Abuse At Work

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss’s order:

My manager told me to shut my mouth in front of other staff members

Signed, Shutted

Dear Shutted:

Obviously you didn’t and don’t like the way you were told to stop speaking. How did you respond? Have you met with your manager, in private, and expressed you disapproval? Have you allowed this frustration with your manager to smolder? Have you complained about her/him to coworkers, friends and/or family? Will you carry resentment until it one day flames and explodes? From here, it’s impossible to know what prompted this put down; however, the challenge has been made to you; to reflect on what prompted it and what might you do to stop incivility, or better still foster respectful communication within your work group.

With this in mind, here are several suggestions:

· Reflect on your boss-bossed history; the frequency and nature of when, where, and how you two communicate, and also of communication in your work group. What is clear and cloudy? What causes conflict? What is its tone? After a session with the manager or at other times, what is said?

· Specifically recall the context of being told to shut your mouth. What were you saying and how much had you been speaking compared to others? Is this “shut up” just one incident or a pattern of harshness and bullying?

· Prepare a list of do and don’t rules that spell out how you want to be talked to, how instructions and assignments should be made.

· Meet with your manager. Express your unhappiness with being told to shut up in the presence of others. Apologize if you were in the wrong; been mouthy, obstinate, unkind, negative, etc. Whether it was or wasn’t your fault, ask if you could come to an understanding that his/her criticism of you be given in private. See this incident as an opportunity to suggest that your work group schedule a time-out session to talk about the way you can communicate better. This might be an appropriate time to show your manager the do and don’t rules you made for your self and your work group. You might suggest that you would like to have a coach rather than a boss; one who is supportive and that you want to be a team member who helps make his/her job easier.

These suggestions are far more than you might have wanted from you one sentence query, that was sent us three times. But I hope they make sense. Each of us, boss and bossed, would have a better working relationship if we remember that misunderstanding is the rule rather than the exception. Remembering that would soften our tone and make us more willing to listen and explain. Don’t obsess about this put down. Focus on the positive. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Do that and I predict your manager will become a coach.

William Gorden