Office Bullying Made Me The Best Employee You’ll Ever Hire

~by Jiell Richardson, originally published at Fempotential~

If you’re a woman struggling with negative body image or weight issues, there’s a chance you have one or two stories about a mean clique of girls in middle school gym class or a stepmom who fed you asparagus and rice cakes for an entire summer. Maybe? Well, in my case, my first personal fat shaming was served like a cherry atop a nice, tall manila file sundae.

Whenever my lovely work superior, “Tammy”*, gave me a project, she made it a point to call me to her office, close the door, order me to sit, and spend a half hour explaining to me that she only calls me to assist her because she wants to teach me how to be competent, all before I was secretly given contradicting instructions from everyone else on the team. One day, ten minutes before COB, I was called to her office to receive congratulations for “actually doing something correctly”. She went on a tangent about her new diet and her weight loss, ending her ramblings by slowly looking me up and down and said with a smile, “Ugh, I could never just…be fat again. ”

I wasn’t bothered that I was being indirectly teased about my weight. I just found it highly disturbing that a grown woman would put so much energy into bringing another grown woman down and at work of all places. Throwing hints at the supervisor only made matters worse, since all she would do is bring my complaints back to Tammy. Work, something that I spent most of my time doing, made me feel like a hopeless joke. What I was I to do when I had so little control over my situation?

After taking a few mental health days, I came back with a fairly simple game plan. Firstly I vowed to always slay with kindness. I made sure I was kind to everyone in the office, especially my bully. She raised her voice at me and threw documents at me and created seemingly demeaning tasks for me. And I responded with a genuine smile and a promise to work expeditiously.

I graciously rolled with her punches even when I was being told I screwed something up. She was desperate for some sort of emotional reaction from me. During one of her daily half-hour spirit-breaking ceremonies– I mean “meetings”, she said to me, “I know this probably isn’t what you want to be doing with your life. What was your college major?” Tammy was visually disappointed to learn that I was satisfied with my job and did not feel like the failure she wanted me to be.

In addition to my attitude adjustment, I mastered the art of hyper-preparedness and letting my work speak for itself. I made a point to be kind, but I was not a kiss up. If Tammy was going to criticize my work, it was going to have to take an hour and some elbow grease to come up with an issue with any validity. I can recall a silly lecture she gave on a color-coded spreadsheet I created (that most people understood except her). That legitimately amused me.

I became an excellent note taker. Upon receiving a new project, I annoyed her with questions about specifics (that she may or may not have purposely left out) so that when I presented my finished product, there was zero room for knit-picking. Double-sided copies? Hole-punched? Can you tell me what time you plan to return from lunch so I can make sure I’ve emailed you a draft by then? Would you like this set done first or the other?

Other work superiors loved my commitment. I was being entrusted to work on projects with other senior employees and even folks above the supervisor’s pay grade.  I would have taken time to relish in my personal defeat, but my experience as a victim of workplace bullying had finally become less than insignificant in my life.

Some people are just natural achievers and hard workers (with the two not necessarily being related). Others, like myself, must learn from personal mistakes and challenges. I am fortunate enough to no longer work with Tammy anymore, but my poise, my zeal and my mother-like attention to detail will continue to make future clients and colleagues very happy.

*Names have been changed because at FEMpotential, we are professional, not petty.

 
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downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

5 Signs Your Job is Good for Your Mental Health

The pay is good, your title is fancy, you will actually be using your college degree, and there are endless free lattes and bean bag chairs on every floor. Kudos to you for landing your dream job! Hopefully, when you received your offer, you took a little bit of time to consider whether or not your job is actually good for your health.

Here are five (5) ways you can tell if your job is a good fit for your health and well-being.

1) The office actually has a mother’s room or sick. Sincerest apologies to anyone who is currently nursing. But I am a strong advocate for multi-purpose “mother’s rooms” and sick rooms in the office. Sometimes, you have to remove the computer screen completely from your sight. With some disinfectant wipes and good timing (sick and/or nursing folks take priority of course), you’ve got yourself the perfect private spot for a your afternoon 5-minute meditation.

2) Healthy food options are within walking distance. Unlimited access to fresh drinking water is important to have in any work setting, and so is, to some extent, having convenient access to healthy food options while at work. Most responsible adults will pack a lunch from home on a regular day, but wouldn’t it be a nice thing on a rough or busy day (or even a really good day) to treat yourself to a fruit smoothie or a big fancy Instagram salad? Invigorating.

3) You learn something new every once in a while. Even the most glamorous of jobs start to feel as you’re working on an assembly line at times. A career in hair and makeup styling is highly coveted and is likely a lot of fun. But can you imagine re-creating the same trendy hairstyle all day, every day? One thing that helps stylists and barbers get through their day is having genuine conversations with clients as they work. A barber can give 10 identical caesar fades but has the potential to learn about 10 new Netflix documentaries to watch just from striking up a conversation. That would certainly give me a little more incentive to come into work on a Monday. I call that turning lemons into naturally flavored Italian ice.

