Discrimination and harassment in the workplace has been a frequent topic of discussion in the media. But did you know that shy people are often a frequent target of discrimination and harassment?
Shy people's quietness, seemingly timid disposition and lack of assertiveness can make them easy targets of harassment by bored or disgruntled coworkers. Sometimes shy people have trouble making eye contact, which can be seen as a sign of weakness.
Furthermore, shy people often have more difficulty making friends and building relationships when starting a new job. Networking is more difficult for them, and fewer people will come to their defense or aid if they are unfairly criticized.
Indeed, unreasonable or unjust criticism is a frequent weapon of on-the-job harassment. There are laws against racial or sexual discrimination, but there are no laws against "shy" discrimination.
Criticism is almost universally seen as an important tool to help us improve our work performance. In many cases, it can be. But criticism can also be used as a weapon to paint someone they don't like as an incompetent. On-the-job gossip, backbiting or ridicule can be quite brutal and can damage one's reputation as an effective worker. As author Sidney B. Simon once wrote, "the knives of negative criticism which people stick in us are just as sharp and deadly as those made of steel and borne by assassins."
Simon went on further to state that "our society has somehow conditioned us to accept the notion that criticism of all sorts is bound to be good for us... that the more it hurts the better it is for us."
But the term "constructive criticism" implies an important corollary: that criticism can also be negative, unreasonable, hurtful and destructive. It can be a weapon in office politics or simply a form of gossip and backbiting towards another in order to create a false sense of self-importance or to relieve boredom.
How to you deal with such forms of harassment? It is certainly a good idea, when starting off in the new workplace, to build as many relationships and friendships with coworkers as possible immediately, something that is admittedly harder to do for shy people. It is also a good idea to learn names and job positions of all coworkers on the first day.
Many people try to grab a false sense of prestige or importance, and they can do an amazingly effective job of putting on airs and making new workers think that they have some kind of supervisory power when in reality they have none. So it is a good idea to get all these things straight as soon as possible. Remembering everyone's name and position will also help you to make a good impression on your coworkers.