Relationships at Work - Your Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blindspots.

What We Can Do to Stop Bullying at Work with Rita Chand

May 01, 2023 Russel Lolacher Episode 60
What We Can Do to Stop Bullying at Work with Rita Chand
Relationships at Work - Your Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blindspots.
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Relationships at Work - Your Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blindspots.
What We Can Do to Stop Bullying at Work with Rita Chand
May 01, 2023 Episode 60
Russel Lolacher

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with culture consultant and wellness counsellor Rita Chand on what bullying in the workplace feels like, looks like and what we can do about it.

Rita shares her thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • The reaction when you don't realize you're being bullied.
  • The various forms of bullying.
  • What covert bullying can look like.
  • The changing perception of bullying.
  • What the personal toll of being bullied feels like.
  • How organizations can work to address bullying.

If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe and share with others.
For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

And connect with me for more great content!

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with culture consultant and wellness counsellor Rita Chand on what bullying in the workplace feels like, looks like and what we can do about it.

Rita shares her thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • The reaction when you don't realize you're being bullied.
  • The various forms of bullying.
  • What covert bullying can look like.
  • The changing perception of bullying.
  • What the personal toll of being bullied feels like.
  • How organizations can work to address bullying.

If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe and share with others.
For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

And connect with me for more great content!

Russel Lolacher
and on the show today we have Rita channel here is why she is awesome. She's a certified life coach, a wellness counselor and facilitator who specializes in recognizing bullying. She's recently facilitated creator workshop called the how to recognize when you're being bullied in the workplace. really set off bells and whistles for me is someone I needed on the podcast. Because bullying, it's a it's a thing, it is a huge deal. I actually saw a quote from her on LinkedIn that I loved, which was, some of us don't even know it's happening until it's already impacted our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual selves. So I had to have her. Hi, Rita.

Rita Chand
Hi, Russel, how you doing?

Russel Lolacher
Very, very good. Thanks for being here. We talk about diversity, equity, inclusivity, belonging so much. And there's this ugly side when you don't go down the path properly of DEIB, which is bullying. So I know this is gonna resonate with a lot of people today, and I'm excited to get into it. But first, but first, I have to ask the question asked every one of my guests which is what's your best I could sense the excitement, your voice? What's your best or worst employee experience?

Rita Chand
Well, given the topic today, how about I share my best work experience. Working at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I was working directly with Barack and I was the assistant coordinator for Team welcome ceremonies and victory ceremonies. This is a huge job. It was 18 hours a day, every day. And then we've switched over, of course, to the Paralympics up in Whistler, but I got one day off. And that duration of time, and it was, it was months in the making, of course and I My manager was amazing. We met beforehand, she flew out from Toronto to do this job. And she was amazing. We made a great team. I got to I coordinated all the volunteers. We had volunteer dancers volunteer, we had a band that the drummers from all the different cultures, it was incredible. It was like the center of the universe for this period of time during the Olympics, because you're in the Whistler, you're in the Vancouver Olympic Village, and you're meeting all the you're getting to see all the teams, all the athletes, all of everything, all the excitement, just the aliveness, I will never forget that work experience that I had been there because it was it was empowering. It was the team was great. We lifted each other up, we kept each other going, we fed each other we brought into it was just it was an incredible overall experience. It was, yeah, it was a lot of fun.

Russel Lolacher
And interesting as a, for lack of a better term, like a stand up or like a sort of a culture that just basically gets created in a vacuum very quickly and disbands afterwards as well. Yeah. So that can be such a hit and miss when it comes to creating an employee experience.

Rita Chand
Yes, because there's no time for storming and norming. And all that forming. There's just no time you just you hit the ground running and off you go. And somehow magically, it worked. And I think, you know, when you're in, like you say, a vacuum like that everyone is in the same boat, everyone is dealing with the same type of situation. And so whereas, you know, I worked at the Olympics in Beijing, and it was very different. It was a very different experience. But this was it just somehow magically worked. And I think that was the magic of the Vancouver Olympics. I'm not gonna you know, I gotta be honest, there was something magical about that particular. And I know there's a lot of conversation about, you know, so waste of money and all that, I get that. But the actual experience that I had was, it was just incredible all around.

Russel Lolacher
Jealousy is the only tone you're going to hear from me when it comes to that story. Because I didn't get a chance to go over. I did visit. I did visit for a day but but the stories I have heard not just from you, but from others to have that experience. Yeah, I'm not gonna talk about anymore. Don't talk about anymore read it because it's tonight. It's too sweet. It's too jealousy in my voice. So let's move on.

Rita Chand
The rest of the conversation will make you feel better about that. So...

Russel Lolacher
Perfect. Yeah. This is not what we're talking about.

Rita Chand
Yeah.

Russel Lolacher
I'm curious as bullying, this being the topic, and I wanted to find it before we get too deep into it. But I want to start first, as someone who yourself has experienced bullying in the workplace. How did you know it was bullying? How did you know that there was a moment where it's like, oh, no, this is this is something you can identify as bullying versus I don't know how else to perceive it. When what was the tipping point for you?

Rita Chand
Do you know? So there's, I wish I can tell you that? You know, a couple of months after it started. Oh, I'm being bullied. Oh, I should do something about that. I should say something. I'm a grown up. Instead, it went on for three and a half years of Where I saw it before I saw it for what it was. And I think, you know, when you work in a culture where it's all just kind of swept under the rug. And you know, it happens, you know that it's happening to people currently, like, in the moment, and I know it wasn't just me. I know, it wasn't like a personal attack on me. But it wasn't until the damage had already been done when I realized that this is what was happening. And someone had said to me, You know what, I think you might have PTSD from the bullying, you should seek counseling, and I was like, PTSD, bullying, what are you talking about? And it was all because I had this person had come up to me come up behind me at where I was sitting at my desk, and said something and I have such a physical reaction to the fact that this person was a coming up behind me like an attack like a threat. And also that the word bullying was there was no way there was just no way. So unfortunately, it took me a long time. It just, it did. It had never really happened in my life before. And so I hadn't, I didn't know what I was looking for. I wouldn't have called it that I would have called it. Well, I'm going to be honest, I thought I was the problem. So I did a lot of things. I took courses, and I did workshops, and I read books, and I listen to podcasts, and I watch YouTube videos. And I just because I knew that there had to be something that I could do better, that would make it better. Because as communication is my number one value, I thought I'll just communicate better. But none of it worked. And it took me a long time to realize I was not the problem.

Russel Lolacher
Did you associate because I'm looking at myself. I'm thinking of bullying, and I equate it to high school. I equate like, Hey, I grew up with John Hughes. So I mean, that was those were my movies. Yeah. So bullying is that being pushed into a locker being nudged and I think of physical things? And then you move into the whole Mean Girls realm, um, movie references, right? Yeah. That's where I equate to is this obvious bullying? Is that what was your barrier? I'm just taking a wild guess here is that you just didn't see it as what you recognize the bullying?

Rita Chand
Absolutely. i We grew up in the same generation. I those are my movies, too. That's that bullying, like high school? Sure. I was bullied one time in high school. And I will remember that for the rest of my life. It was, it was one day, and it was awful. And but I remember that from high school. So I don't expect it to happen in a professional environment. And so it couldn't have been bullying. It just I obviously wasn't doing a good job. Yeah, in terms of a barrier, I didn't even think it did not occur to me, I am not the type of person that I've had so many people say this to me over the last few years where I would never have guessed that someone like you could be bullied. And that was part of why I never shared with people because I had so much shame around. But I'm not the kind of person that is that what's happening. I'm not that person. People, I can't imagine that people would bully me. But they did.

Russel Lolacher
Let's set the stage for those that may not know what bullying is, or be confused as to what it could look like or feel like how would you define bullying in the workplace?

Rita Chand
Well, I mean, you can find all kinds of descriptions online. But for me, I simplify it by saying it's a it's an imbalance of power. So there's that structure of it. But also anything that it's even the perception 75% of bullying in the workplace is gaslighting. So that there's the there's the overt definition of blame, right? Where you get punched in the face and you get shoved into a locker. There's all those types of things. Then there's the covert bullying. So there's almost like two descriptions, you could almost say there's two definitions of bullying. But if you were just to look at it from this simplified version, it's anything that happens in a in an environment that makes you feel smaller. So if any, and we know when someone is intentionally trying to make us feel small, we know when we're being excluded, we know when we're being rejected. We know what those feelings are like. And so it's it's that I can tell you from my own personal experience, the amount of times I would come home from work feeling this big. It was... I lost count. I lost count.