4) Your supervisor is aware of the challenges of your job and makes it known. There is nothing quite like working under a manager who “gets it”. There may not be a lot that you can do to make the nature of your job less high stress, but knowing that your boss sees you and sees how what you endure on a daily basis can make you feel a little less unhinged.

5) At least one of your personal strengths is able to shine through at work. According to the World Health Organization, having something productive to get up and do on a regular basis is good for one’s mental health and well-being. WHO also states that a healthy work environment includes career development opportunities as well as giving employees a sense “control and participation”. One way in which a worker can feel in control and like they are making a contribution is by having their strengths identified, utilized, and for the contribution to be recognized.

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downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

Not Having Kids? Not Buying a Car?: My side of the Story

I recently learned that I might very well be contributing to the decline of the natural born U.S. citizens. As a college-educated urban millennial woman, I find myself on the edge of my seat these days, itching to learn what new institutional-crushing superpower market researchers and journalists have uncovered about me.

I’m 26 years old and, in addition to not having or planning on having kids, I don’t own a house or even a car. I use to feel ashamed of my lack of control over my life and how I was potentially letting down my family by not actually manufacturing a life for myself to mirror that of my mother and grandmother (women who firmly believe that children are what make life complete).

I  have no idea what my life will look like in 3 years, let alone 6 months, and I’ve recently accepted that I really don’t have time right now to think about it. Long story short, here are 5 reasons why I’m told need to have kids and why I absolutely will not.

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You need to pass on your legacy.

Seeing as you likely skipped the intro, I’ll reiterate the fact that I don’t own any property of value such as a house or vehicle and have no desire to. So, if I died today, what exactly would I be leaving to pass down? My refurbished laptop? An Instagram account of barely 50 followers?

You would make such cute babies. 

My S.O. (significant other) is cute and she thinks I’m cute. But I am literally a meat sack of recessive genes and, well the logistics of us reproducing aren’t readily plausible logistically.

You will have more people to share the fruit of your success with.

My over-21 friends have loads of fun attending brunch and paying for alcoholic beverages with our hard-earned money.

Babies smell good.

That is a very very strong argument. Babies do in fact smell heavenly. Sometimes, when I’m feeling down, I will randomly request to hold a baby. Babies are wonderful. They love you unconditionally and they can’t walk into the kitchen steal your leftover Thai food when you’re not looking. However, a 6-year-old can, a 15-year-old can, and so can the 23-year-old college grad who will inevitably be living in your basement rent-free for another 5 years. I’m good.  

Children are a reflection of the love you and your spouse share.

Please see #3. The love of my life, too, enjoys the brunch. We drink mimosas and talk about our feelings.

4 Reasons to Volunteer and Then Reflect Afterword

There are a number of reasons why it’s good to reflect on our volunteer experiences just as there are a number of reasons why people volunteer. Below are reasons why we reflect and why it is an important part of community service.

#4) Reflection and other feedback help organizations provide the best services to the community or constituency.

Charity XYZ specializes in providing free lunch to youth in impoverished neighborhoods throughout major cities in the county during the summer. They do this by sending out volunteer delivery drivers to operate lunchtime food trucks. Charity XYZ has been providing the same service to the same areas for over a decade even after cities have been seeing rapid gentrification.

Now, of course, any charity would be prompted to make changes based on heavily monitored social trends, but who’s to say a positive change wasn’t sparked by feedback from a volunteer truck driver who’s been working in a city known for its low income Latino population when he notices that for the last five years many of the “kids” coming to his truck have been college interns and young stay‑at‑home moms living in the new upscale condos nearby?

Reflection gives us the opportunity to provide organizations with more in‑depth insight on the effectiveness of their volunteer approach.

#3) Serving others helps put your own circumstances into perspective.

It isn’t very kind to downplay anyone’s struggles, but with that said, spending a few hours working with a person who’d feel lucky just to get one meal a day might make that super cool iPhone upgrade seem a little less significant. It is widely understood that we don’t realize how fortunate we are until we witness others who are experiencing much worse. Reflection helps reiterate this idea.

Sometimes volunteering isn’t always about privilege‑checking. Sometimes our lives can be really stressful or totally uneventful and volunteering may provide a therapeutic escape. Reflection may help you realize this and prompt you to volunteer more!

#2) Reflection helps keep us humble.

Imperfection is a part of being human. Not everyone is out to help others and, likewise, not every do‑gooder is a saint. It would be easy to assume that anyone willing to devote their time and energy to a good cause has to be completely selfless, virtuous and wise. That isn’t always the case.

Many reflection surveys ask volunteers what they’ve learned or how their experience has inspired them. It is important for people to understand that serving others is a mutual learning experience. We work on ourselves when we work on others.

In addition to helping the community, volunteering and non‑for‑profit work is a great way to build skills, knowledge AND your resume. This is all great, but issues in the community don’t cease just because Jenny finally got into that Sociology Ph.D. program on the other side of the country. It’s called ‘community service’ because it’s about the community.

