hear what you think.
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