Russel Lolacher
Overt seems pretty obvious. So I'm curious, what are examples of covert bullying?

Rita Chand
Sure. So, so micromanagement is one covert version of bullying. If you have a manager or a supervisor that stands over your shoulder watching everything that you do, or gives you an assignment and then asks over and over and over again. how it's going. It creates anxiety, it creates a sense of panic. And we immediately we we, as humans, we have a fight or flight, or freeze or fun and mine is automatically freeze. Like I've done something wrong if someone's, I have had a micromanager as an as a boss and I got used to it, I actually got used to it, which actually is not a healthy thing. So I say that almost in surprise, because I think I just got that, as I said that out loud. I got used to it. So it became normal for me. And this is this is the problem. And so gaslighting, as I mentioned is a form of bullying, there's the false promises, there's being excluded from meetings that you know, that you're supposed to be a part of, or that you're working on a project. And suddenly you're no longer working on a project, or your job get changes, without any discussion, without any conversation without anything. And a gossip is a form of covert bullying. Because if if it's creating a hostile work, or like a hostile or toxic work environment where you feel you don't want to go to work, you feel a sense of panic when you think of goats. It's all it's all covered. And the interesting thing is we focused on the overt side of bullying. But when you have a manager who says to you, oh, hey, I was checking out your Instagram on the weekend. And I saw that you posted, whatever it is something that that's like that it's threatening, it can be perceived as threatening. So I think the thing that we forget is, even the perception of bullying is needs to be addressed. It may not actually be occurring, because, you know, again, we have reactions to things. It can be trauma from our past, it does. But even the perception of it needs to be addressed.

Russel Lolacher
It's funny, because so some of the examples you've provided. Throughout my career, I've absolutely seen examples of every one of those. And if you had ever cornered any single one of the people that had done some of those things, they wouldn't think of themselves as a bully. They're shitty leaders, but you would never as a label, and some people other outside looking in wouldn't let like right off the bat, I didn't even think bullying when I was thinking a few of those things. I was thinking Oh, just a shitty leader, just somebody who has no idea where their boundaries are, or understanding the impact of their decisions or their indecisions.

Rita Chand
I think it has evolved over time. You know, we have a generation of people who are now starting to retire out of the workforce and starting to move into how to I want to say less. Leaders who have been around for a long time and have done things in a very particular way, who don't see micromanagement as a form of bullying, who don't see gaslighting as a form of but it's and that's that's, that's fair, that's fair because that when, when they were in their leadership roles when they first started it, that just wasn't the case. But I can tell you honestly, any thing that happens in a work environment that creates anxiety, or panic or messes with your mental health in any way, can be considered bullying these days. And this is the problem is, so many of us in the workforce, have experienced anxiety have experienced, I mean, gosh, the pandemic created just a whole world of mental health issues, as we know. And the way that that employees were treated during the pandemic is is part of that that issue is at that bigger issue as well, because so everyone was stressed out everyone was feeling their own level of anxiety. Everyone was going through their own personal stuff during that time. And it was getting taken out on the employees and I know it did with me. I know that's part of what happened. Because you know, you're having all these remote conversations, these these video chats and things, anything can get said anything can get sent to you. And you can't do anything about it. There's no one to talk to where do you go from that's the other thing, anyone that walks around in fear for their job. And that happens there are certain organizations where your job is threatened every day, is also a form of bullying. So that threat it hangs over your head. And so when I was in China in Beijing, our director said to us, you know, we can send you home at any time. That's all they said to us. Because they had sent someone home and we all knew that's all this person said to us and the rest the rest of the time we were in Beijing, we were terrified of losing our jobs. So tell me that's not a form of bullying. We're in a foreign country, we're stressed out already. And this is what we're hearing.

Russel Lolacher
We did touch on the impacts of bullying being as much about well, shitty leadership as the impacts of those decisions and decisions, or just that even mention of you know, your disposable. You know, your replay. Yes, I've worked in service industry, they used to pull that shit on us all the time.

