At the start of the summer last year I was at Stourbridge Tennis Club ‘warming up’ on the spin bike next to another member. Don’t be thinking I’m a serial gym attendar – it’s a once weekly visit that really needs to increase….We were chatting about social media and the pressure and image it creates on young people.

I responded by saying that I had never suffered from peer group pressure. She stopped the bike to focus on the conversation and responded by saying ‘that’s wonderful, that’s absolutely wonderful’.

For days after I found myself thinking about this ‘wonderful’. It is wonderful.  It is truly liberating and free to not suffer from peer group pressure. It’s an inner confidence. Quietly, I celebrated this achievement.

It was the next question that followed though. Why? Nature versus nature? Were you born that way or shaped by experience? I reflected on this for some time after.

Throughout my days at Lutley Primary School, Halesowen, I cannot recall any peer group pressure, bullish behaviour or unkindness. However in that very instance I was asked the question, the first and only thing that sprang to mind was standing outside a classroom at Windsor High School, Halesowen, waiting to enter the science room, age 13, with the boys jibbing about me and my friends ‘swot’ like characteristics. I truly didn’t care.

I’m going to refer to this type of person/behaviour as the ‘negative influencer’ for the remainder of the blog.

My parents always taught me to ‘rise above’.Sticks and stones will break my bones but nicknames will never hurt me”. It’s fair to say I might have taken this parental advice a little too literally in my younger days because on reflection Ishould have ‘fought back’. I interpreted this as ‘ignore’.

Im different now, I stand up and approach conflict professionally and fairly. For my children, the one skill I want to develop is the ability to ‘stand up’ in the right way because in my school days there were occasions when this was probably missing from my armory. It’s not anymore.

The thing that surprised me in my early days in HR is that the ‘negative influencer’ exists not only in the school playground but it can be found in all layers of the workplace. In fact, in any group, club or association where people exist.

I have personally experienced a fair few negative influencers throughout school, the workplace and life but they failed to see that their behavior only ever had one impact – it fuelled a desire in me to achieve quicker, smarter and more successfully. Obstacles, negativity, unkindness feeds me with more focus, motivation and determination. So in a perverse kind of way maybe I owe my negative influencers a thank you?

In very recent times I have experienced the negative influencer in the format of nuisance behaviour/copy cat behaviour. It’s water off a ducks back. Rise above, fight back. It has no effect on me. However for the negative influencer it’s a sad, lonely place. It surely is an exhausting place to be in. It must be all-consuming.

I sometimes bump into the boys from school that made the jibes outside that science room and only recently one of them said if only I had worked as hard as you did. I just couldn’t see it at the time”.

If you are reading this and identify some of your behavior as negative towards others it’s never too late to change. No judgement made.

Dead Poet Society was released in 1989. Strive to find your own voice, stand up for what is right and what you believe in, don’t worry about what other people are doing. Some seriously poignant and underlying messages about individuality in this film for those feeling the weight of a ‘negative influencer’. Carpe Diem.

From a work perspective, it is fact that much of my case work has a theme of bullying and harassment to it. Let’s hope companies continue to tackle and eradicate negative influencers in the right way.

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