The Daily Bump and Grind
My employer forces us to dance when we do well at work. I'm sick of it!
Prudie will not host a live Web chat at Washingtonpost.com on Monday, June 28. Due to the July Fourth holiday, she'll be back to chat Tuesday, July 6, at 1 p.m. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.
I have a question about employee recognition. At my company, when a colleague does something great—secures a new account, exceeds a goal, etc.—everyone is called into the lobby. The person's supervisor announces what she did, and she has to dance in front of everyone. I've heard that public speaking is the most common fear, and public dancing has to be up there, especially when you're the only one dancing and everyone is watching you. I've been with the company for three months, and I have been forced to dance three times. How can I let the company know that public humiliation is not a valid form of employee recognition? Let me take an afternoon off, get me a Starbucks gift card, or just give me a handwritten note. This forced dancing is encouraging me to fly under the radar and aim for mediocrity.
—Ballerina Not in Job Description
You're such a stellar employee than in your short time working at this nuthouse, you've been bullied three times into performing Salome's "Dance of the Seven Sales." The curtain must fall on this show. Someone, or preferably a group of you, needs to take off the dancing slippers and explain to the people at the top that motivation is not a synonym for mortification. This should be done before management announces that if employees want to get paid, they must wear a G-string so the bosses can shove cash into it. You leave the impression that this honor falls disproportionately (or possibly exclusively) on female employees. This adds to the case that what's going on at your workplace is not only sick; it's potentially actionable. In Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener, the office copyist, faced with a dreary task, says, "I would prefer not to." Take a page from Bartleby. As long as you're employed at this office-cum-disco, continue with your outstanding work performance but simply decline to engage in any more dance performances. If you get pressured, then calmly explain to your supervisor that dancing in the lobby isn't for you, and while you'd hate to waste valuable work time taking this issue up the corporate ladder, or even going outside the company, you will if you must.
I could not be happier with my boyfriend and the way he treats me. My one concern is that he has an outrageous temper—but only toward inanimate objects. For some reason, if something goes wrong with his computer, or the clock, he freaks out. He yells, swears up a storm, and almost always punches a hard surface. I would never fear for my physical safety, but his venting really scares me sometimes. He seriously damaged our desk by punching it so hard because the computer was slow. His knuckles feel the rage, as well. I have asked him to tone it down, but he can't seem to remember in the heat of the moment. Since he's Mr. Perfect in every other way, should I just let this anger-toward-inanimate-objects issue go? Or is this something that I can legitimately ask him to work on?
—Rage at the Machine
Have I got a diagnosis for you. Maybe your boyfriend suffers from intermittent explosive disorder, appropriately abbreviated IED. It's characterized by a rage-filled, often physical response to minor frustrations. The people who have this can feel they are under a spell as their anger builds, then after the explosion they can be filled with remorse and embarrassment—especially when surveying the damage. I suppose it's good that your boyfriend limits his rage to objects (at least so far), but you say his temper scares you, and that is a huge, waving, red flag. You need to be seriously concerned about someone who regularly gets completely out of control. Worrying that he might smash up the house because the clock doesn't work is no way to live. Let's say you get married. I'm sure you wouldn't want your children to see his explosions or think that's what you do when something goes wrong. Fortunately, cognitive therapy and possibly psychopharmaceuticals can help—if your boyfriend actually wants to get a handle on why he flies off the handle. And unless he addresses this and you see serious change, I'm afraid you need to realize that Mr. Perfect is dangerously defective.
Photograph of Prudie by Teresa Castracane.