Rita Chand
Oh, I'm sure yeah,

Russel Lolacher
"You know, we can get somebody else here on Monday, if you don't do X, X and Y."

Rita Chand
Yes, yes.

Russel Lolacher
What is the impact on a personal level? Yeah, I mean, I asked, I want to ask culturally as well. But first, I want to start with personally, if bullying is, I guess condoned because nobody's doing anything about it. What is the impact to individuals?

Rita Chand
So the only way for me to answer this question is to answer it from a personal perspective. And for me, I was I was distraught. Every single day, I started having panic attacks, I was put on high blood pressure meds, because my, that's just how it happened. Over time, you know, after about a year and a half, I was afraid to leave my house, I had days where I was afraid to leave my house, I called in sick more than I had ever done. And I had worked in an organization for 26 years. And so like, I was in the same institution for 26 years, five years with a different organization. And I called in sick more in those five years than I did in those, you know, 21 years previous, I didn't want I was afraid every time I would get an email, my I would see an email pop into my inbox, and my whole body would react, I would not I had, I would start sweating. If I had to go into a meeting because I never knew if I was getting fired, I had I my self esteem, my self confidence. I had headaches all the time, my skin started to, like gray. I had my iron levels were low. I mean, there were so many things. But I didn't know it all happened over time. I wasn't sleeping. I cried all the time. I remember in the office, I would go into the bathroom at least once a day. And I would just cry. And then I would come back and do my work. I it. I mean, it's there's not an area of my life that it didn't touch. And I realized in hindsight that I wasn't talking about it, either. So that probably wasn't helping. But that also is one of the impacts is we're so afraid, so ashamed. And so embarrassed. I at least I was that. And the culture is to stay silent. Because if I say something that could mean me losing my job, and, and or retaliation, because we know that happens. So it took two years to dig myself out of that hole of mental my mental health being at its worst, I had days where I would never have harmed myself, ever. That's not me. But I would wake up some mornings disappointed that I was awake, because that meant I had to do this again, that I had to spend another day doing this same surviving something and environments that just really chipped away at me for you know, all that time. And yeah, and now here I am having these conversations and that is never going to happen to me again, that I'm clear.

Russel Lolacher
Thank you for sharing that. I think culturally when I hear stories like that, because it happened to you for so long. So it's being normalized. It's being normalized, both by yourself and by those that are the doing the bullying, yes. Because they think that behaviors, okay, because their colleagues and their superiors their report, direct reports aren't saying anything, aren't going you know what, no, you need to take a course you need to go away you need to be fired. So it's a being allowed. So there are other people around you that are watching that behavior going, Oh, so this is the kind of place this is.

Rita Chand
You know, and it's that's a really good point because the silence is the killer. This the fact it's, you know, that that that tagline or that saying when you see something, say something. We don't do that. In fact, people will just leave the job if it's an uncomfortable work environment. So often people will just leave. And this is a thing that Gen Z is really getting known for is they don't tolerate anything. So they'll just leave. But the problem is, if they don't say something just continues, they'll make sure they've gone off, probably found a better work environment. But the problem is still there. And so for me, one of my biggest commitments or intentions is to get people talking about it. If it happens, we need to stop being embarrassed about it, we need to stop being ashamed that it's happening to us. And I think, and I say that like idealistically, I get that because it's not, you know, it's so it's so bred into our culture, it's so a part of the culture in a workplace, that those of us who are experiencing it, just know nothing's gonna get done. And in my case, I took all the right steps. I did all the things that I was supposed to do, I went to all the people in the in the what's the word, I'm in a hierarchy, I went in exactly the way that I was supposed to, and suffered through a investigation for months and months and months after filing a formal complaint. And even though allegations were substantiated, nothing was done. And that was it for me. And what I realized was, as a steadfast, very loyal employee, it meant nothing, it meant nothing. So my loyalty ended up blowing up in the end anyway, which is so unfortunate, because I really loved my job. I was very proud of what I was doing. But I saw it, I also saw it happening to other people, I had people coming to me, because they saw it happening to me, so they can find it in me. And there was nothing that I could do. So the problem, the problem is the silence. And I'm not saying anyone's at fault in terms of like, we all are afraid of the you know, all those things I already mentioned. But if we can change the culture from silent, to like, screaming it from the rooftops and drawing attention to it, I understand. There's not a lot of resources, and there's not a lot of money and oh my gosh, we What if we get rid of this person, then this won't get done. And I get that, but the damage that's being done to the employee, and to the people watching it happen, and to the then in the culture and all of that. It's is it worth it? In the end? Is it worth it to have all your staff just leave and then have to rehire and put in all that work, versus actually doing the work that's required to take care of the issue, and then have your staff actually trust you that you're gonna have their back and then you're, and then you have their loyalty? Like, I can see it so logically, but it doesn't work that way, unfortunately. So...

