What To Do If You're Being Disrespected At Work


Considering the fact that most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, being disrespected in the workplace can really make life terrible. I know that when I was working a job in a toxic environment, everything from my sleep to my relationship to my health suffered. I would get out of work and straight to the bar to hang out with my friends — and drink way more beer than was healthy. A disrespectful job environment is a soul killer, plain and simple.

“The problem in that kind of work culture is that nearly everyone begins to model those disrespectful behaviors. It’s expected,” S. Chris Edmonds, CEO and founder of The Purposeful Culture Group, tells Bustle. “Some players will be subtle, some bold, but those behaviors are being reinforced daily. It’s a painful environment to live in and to operate in.”

But what can you do if you’re being disrespected at work? Just like back in elementary school, it’s important to stand up to bullies in the workplace. But unlike in elementary school, it’s not a great idea to clock ‘em in the nose in order to get them to stop. Instead, take the advice of these HR professionals on what to do if you’re being disrespected or harassed at work.


Push Back

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Do your co-workers keep talking over you? “If you are interrupted, learn how to politely say, ‘I wasn't done with my point,’ and continue,” veteran HR executive and head of the HR firm we.moxie Jennifer Oswald tells Bustle. “Or you can speak up when the person who interrupted you finishes by picking up where you left off. If you aren't invited to a meeting, ask what caused you from being left off the invitation list and ask that the team remembers you next time.”


Address It In The Moment


You may be inclined not to say anything when someone dismisses your idea in front of others, but experts say it might actually be the best way to handle it. “Call people on the disrespect in the moment,” HR expert and consultant Laura MacLeod, LMSW, tells Bustle. “Do this by stating what you see: ‘Excuse me, but I think my idea is worth considering.’ Or ‘It seems like you're dismissing my idea — wondering why.’ Or ‘Looks like you don't like my idea.’ All this brings your idea and the disrespect to the attention of others — just that. Not critical, not complaining, not whining. You're just observing. Do this with a smile and no one can object.”


They Go Low, You Go High

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While it's important to speak up when someone's disrespecting you, it's also important to take the high road. “Always act professionally,” Oswald says. “It's also called the high road. Eventually you will win. If you throw a fit, it only adds fuel to the fire.”

Charles Vethan, CEO of the Vethan Law Firm, agrees. “Aside from a formal complaint process, the best you can do is to take the high road,” Vethan says. “Keep all communication professional, never disparage your colleagues at work, and exude confidence.”


Make Friends With The Boss

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What's your relationship like with your managers? “Befriend the supervisors and managers,” Alexis Chateau, founder and managing partner of Alexis Chateau PR, tells Bustle. “This is easier than most people think, if you can find common ground with your bosses. When I worked in payroll, I went running with my boss every weekend. It was training for company participation in a charity run.”


Get Everything In Writing

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“Another great way to steer clear of trouble is to try to conduct all agreements and communications via email,” Chateau says. “Email provides proof of what was said, how, and when, and this can save your skin in the midst of false accusations.” It's always good to have receipts.


Find A Mentor

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If things still aren't getting better, it may be time to seek advice from someone in your field, or a professional. “Seek a mentor or business coach to help guide you,” Oswald says. “Most female executives have been in your shoes at one point, and will provide mentorship at no charge. Practice how to respond to situations where you have been disrespected. You can also hire a business coach if you have the money, but finding a mentor is typically free.”


Talk To HR


If you have an HR department, make sure you get them involved. “What a person can do about being mistreated is situation based,” career consultant Marina Vorobyev tells Bustle. “However if you feel uncomfortable at work, the best thing to do is to speak with your HR department. HR's role is to handle these situations in a private and professional manner.”


Press Charges


It'll depend on your situation and how your office is handling it, but know that pressing charges could be an option. “Depending on your state, certain harassment can go as far as pressing charges,” Vorobyev says. “If not enough is done by HR, another thing to do is to prepare your resume and begin applying for jobs.”


Get Out


If all else fails? Think about leaving. “What can someone do?” Edmonds says. “If they’re not in a position to fix it (with values and behaviors), they must either tolerate it (not a terrific solution) or get out. With the improving global economy, there are opportunities galore. Find a workplace with a values-driven culture, and take your skills and passions there.”

You heard it here: There are opportunities galore. Don't stay in a disrespectful job environment any longer than you have to.