“…shall I speak at this?” you bet your sweet bippy

Recently, a coworker made inappropriate remarks, and although he was sent packing, the rest of us had to endure a crash course in sensitivity. As we sat in the course, I marveled at the hypocrisy of it all: a worker bee gets called on the carpet (and rightly so, from the few details that were provided), and yet, the main manager at our location gets away with his repeated angry tantrums.

Said manager, who was leading the training(!), repeatedly insisted that we should speak up if we see incidents of harassment. An associate took the opportunity to casually approach the topic of angry outbursts, and the manager’s response was dismissive: “Well, yeah, some people do blow off steam…”  Later, the associate and I agreed that such verbal abuse should be as off-limits as physical violence.

Lest anyone should think that my coworkers and I are simply too sensitive, I understand that, whenever people spend time together, there will be disagreements and moments of lost temper. But, from where I sit, the manager’s overreactions are so far, so unnecessarily far beyond that. No matter how calm his co-conversationalist remains, he can be counted on to dissolve into a contempt-filled rage, and when such an onslaught is directed at me, I’m left feeling as if I’ve been utterly stomped on.

Having more than once been the target of the boss’s aggression, not long after the meeting, I realized there would never be a better chance to voice my feelings. I caught up with the manager. “Continuing the thoughts in our training, for the record, when someone yells at me, I *do* feel ‘humiliated’ and ‘disrespected.'” He asked if he ever made me feel that way, and I responded affirmatively. I added that I can accept correction, and I can accept criticism, but “just tell me. No need to shout.” It was a very civil exchange, and he said he appreciated me letting him know. I was proud of myself for speaking up, and I felt I had made peace with the situation.

The next day, the manager joked(?) that I had “given him a complex.” Well, if that means I brought some enlightenment, that’s a good thing, in my book — and long overdue. Reflecting on his apparent surprise at my reaction to his shouting, I’ve wondered whether I should share two more for-the-records: (1) I don’t know of anyone who responds well to such unbridled anger, and consequently (2) I can’t think of a single situation that would be made better by it. (I truly boggle that this has never come up in his twenty-plus years as a manager.)

As I said, I’m proud of myself for taking the opportunity to speak up. Has it changed anything? It’s hard to say. It’s not as if there was an ugly incident every day, or even every week. In any case, even if the anti-harassment emphasis was just a show for damage control, to learn that I really can speak up is empowering. Who knows, if there is another incident, maybe I’ll call it out…without waiting to be asked.

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