#1) Doing good can make you feel so good that you HAVE to share it with someone.

This reason is hard to explain if you’ve never gone out and worked in your community. Community service is just as much worth the Facebook and Instagram share as that trip to the beach or a night out with friends. Whether you were required or you signed up by choice, there’s nothing like the feeling you get from doing something good and productive.

Reflecting opens up the opportunity to connect with like‑minded individuals and teach others about the benefits of volunteering.

So Here I Am, Spitting In A Tube For 5 Minutes..

For as long as I could remember, I’ve been interested in culture, heritage and the things that make us all unique. As an African-American, it’s disappointing to face the reality that knowledge of my African family history will never reach farther back than my great grandparents (for most of us, knowledge barely surpasses our grandparents). My resourcefulness and love of history led me to discover my Native American (Haliwa-Saponi) roots, but I was always curious to learn more.

I finally gave in and purchased a DNA test kit which promises to give me answers to all my questions about my identity. Not only will my ethnic makeup be broken down, but I will also learn about my physical traits and diseases I’m more or less likely to carry. I’m excited and anxious at the same time. Imagine having a laundry list of all the diseases you have an 80% chance of dying from..

In a little over a month I should have my results. In the meantime, I’m enjoying this process as a nice conversation starter.

 

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downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

Happy New Year!…Oh, So You’re Joining A Gym?

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I’m sure that for the last week, your Facebook and Twitter timelines were full of memes poking fun at people who notoriously make new year’s resolutions and almost never stick to them. The resolutions in question include joining a gym with the hope of getting in shape and maintaining an overall healthier lifestyle.

It’s no secret that the beginning of a new year is when gyms and health clubs get the most new business, but let’s just assume that at least ¾ of all those new members will stick to their commitment to working out regularly. Are there any significant benefits of joining a gym?

I froze in utter shock the first time I heard a person say, “I hate exercising.” As someone who goes to gyms, uses workout DVDs, takes the stairs and refuses to get in a vehicle when a destination is less than a half hour walk, I couldn’t believe such blasphemous words were coming such fit and athletic looking  people! How else do you look like that and not hit the gym twice as much as I do? I’m not bitter. Do I seem bitter? Oh, okay.

But after presenting this topic to more athletes, I learned that keeping active and “working out” doesn’t always have to be the same thing. The first “I hate exercising” I ever heard was followed by, “doing reps for hours is boring. I have more fun just getting out and playing soccer.” That is when I started to realize that it’s more important for me to find a safe form of exercise that I enjoyed rather than pumping and ellipsing away in a gym just that is the unspoken standard and it makes me look cool on Instagram.

So, instead of boring you with another “New Year’s Resolution” post, I’ll give you a list of some of the  pros and cons of joining a gym and using the gym as your main form of getting exercise.

 

Why Gyms Suck

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There are certain people you find at every gym, and then there gym’s that mainly cater to certain people.

1.A bad crowd can throw off your workout. Not all gyms are the same and that’s okay. Dear deadlifters and fitspo models, whether you mean to be or not, you’re intimidating and some of us find it hard to focus around you. But, hey, you were all here at Hollywood-esque Fitness Gym first, so I’m just going to head over to Planet Fitness with all the housewives and fitness newbies. It’s all good. (Shop for gyms like you would a new car. Try not to knock anyone else’s madness while you find yours.)

2.Getting to the gym can be a chore in itself.  There is no gym where you live and seeing as you live in a major metropolitan area, your morning and evening commute is at least an hour and a half a piece (oh, and you also work from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.). You could join the gym 30 mins  from your job, but it’s bad enough your commute time is cutting into dog-walking, house chores and studying for the LSAT. (Most of what you can do in a gym, you can do in the privacy of your own home. Sports bra, running shoes and a set of free weights.)

3.Gyms can get expensive. This doesn’t need much explanation. Gym membership is like having a Netflix account, taking money out every month. Much time had gone by before I realized I was paying $13 instead of $8 every month.

 

Why Gyms Are Great

1.Great way to meet people. In some very rare cases, a little peer pressure can be a good thing. Knowing that your workout buddy is expecting you is a great motivator. And you’d be surprised how many trainers hang around gyms, scoping out new clients (hopefully in a non-creepy, non-obnoxious way).

2.People take pride in what they pay for. Which would you hate to waste more? A gross $10 meal you bought with a gift certificate, or a $60 gourmet meal that you paid for yourself? You just signed a contract ensuring that x amount of dollars will be taken out of your bank account every month whether you use what you’re paying for or not. At this point you have very little to lose. You’re going to go to that gym and justify the cellulite  out of that $30-$50 a month.negativespace1-20

For those looking to get more fit and active this year, figure what’s comfortable and enjoyable for you, then sit down and make your own list of pros and cons of certain options. If you find yourself following a trend, so what? Your health is for you and no one else. The new year’s gym membership trend wouldn’t be a trend if there weren’t any success stories.

 

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Jiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.