Tue | May 30, 2017

Dealing with disrespect at work

Published:Sunday | November 30, 2014 | 11:00 AM

QUESTION: How do you deal with supervisors or managers at the workplace who treat their staff with disrespect? I am a quiet person who will more readily overlook a slight or insult rather than be confrontational. However, it seems that when you're not loud, aggressive and boisterous, people feel they can be disrespectful, because you won't retaliate. Thanks for your advice.

- Marlene B.

SMITH: I believe your question will resonate with a lot of readers. Several have written or spoken to me in person about this very matter. They have shared experiences which they perceive as disrespectful treatment from their superiors, and colleagues.

Some persons have related instances where they've been shouted at, or even been told expletives. Others have allegedly been treated in ways they perceive as being like their boss's child. Obviously, if these reports are true, they are wrong, unacceptable and must be condemned.

Every employee, regardless of personality, religion, age, gender, sexual preference or other distinction, is entitled to be treated with respect.

What you've shared is quite believable - there are adult bullies who prey on people they consider weak. If this happens to you, my advice is to report this individual's behaviour to his or her supervisor or to a human resources officer.

HR can mediate a meeting between you two, where you can express how you feel, as well as understand the situation from the other person's point of view. This communication should prove valuable in resolving the issue, as well as preventing a recurrence.

You should realise, however, that, strictly speaking, no one can 'disrespect' you. Sure, someone can say words intended to make you feel disrespected. It's up to you, however, whether you take these words seriously. You could simply choose to ignore them.

Please resist any temptation to think that suggestion absurd. If you were walking on the street and a deranged person called out that you were ugly, or a thief, or a lousy mother, what would you do? My guess is you'd laugh at him and wouldn't give his words a second thought.

If, however, a co-worker or your spouse said the same words, chances are you'd be outraged. It's not the words then that make you feel disrespected, it's your interpretation of them. It's how you choose to let them affect you.

You'll always be at the mercy of other people's moods until you learn an important truth: Nothing anyone says has the power to affect you unless you interpret their words as being insulting, disrespectful or embarrassing.

The ancient Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, said: "Men are disturbed not by the things which happen but by their opinions about the things that happen. Remember, it is not he who reviles you or strikes you, who insults you, but it is your opinion about these things as being insulting. When, then, a man irritates you, you must know that it is your own opinion that has irritated you."

And former American first lady Eleanor Roosevelt asserted: "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."

Refuse to give that permission to anyone.

n Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'.

glenfordsmith@yahoo.com