My relationship with words is my voice. The safe place where no one judges me. Where I don't judge me. I know I smiled too much to keep it down. I know my smile kept me silent because I was afraid and when I could no longer smile, I cried and cried and cried for months. I retreated. I am still retreating. I find ways to hide. To stay inside. Where I don't have to smile to make others comfortable.
My first book about "How to be a Pink Flamingo in a Brown Duck Pond" is near completion. The writing process is now concluded with some details yet to be finalized. The book is about leadership, and how to stand up and stand out when it matters most. It is a comeback story about how to live in one's true colors in a world that would rather we just blend in, fade to white and disappear.
This is the book that I hope CEOs read and take to heart. I hope it is the book that all employers read, including government, and make employee experience a priority. I hope it is the book that everyone reads because it is likely that we each will be confronted with a hurtful situation at work.
The flamingo project is about how I lost my voice as a the result of a bad experience, and how I got it back.
During the course of living through the experience that is described in my book and learning about it, I have become aware of the magnitude of this issue of bullying and how it affects people in every part of their lives. Not only have I lived it, and continue to, but I have seen it and heard it from others who have told me their stories. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see someone who was once a vibrant human being reduced to a fearful, angry bird.
October is dedicated to raising awareness about bullying and its impact. Generally speaking, we associate bullying with school. But bullying happens off the playground as well. In fact, statistics say many us will be or have been bullied at work.
I learned that it is not the act of bullying itself that is painful. It is the silence that follows - the fear, the shame, the lack of accountability for bullies, and the social retribution that one experiences should he or she speak out. The lack of acknowledgement of the issue is what hurts the most.
So how to deal with the issue is the question. Can we really expect to end this problem of bullying? I think we need to define the problem first.
I would suggest that a bully is a socially terrified individual who lacks human interaction skills, likely has low emotional intelligence and possibly has been bullied and who acts out against others in retaliation against those who threaten him or her.
Until these people have some power, they are a danger only to themselves. When a person of this type gains power and influence over other people's lives, they can become dangerous can hurt people.
The Flamingo Project is about encouraging people to stand up and stand out and tell their stories so that we can bring this issue out into the open and look at it from a point of understanding.
Will it make a difference? I don't know. It's like trying to cure cancer. But we have to keep trying to understand the issue and what is happening so that we can move closer to solutions. At the very least, we can stop the silence and make it safe for people at work.