We all have been disrespected at work at one time or another. Maybe it’s a co-worker, or even your boss. The times when someone says or does something that really rubs you the wrong way and you think “they should know that’s offensive, hurtful or insulting”. Sometimes you think it might be just you. Maybe you’re oversensitive? Sometimes you let it go and disregard it as a ‘one-off’ or slip up that wasn’t intentional. And yet, other times you know the behaviours are clearly inappropriate and you want to do something about it. But, how do you deal with it?
1. Keep Your Cool
According to Lynn Taylor the author of Tame your terrible Office Tyrant, “The most common path is in inertia”. The first thing you can do is keep your cool. Try to separate your emotions from the situation and look at it with an objective view. Isolate the facts of the situation. If this is hard for you, talk to a more neutral confidant who can help you stay calm and get perspective. There are many reasons for the behaviour and it may have absolutely nothing to do with you. Sometimes, the behaviour is a way of expressing the unhappiness that can come from being in a role that does not align well with your personality type or values. When someone is working in a role that doesn’t align with their values, skills or interests, it can show itself in ways such as anger, passive-aggressive patterns, indifference or other behaviours that can be hurtful to everyone around them.

Cork board with cut out letters spelling out respect and pinned to the board
2. Collect the Facts
The second thing you can do is collect the facts. What’s really going on? For most of us, we simply don’t know all the factors that may have contributed to the behaviour. We only know how we feel as a result of it. Think about approaching the individual in a friendly and nonthreatening way and simply ask “How are you doing?”. This may require you to ask the question in the right place and at the right time, to really give them the time to have a conversation with you. The most critical piece here is to listen to what they have to say. We’ve been surprised when that simple question has generated an explosion of emotion, underlying fears and overall expression of what is going on. Another way to collect facts is to try to get the back story as to why someone is acting this way. Is the behavior prolonged and on-ongoing, which would indicate that the behavior is a reflection of their character, or is it limited to a specific time or specific situations?
3. Call it – Unacceptable and Unprofessional
The third thing you can do, is be clear that disrespectful behaviour is unacceptable and unprofessional. In the past, disrespectful behaviour was just part of the work world. If you were the new guy/girl, part of earning your stripes was to be able to deal with whatever actions were thrown at you – disrespect was part of the test. For example, if you messed up, you might expect to be yelled at. However, in today’s social climate, disrespect in the workplace is unacceptable and it’s important to understand that you play a significant role in putting a stop to it.
If you’ve tried to put an end to the disrespectful behaviour with no avail, it’s time to report it. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s important to you. Your boss or human resource department have a responsibility to put a stop to this type of behaviour, especially if it’s contributing to a toxic work environment. Take action when disrespectful behaviour persists because the environment you work in is critical to maintaining your physical and emotional health.