Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Labelling a child

At the moment, when I think of labelling, I think of two things: one is the rubbish labels that I bought for Elf's school clothes which have already fallen off; the second is how dangerous labelling a child can be. 


We are taught as new parents to label actions not the person. A label can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. "If I am told I'm naughty all the time, I may as well act naughty." I didn't need my degree in Psychology to understand that one.


Which brings me to the world of work. In a company where "Customer delight" is our number one priority, and obviously as an employee I am a customer, I am not delighted to be labelled "difficult". My newly promoted manager's manager said at the time of his promotion that "I wasn't to make life difficult for him". This upset me and made me feel like the old dinosaurs, who used to own this company before we were bought out by an American giant, were still at large, labelling as "difficult" anyone they couldn't bully. I succumbed to the bullying eventually; not quite so difficult then funnily enough.


Every negative comment or suggestion that I put to my newly promoted manager enlarged this feeling of paranoia that I was seen to be difficult and not just trying to do or suggest the right thing. Our lovely HR troubleshooter convinced me that I was indeed paranoid and that I shouldn't try not to be myself. Give it some time, she said, for him to flex his management muscles and it will all settle down. I went away a delighted customer.


That was last week. News of this HR chat got to my manager's manager and when she came down for a catch-up yesterday, she asked to see me alone. I explained my paranoid feelings and how our HR lady had assured me that the "difficult" comment was probably just a throwaway comment and that it was playing on my paranoia that the old regime still reigned in this part of the company.


Oh no, apparently I am labelled as difficult by "a couple of people". One of them named as the conference director, the other unknown but it's obvious who. According to my manager, who has spent all of maybe a week in total with me, it could be seen that I wind up my newly promoted manager because I go into too much detail. I was also warned that the new departmental structure will work, and it if doesn't, it will look bad for me and even go as far as to hinder my future progression in the company. (They don't know that I want to become a teacher!) I wasn't the one who told another member of staff to f*&% off last week (my manager I am told), but I am the one who is being made to feel responsible.


Labels at work can go either way - they can become a self-fulfilling prophesy or they can destroy a person's sense of who they are, what they stand for at work and how they conduct themselves. 


Lesson of the week I must remember not to go into too much detail to wind anyone up, and I must not be difficult.


Watch this space.