Thursday, February 14, 2013


I’m reading a book by the teenage daughter of a good friend of mine, and I’m hooked.

I do like young adult fiction—these books take me back to those days when I was a kid and a regular bookworm, so much so that when I got my new library card and was allowed to borrow three books, I was scolded by the librarian for returning each day for my “new three.” On day three or four she said, “You’re going to have to read these books more slowly. You’re not supposed to borrow three books every day. Could you please wait until your card is processed before coming back?” Imagine, a librarian making a child feel guilty for reading too much.

But I digress.

I started reading this particular book because I’ll be interviewing the author for Musings, but like I said, I’m now hooked. (Such a talented young lady!) I won’t divulge the title of the book or the author’s name until the interview is posted, but I do want to discuss one line in the story that caught my eye.

The protagonist, a twelve-year-old girl, has just crashed into the wall of an ice skating rink after seeing her boyfriend kissing another girl, and she’s lying on the ground with a broken arm, in pain. It’s humiliating and overwhelming, and she starts to cry. She tells her friend, “I’m such a wuss for crying,” but her friend disagrees and says, “It’s always okay to cry when something hurts.”

Ah, the simplistic wisdom of youth! This statement makes perfect sense, but it got me thinking about the one place where it most assuredly is not okay to cry, no matter your pain, and that’s the workplace.

In the workplace, “big girls better not cry” or they’ll be labeled weak, “emotional,” and “too sensitive.” But at the same time, a man can raise his voice, curse, throw things (oh yes, I’ve seen it), and make the dumbest of decisions based not on business best practices, but on his own personal interests.

Well, allow me to clarify. A man of a certain rank can raise his voice, curse, and so on without facing the same disapproval a women would. And while in some ways this makes sense, with “membership having its privileges” and all that, in another way it makes no sense, because the more important your function, the more impact your decisions will have on the organization. So if Joe Schmo in Accounting rudely raises his voice to his coworker it’s bad, but when a senior leader raises his voice to one of his managers during a staff meeting, it’s terrible and has the potential to not just affect the manager in question but other employees working for the managers who are looking to the leader for what behavior to model.

But I’m not simply criticizing the men here. I’m “hating the game, not the player.” (And I don’t particularly care if no one still says that, it’s a fine phrase and expresses my thoughts perfectly.) Because the game is hypocritical and not that great for business. Everyone should be exercising a measure of self-control in the workplace and no one should be yelling, cursing at colleagues (or clients for that matter), throwing objects around, or unilaterally making the poorest of decisions based on his emotional attachments or her need to have her ego stroked.

Sigh. Life sure was simpler when I was twelve. 

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