The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Bullying in the workplace

It happens - there are bullies not only in the school playground, but in the workplace, too.

I once worked somewhere in which my immediate "superior" (inverted commas because he was my inferior in every way except title and physical dimensions), was a bully.

He used bullying on a daily basis to get his way in the organization. It was very interesting to watch the dynamic that was soon set up when he arrived. The actual boss and owner of the company started to defer to the newcomer in the oddest of ways: allowing him to get his way in all things because "That was his job", as Head of Department. The owner couldn't allow himself to see that, so often, the decisions of his appointee were unfair or self-interested or just plain not nice. To have seen that would have been to acknowledge that a mistake had been made in hiring him, in the first place - and whose fault would that have been, but the owner's?

He was a bully in the most direct of ways, even using physical attacks, veiled though they were, in the workplace to intimidate, humiliate or get at it his "subordinates".

One day, he was holding a plastic file in his hands when he turned to face me, upon being asked a question. He stopped dead for a moment, file in hand and stared down at me (he was about seven inches taller than me). I noted that the file was not moving, for a long moment. Suddenly, he jerked the file forward and it struck my head, just above my eye.

"Oops." he said, with not a sign of concern in his cold voice. "I really must look where I am going."

I said nothing. I just looked up at him and the file in his hand and turned away. What could be said to such a one as him?

He bullied in other ways, too. Feedback forms would be given out to all our clients and gathered in to be used in staff appraisal. I had a look at my forms one day and had good a idea of what they contained. When it came to the weekly meeting, he presented a "summary" of my forms that contained feedback that simply had not been in the forms I had received, at all. He had doctored the feedback and changed good feedback to bad, altering the forms, himself.

I raised the matter with the owner, but he did nothing other than say: "I know what is going on there." He didn't actually do anything about it, though. He just recognized that the bully saw me as future competition and was trying to eliminate the threat.

Finally, the day came when the bully overstepped the mark. He got very angry one day and started knocking the owner around the office. He actually physically pushed the owner from one end of the office to the other, throwing him around like a little doll. He was, of course, fired on the spot.

He returned the next day demanding immediate payment of his final cheque or he would "Smash your face in!", as he so delicately put it to the cowering owner.

He got paid and left.

The mystery of all of this was that his nature as a bully and rather psychopathic character was obvious from day one - yet no-one did anything about it. They let him dominate. No-one had the character to stand up to him. Though, I pointed out to the other staff and to the owner exactly what sort of person they had hired, on several occasions. No-one listened until the day the owner himself got knocked around.

The bully was a British Northerner, incidentally and he seemed to have learnt his manners from the street and his whole way of looking at the world seemed to be that of the thug. Yet, he was the Head of the Department: amazing.

Bullies thrive in the workplace precisely because upper management often doesn't listen to feedback from their subordinates. No-one listens to what is going on - until it is too late. Often, in fact, to raise the issue of the bully's nature and personality is to court reprisals against oneself. Thus, the bullies come to dominate their organizations and make working life hell for everyone.

Once the bully had left, everyone felt free to talk about how "stupid" he had been. Oddly, no-one had had the courage to say it when he was there. They just bowed before his every bullying whim.

Bullying should not be tolerated in the workplace - just as it should not be tolerated in school. Once identified, the bully must go, at once. The organization should not wait until a catastrophic moment arises - as my organization did. Only when physically attacked did the owner wake up to what he had done in appointing the bully. No organization should wait so long to act.

By the way, I learnt of the bully's final showdown long after I had left the organization. Like others, I could not wait for the situation to be recognized and something to be done - so I moved on to other things. So, bullies cost the organization greatly - good people just leave when bad people are allowed to thrive. It doesn't take many people like that to ruin a business.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:36 PM 


Anonymous Shannon said...

Some managers use their authority to hurt others. If this type of manager is allowed to thrive, I think that speaks about the entire entity as well as its ownership. Life is too short to work for some vicious, power monger, megalomaniac. In such situations, I believe it's best to find a new job.

4:19 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, indeed, Shannon. I did.

Best wishes.

7:20 AM  

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