What I Learned This Week

What I learned this week: Social Exclusion is bullying

So apropos of nothing in particular, I got an email the other day. Remember email? It use to be the elephant’s ears for group communication but now it has taken a back seat to texts and FB messages and whatever else the kiddos are using these days.

Anyway…the email was about getting together for lunch and seeing old friends.  Being as busy as we all are, the potential date was the better part of three months from now. Replies filed in, albeit not as quickly as they did back in the heyday of email.

For no particular reason besides wanting to reply from a keyboard instead of my phone, I waited until I was in front of a computer to chime in. The cadence had subsided. Most everyone had already responded with their availability. I replied with my response a good two days later.

Then it happened. The same thing that always seemed to happened back in the day: Someone replied to a previous email thereby burying my response.



The saying goes the first time is an accident, the second time is a coincidence and the third time is an act of war.

To be sure, I don’t think that person was doing it intentionally, at least I hope not.  But it did trigger some buried memories of being accidentally dropped from email threads and other minor exclusions.  I use to be part of many, many social groups each with their own clique subsets.  Running groups, Church Groups, book clubs, volleyball leagues, etc.  For some reason, there is always someone who doesn’t want to let everyone play in the reindeer games.

 Then I saw this articleSabotaging someone’s birthday is certainly a more vicious angle but it is the same thing: excluding someone for no good reason.

Social exclusion occurs not only with children but adults as well, especially on social media, in the neighborhoods, in schools and workplaces…We have always known that being left out of things on purpose can cause hurt. 

It doesn’t matter what the technology, it has always been a thing.  Dropped from email chains, threadjacking on group forums, etc.  Today it’s the 500-pound gorilla in the room, aka Facebook.  There are times when I’ll comment on a friends post and see another friend comment as well and think “he never comments on my posts”.  I know that some of it is FB algorithms and not showing everyone everything.  But it is also that I have cultivated a “friend circle” of self-centered narcissists who only think of themselves.  I’ve tried to Konmari those acquaintances as best I can.

I’m lucky that my social butterfly days are behind me and I have zero fucks to give about being invited to the team lunch.  However, I have two small children who will someday, sooner than later, go through the same bullshit.  I have to figure out how to raise them to have enough mental toughness to ignore this as best they can, and also develop enough self-confidence to not care when it does happen.



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Corporate America

Whatever happened to the Personal Mental Health Day?

In my first post-college job, every now and again, we’d call in sick but instead of claiming we were ill, we’d call it a Personal Mental Health Day.  A day to just sleep in, run some errands, or even simply chill out…or maybe you just stayed out too late partying after volleyball.

Hi, I”m not coming in today.   Oh are you sick?  No, just taking a PMH day.

This wasn’t an admission of mental illness nor a slight against it.  This was just a coded way of saying I don’t wanna lie to you and say I’m sick when we both know I’m not.  

But it was also a delightfully ingenious form of empowerment. It’s my personal business what I’m doing and I have the right to take a day off now and again, but instead of saying it that way, I’m framing it more graciously.


I know some companies distinguish between sick days and vacation days. When I started in Corporate America, the term was Bank Time. You banked time off so that you could take a vacation or have a sick day when needed. Of course, caps were put in place for reasons. We could only carry over a certain amount each year and get paid out for the rest. I imagine some crafty person back in the day gamed the system and was able to effectively retire several years early while still earning a paycheck from some company. Thanks a lot, Roger for ruining it for the rest of us.

Later it became PTO or Paid Time Off.  Based on my discussions with other privileged peoples, I believe the benefit was that you could borrow against it.  It’s crazy but some people want to go someplace warm in February but might now have enough time saved because they used it for those annoying obligatory trips to visit family during the holidays last year.  Also, as I understand it, if you have children, you are legally obligated to visit one of the Kingdoms of the Mouse in their lifetime.  It says so in the Constitution.

Now the latest is FTO or Flexible Time Off. When I worked at Top-Five we switched from PTO to FTO. The thing is, they didn’t give us much if any warning about the switch so many people burned through their PTO instead of getting paid out for it. Its moves like these by companies that always make it a little easier to justify the PMH day.

Full Disclosure: I have had this post in my Idea Folder for ages but when I saw Chris O’Brien’s What happened to the good old fashioned sick day over at Medium Rare, it prompted me to get out of my funk and hit publish, after doing my best to make it ready for prime time.

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