Drawing the Line

Lately our focus has been on identifying the lessons children need to learn in order to ultimately create a workplace where people and businesses thrive. So often by just looking around the office you can see behaviors so ingrained you just know that they were learned as kids. That’s why we’re designing our School Program for second graders with the ultimate end game of reducing corporate suffering.

Much of the current literature is about bullying and the long-term impact of that behavior on children. Certainly bullying is a form of abuse since at the heart of it is an attempt by one person to control or have “power” over another. With our wired society there are many creative ways a bully can torment their victim(s). Where do we draw the line though? Where does teasing or pulling a prank become bullying? When should someone step in and when is it better for kids to figure out their own way through a situation?

I wonder what we’re teaching kids when a 9 year old is suspended for putting a “kick me” sign on the back of a classmate which happened a few weeks ago at NYC’s PS 158. Part of growing up is learning how to deal with others—and life—when it doesn’t go our way. If we’re constantly stepping in to mediate, we’re denying kids the opportunity to learn how to resolve their own problems and reinforcing a culture of blame and learned helplessness.

How can we expect these kids to grow into adults who take responsibility for their successes and failures, who are able to resolve issues without escalating them and who can handle themselves in adverse situations? What impact will limiting “life lessons” have not only on the kids themselves, but on the workplace and our greater society? I wonder.

Amanda Mitchell is an executive coach and strategist specializing in helping senior executives deal with disruptive drama within their teams. An advertising agency veteran, she experienced first-hand the business implications of corporate drama both with her Fortune 500 clients and within the Manhattan ad agency she led. She founded Our Corporate Life (www.ourcorporatelife.com) to help executives solve the problems no one wants to deal with. She has been published in Bloomberg Businessweek, and quoted in Fast Company, CNBC.com, and Monster.com. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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