Russel Lolacher
I want to dip my toe into culture a little bit, because we talked about cultures. But when it comes to bullying, or certain way of speaking, energy, that that can be different based on the culture in which you come from what you're coming into the workplace. So we talked about diversity, we talked about inclusivity. But bullying could be misconstrued based on different cultures and how they're used to interacting. Thoughts on that?

Rita Chand
Oh, yes, that's a great point. I come from Indian background. My parents my dad wasn't a yeller. But my mom, definitely, you know, and so the way that goes things that she says that are so offensive to me personally, but she's just saying them because that's just normal for culturally. I, I see it also with there, okay. So when I went to China, and when I went to Beijing, we had to take cultural training. So for a week or 10 days, I think we were training on how to properly incorporate ourselves into the Chinese culture. And there is a specific way of speaking, that certain cultures have that sounds aggressive that can come across as offensive or as, like insulting, but it's, it's the training and that too, there's there's cultural awareness, there's, there's different things, there's webinars, there's all kinds of things around culture now, that could help that could and also if you have a leader, so again, coming back to communication as my number one value, there is nothing that can't be solved inside of a inside of communication. So if you have a leader who is is of a different culture comes from a different culture or an employee that is Have a conversation, hey, sometimes this is how I come across. So you got to let me know. Or if, if if I, this is something that I am very well practiced at now. But if I am uncomfortable with the way someone is speaking to me, I will say, hey, like, can I just check in? But I have a lot of nonviolent communication training now with my schooling. And so it's just how I operate. But yeah, I think addressing those things would make a huge difference. Even a conversation, it doesn't have to be a toy, I get it. There's not always time to take workshops and things like that. But there's, there's definitely resources out there that would help with that.

Russel Lolacher
So let's end bullying, Rita. What would you recommend to an organization that is trying to combat bullying? What would you put into place in an organization? If communications is key, there needs to be some processes or mechanism in place that are allowed to embrace that communication. What would you suggest?

Rita Chand
Well, I think it needs to come directly from the the higher ups, I think that the higher up it comes from the better at it follows in terms of this is what we're committed to if if my boss's boss has a meeting and says, Look, we know we have a problem. I think part of the problem currently is that there's no time, there's no resources, there's no money to put into it. So let's let's just pretend like we don't have a problem from the executive level. But if we can get some buy in from the, we shouldn't have to get buy in from an executive level. But I think it would make a difference if it was coming from them. So there's always a lot of talk. There's a lot of organizations who talk about, you know, your mental health is important to us. And our work culture is important to us how many organizations out there brought their employees back into the office, because culture is important. But culture is so toxic, that employees don't want to come back to the office. So they're just quitting in droves. So if we could get like the bosses, the big people talk, if the big the big boss is talking about this topic and pretending like it doesn't exist, it would make a difference. And then have me come in and have a conversation.

Russel Lolacher
What I would love to see, and this is a mechanism with communications is we talk about well, onboarding is one thing. Yeah. But when into state interviews, thrive interviews and exit interviews. And I mean, regularly conducting those organizations talk about these things, but they don't actually necessarily do them. But when they get that information as hopefully a safe space for people to be honest and open, that they do something with that information, if somebody is concerned or complaining or singling out somebody that is bullying them, maybe that's a mechanism for somebody to go, oh, they left because they were really honest. In the exit interview. collecting that information is one thing, doing something with it is a very different one.

