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Standing up for yourself in the workplace: Tough nut or controlled professional?

Hello

I was listening to a screenwriting podcast by Brian Helgeland, the writer and director of Payback, who said: “Movie dialogue has never been how people really talk…It’s how we wish people talked. It’s what you wish you said to somebody when they insulted you.” It has inspired me to write an article on the pros and cons of standing up for yourself in the workplace when you are subject to unprofessional behaviour.

Can community members share their stories or opinions on standing up for yourself in the workplace?

> Have you been insulted at work? How did it make you feel?

> Did you lose your temper? If so, what happened next? What would you have done differently?

> How do you deal with office banter? 

> If you could go back in time to confront your workplace nemesis or bully, what would you say?

> Is it best to forgive and forget and move on with your life?

> Should you stand up for yourself, or let management deal with it?

Thankfully I am very happy in my job and work with a great team. But I was not so lucky in some of my earlier jobs. I would like to know how other people dealt with their workplace nemesis or bully to put my experiences into perspective.

I look forward to reading your responses.

Thanks

Paul

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  • > Have you been insulted at work? How did it make you feel?

    Frequently, but usually in that passive-aggressive sort of way that defies easy challenge.

    > Did you lose your temper? If so, what happened next? What would you have done differently?

    When I was younger, I dealt with it by going red-faced, muttering something feeble and finding somewhere else to be as quickly as possible. I've developed that approach into something more professional, these days. I find that raised eyebrows are usually enough to solicit an apology, but if necessary a gentle "Oh, really?" is usually enough to hang a red flag on the moment and move on.

    > How do you deal with office banter?

    I'm currently working on this one, as my place of employment has a well-embedded culture of banter. It's a small family company and this is a key part of how people engage, induct new starters and let off steam in a fairly high-pressure environment.

    I'm engaged in a long-term plan to manage it informally - because any formal attempts are bound to be resisted and, it has to be acknowledged, there is a good operational reason for the culture. Gradually, I am working with managers to raise awareness of the impact of some forms and examples of banter on individual employees and, case-by-case, adjusting thinking and behaviour.

    My progress has been such that, when I finally introduced a "courtesy zone" to our customer service office to reduce profanity and raised voices, no one objected at any level and the change has been broadly welcomed.

    There's still work to be done, though. It's actually about introducing small physical changes and raising awareness gradually.

    > If you could go back in time to confront your workplace nemesis or bully, what would you say?

    Nothing.

    > Is it best to forgive and forget and move on with your life?

    Yep.

    > Should you stand up for yourself, or let management deal with it?

    Had this conversation with a colleague recently who was of the "stand up for yourself" mentality. I would say you should do whatever you need to for your own best mental well-being. For some, that's to give as good as they get. For others, it's to just let it wash over them. The role for management (and HR) is to be available to step in when the individual's own ability to cope and manage exceeds a level at which they're comfortable.
  • That's an interesting question as I was just going to post something about a current issue I'm wrestling with. I was going to put this to the community but don't want to hijack your thread so will post separately.

    In relation to past nemesises (is there a plural?), a bout of sexual harassment was addressed informally (this was back in the 90s) and eventually I left. Next boss played favourites (bursting into tears seemed to work well for a particular colleague). Eventually, the colleague recruited someone into her team who became our mutual boss's golden boy. She found that very difficult - I on the other hand found it quite pleasing... Did ask said boss years later about his thought processes, he just said that he had thought I could cope.
  • In reply to Robey:

    Thanks Robey, a very interesting read especially as you work in a small, family company. I can definitely use this info in my article.
  • In reply to Anka:

    Thanks Anka, yes I know what it's like to be in the in crowd and marginalised at work. Everyone has a survival tactic.
  • In reply to Robey:

    Hi Robey

    This happens to me all the time. To be honest as a black woman being insulted and undermined is part of life. So how do I survive? I just ignore these unprofessional ignorant people. I have learnt that you cannot undo what has taken years to build up. I have control because I decide when and who to confront in a professional way. You cannot fight everybody and the subject we are discussing means that your workplace is toxic. Either you stay or you leave. Life is too short to waste arguing with people who will never understand you.