Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Bully Two Shoes

"Intern...I think I'm an office bully."

These words were said to me by a friend of mine who actually has a job...and look what has happened to them...

Now, this person is my friend, so I can vouch for the fact that they generally wouldn't hurt a fly, but their confession does raise awareness of one of the more unpleasant sides of interning: The Office Bully. 

The Boy, in one of his rare moments of wisdom, has pointed out that it is usually only those lower down in the office pecking order who deign to bully. Or as he scathingly refers to them as, "The Middle Management."

Bosses (generally) don't have time for the pettiness of bullying. If they have a problem, they resort to the quicker and more effective form of yelling at you. Fine. I accept that. Straight, to the point - if you have fucked up, you sort it out and move on.

But what I can't abide by, and what I've witnessed more than once as an intern - particularly, it must be said, in my non-film placements - is the Bully Assistant.

Think about it. These people are on hallowed ground. They have fought through the slog and actually managed to catch hold of the golden apple which is A Job. Many of the people on this first rung considered themselves to be especially intelligent for having been born far enough in advance to avoid graduating during the credit crunch. So they definitely don't want some scrappy little upstart (that's you, interns) coming along and doing a better job than them, in case they are routinely replaced and find themselves out with the rest of the garbage, begging for the scraps of whatever jobs are left.

And so, in order to maintain that primitive awareness - "ME ASSISTANT - YOU INTERN" - they feel the necessity to put you in your place, ensuring that you lose any feelings of self-worth which may make you confident enough to steal their job. 

At Online Fashion Magazine [cue shudders], this took the form of school-girl cattiness, resorting most of the women back to a time and place they feel most at home. You know the sort - hair flicking, giggling, the occasional rolled eyes - and all because you ask where to find something on the shared drive, or attempt to join in the conversation - "Yes, I saw X Factor last night too - I really like...". 

This particular incident, which actually happened to me, plundered me right back to being a ten year old, realising that I had my pinafore tucked in to my knickers. In the workplace jungle, joining in with the conversation is the equivalent of sniffing another cheetah's ass. It says, "hey, look at me, I'm part of your species - Befriend Me!" But when those fellow cheetahs simultaneously look at you, roll their eyes and giggle, you realise you are left out in the cold, and will probably have to hunker down in a separate part of the jungle for the night.

This, like most office bullying, is a wonderful example of passive aggression. They never come right out and say "Fuck Off, get back to the photocopier, you Intern you." No, that would break the unspoken rule of "protocol". Instead, it is giggly-girly batting eyelids, all the while reassuring the victim that underneath that butter-wouldn't-melt smile are a pair of sharply gnashing incisors. 

Now let me get something straight: I am not your "hun". I am certainly no-one's "babe". If you want to put me in my place by telling me to make you a cup of tea, Do Not preface your request with any of these terms of endearment. 

So what does the lowly intern do, when faced with such sickly-sweet but obviously cutting remarks? 
Fight fire with fire my friend. You flutter those eyelids. You smile that smile. They want you to react, and I have it on good authority that if their tried and tested playground efforts are defunct, their heads may just explode.

And then you can steal their job.

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