Rita Chand
I would like to see a culture consultant or a wellness counselor or some someone who is the point person, because let's be real HR shops, as great as some HR professionals are, their hands are tied. If the executive doesn't want anything done, it's not going to get done. And so if there was someone, someone who was the point person that that could be trusted, that people knew could be trusted. And that's that's also part of the point. How do you trust someone when you don't trust your organization? How do you bring someone in that someone's willing to talk to, that will be able to gather the information and actually make some kind of difference? So it's, you know, your question just leads to more questions. But personally, I would, that's what I would like to see, I think every organization needs to have some level of wellness as the focus and not wellness, like, hey, let's have a yoga class at lunchtime. There's there's benefits to that as well. But like wellness on the holistic, mental, physical, spiritual, emotional level, and make sure that staff are thriving. It's one thing to have like a quarterly meeting with your boss about how are things going. But when it hangs over your head, like it's a mandatory task that you have to do. It's just another part. It's just another piece of it.

Russel Lolacher
So current Rita, what would you say to previous Rita who's just starting to get bullied at work? What would you recommend to them to do now in hindsight?

Rita Chand
Use your voice, you have a voice, your voice is powerful. You have much to say you have a message, you know, this is a problem. Just say it, speak it, put it out there and like that. Take what you get. But at least it's out there.

Russel Lolacher
And the world has changed quite a bit, even in the last five years. Yes, of what organizations need to wake up to. They're kicking and screaming, but they are progressing. Even at that time, if you had use your voice, it may have been heard louder now than it might have been back then. Based on just based on how we're the world has shifted. Yeah. And organizations are leading and scrambling to keep up with it.

Rita Chand
Yes. And I just want to say, so yes, kudos to the fact that the world is changing and headed in that direction. And also that more and more people are listening. But I want to say that what happened to me and the way that it happened in exactly the way that it happened in the time that it happened, was exactly what needed to happen. And I have so much gratitude for the fact that I went through that experience, if you can believe it, because I worked through a lot, I did a lot of therapy, a lot of taking care of myself. And I came through the other side here doing work that I was put on this earth to do. And that is clear to me now. And if the all of that hadn't happened, I would not know that this was a dream I had that I didn't even know.

Russel Lolacher
And I love and I value that that was your personal journey to get that. Yeah. But also, we should highlight that not everybody, not everybody is going to be able to handle it the same way.

Rita Chand
That's exactly right.

Russel Lolacher
So you not self harming doesn't mean somebody else might not under the same duress.

Rita Chand
And thank you for saying that. Because I think the thing that's important to know is it can happen. And then who's responsible? Who do we point the finger who's that family that's going to be this, you know, like, it's, it's, that's a terrible thought. It's a terrible thought. But it is a reality. And it happens every day. And it shouldn't be happening because someone is being mistreated in their job. Our job is just, it's our job. It's, it's our job.

Russel Lolacher
So let's educate some people read it, if you had to recommend a book to an emerging bully, and you wanted them to look at a book or read a book or take a course, besides your own, of course, what would you recommend that they take?

Rita Chand
Okay, so that's a great question. So the funny thing is, there's there's actually three that come to mind. And they're all old. I don't even know if they're in print anymore. But there's one called Corporate Hyenas at Work. There's one called the Bully at Work. And there's one called Silent Hell: Workplace Violence and Bullying. But the one that made a huge difference for me, which is it's unrelated to bullying, but made a huge difference is called Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, and he's a former FBI agent, and he talks about negotiation in a way that it really landed for me in terms of my experience. And so that's the one I would highly recommend. And it's some, it may seem a bit odd, but trust me, it's a, it's a good one.

Russel Lolacher
If you had to tell someone one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work. What would it be?

Rita Chand
I think, personally, if to be able to say, Hey, I see what's going on. Are you okay? Are you okay? Is there anything that I can do? If we can say that to each other, if we can have those types of conversations? If we're watching it happening, then we become part of the problem. And then the more people that do that, the more people will do that. At least that's the hope.

Russel Lolacher
Always the hope. Yeah, that's Rita Chan. She is a certified life coach, wellness counselor and facilitator focusing on recognizing bullying. Thank you so much for being here. Rita.

Rita Chand
Thank you.