How to Respond to Massive Disrespect

Posted August 15, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

The folks over at The Grindstone recently answered this question from a woman who was experiencing “massive disrespect” at work. Her problem included a micromanaging boss who is moving her to a hallway when all of her peers are getting swanky new offices. It’s just one of thousands of situations we’ve all probably experienced from one boss or colleague or another who are showing us massive disrespect. From 6am phone calls to 3am emails they expect you to answer to name calling and ass grabbing, inappropriate behavior in the workplace is unfortunately not uncommon.

The Grindstone’s writer advised this woman to do a few specific things:

  • Temporarily get along with this micromanaging perfectionist.”
  • “Create a bidding war for your services once your two years are up.”
  • “Move forward.”

Unfortunately, though, some of these are not options for everyone. You can try to get along with the person, but that doesn’t always work. You can certainly try to leave, but it may not be an option for you. So we’ve included, in addition to The Grindstone’s stellar advice a few more “what to do’s” when you’ve been massively disrespected at work:

  • Address the disrespect immediately with the individual and leadership. If you have truly been disrespected, the disrespect is likely to continue if you do not address it. Don’t wait a week. Speak to your supervisor or leadership if the problem lies with your supervisor. And speak directly to that person. Let them know what happened, how you would like to deal with the problem, and a strategy for moving ahead.
  • Remain solution focused rather than problem driven. It’s easy to get into finger pointing, when what you really need is a solution. If you’re having a massive disrespect problem with another member of your team, it may be that one of you needs to move off of the project at hand, or a physical distance should be implemented. Know what you want and ask for it.
  • Preemptively apologize. This may sound crazy, but go with me on this. If someone is disrespecting you, it may be that there’s bad blood for reasons you don’t know about. It may go a long way to say something like “I’m sensing a lot of tension between us and feeling some disrespect. Is there something I’ve done to damage our relationship? If so, I’m terribly sorry and I want to work through it.”

Disrespect isn’t tolerable or something you should “let go.” But it also isn’t something you can always charge through like a bull. Handle it delicately. It’s the only way to see success at the end.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."