Manager Shoved Me and Grabbed My Arm. What Should I Do?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors, about a manager
who shoved an employee aside, apparently for no reason. 

Question: My manager grabbed my wrist last week and shoved my arm. She came to my register to just supply change and I was beside her, but not in the way.

Response: You don’t say how hard your manager grabbed your arm or shoved you—and there is a big difference between a light movement, to casually move someone out of the way or a firm but non-painful grasp–or a violent grab and shove. But, I can understand if you felt demeaned by her behavior and resented it enough that you’re still upset by it. Whatever the circumstances, there would be almost no reason I could think of for anyone to grab someone’s wrist and shove them, except in an emergency.

If you didn’t say something at the time, it’s not too late to do it. You could approach your manager and say, “Karen, I’ve been thinking about how bad I felt when you grabbed me and shoved me last week when I was getting change. Could we talk about it?” That would get the conversation going and it could develop from there. She may apologize and say she didn’t mean to do it in that way or she might explain that she was in a hurry and you wouldn’t move, at which point at least you two would be talking.

Or you might say, “Karen, do you remember last week, when I needed change and you shoved me out of the way? What was that all about?”

If  you reacted at the time and the two of you had a few words, you could bring it up and say that you’ve calmed down, but still are concerned about it and want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Another way, which is not as blunt or honest, but can sometimes soften the tone a bit, would be to ask, “Karen, I’ve been thinking about the situation last week, where you grabbed my wrist and shoved my arm when you were giving me change. That’s not like you. Is there something going on I can help with?” Or, use the first part, but ask, “Was there something more to it, that I didn’t realize?”

(Yes, I know, that sounds a bit phony—or a lot phony! However, it would give you a chance to make a point but give her the chance to apologize, as well as letting her know you didn’t like it.)

Another option is to let it go and hope for better situations in the future. I  would guess that you don’t like your manager very much anyway. So, perhaps your goal should be to establish a better working relationship in every way. For most employees, behaving and performing effectively is enough to keep managers feeling generally positive about them. If even that doesn’t help and you have other encounters like the one you described, you may need to decide if you want to stay in that job or not.

Whether or not you decide to not bring this up to your manager, start the week fresh by being positive and gracious to everyone—customers, coworkers and your manager. Be an example of what effectiveness, even when you’re in a rush, should look like.

I expect you will move forward from this situation and find a way to get over the anger it caused. If it ever happens again, you should make a complaint with HR or a higher manager, about her behavior. For now, communicating about it or deciding to move past it, seems to me to be your best response options.

Best wishes to you with your work and your life! If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how this situation is resolved.

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors