Cried Because Of An Abusive Co-worker!

Question:

I work in a small town at a John Deere Dealership. I am the office manager and bookkeeper. I am female and have a female assistant. The parts department next to our office and its manager is a problem. He really can’t take pressure or is just mean. You never know when he will go off. For example, my assistant and I were running a farm plan batch that requires a telephone line that is used for our fax, credit card and

farm plan machine. We were settling our batch when a customer wanted to pay with a credit card. We told our co-worker to wait a minute so it could finish settling. He turned and stomped out. I watch for the minute it settled, then told him he could now use it. He hollered at us, using profanity and said we didn’t do anything but play on the computer all day. I was so shocked and angry that I told him off. This was not the first time he did this and in front of customers and other co-workers. I reported this to my boss but he has done nothing. I think I will look for another job. I work with all men and one woman and have never had trouble with any but him. I really love our customers and my job. This man has caused me to leave work crying and humiliated. Seeing that my boss doesn’t have the guts to do something about it makes it worse. Signed,

Signed,

Humiliated


Answer:

Dear Humiliated:

The person you work with certainly does sound offensive in the way he handles things. But there also seems to be a need for better communication and teamwork all the way around. So, it seems to me that you have a three level issue: 1. How can your office work better as a team, with customer service as a priority? 2. How can you have a work place that is free from open anger and unpleasant and inappropriate communications? 3. Do you want to work on finding a solution or would it easier and more likely, to find another job? That’s a tough call, but may have to be considered.

If it’s a small dealership, likely everyone is aware of the problems. Avoid excessive talk about it and focus that talk on a positive resolution. Keep the approach that you want to do your work and not have upsetting conflict, but the language and tone of the co-worker makes it very difficult.

Ask for an interview with the boss. His attitude may be that you two need to get along…and he doesn’t want to get involved. Ask him to at least help you establish that people will not yell or be rude to each other. It may be that the culture in the dealership has been that way for a long time. The employee you mention is likely so used to his behavior that he doesn’t see it as a problem. Others may even joke about it on occasion–so it is not seen as serious. Your boss may not care that there is conflict. BUT, he surely will care about it being so obvious in front of customers. Sadly, your dealership is probably the major source of such items around..so customers will tolerate anything!

Resolve that you will not “tell off” anyone, even if they make you angry. That lowers you to their level. Keep in mind, as well, the situation you described would be frustrating to the other employee because he had a customer waiting. What he should have done is gone to the boss and say that something has to be done to correct that situation.

Customers making a purchase should have priority over sending reports–even though they may be important reports. But, once you’re in the middle of sending the report, there’s not much you can do to stop it. If you could have stopped your settlement and allowed the purchase, you should have done so–I think you will agree. So, that whole process needs to be looked at. That may be a positive thing you could do that would go a long way toward resolving your immediate issues with the employee.

Over the long-term, make a decision to not tolerate angry talk again. Quietly but firmly say, “Joe, please do not yell at me. Let’s talk about this and see if we can work it out.” There’s no point in saying, “Calm down.” or similar things, because that implies you are criticizing him without offering to help. If there is a customer there, say to them, with an apologetic smile, “I’m sorry you have to hear our bickering. We’ll work this out later.” Then leave the area.

Do not become so stubborn about him that you purposely do things to agitate him. That is a temptation, but ultimately weakens your position. If the boss views that you have contributed to the angry feelings, you may find you will not get much support.

At some point you may need to tell the employee that if he continues you will ask for a meeting with him and the boss to see if you can work out the problems that seem to keep happening. Most people hate the thought of having such a meeting and that will often straighten things out at least on the surface–which may be all you want. If you say you will go to the boss, that’s not so threatening. But if you say you want him and you to go to boss for as many meetings as it takes to work things out between the two of you….THAT strikes fear in their hearts!

If you have supporters in the office, ask them to express their opinion to the boss–or ask him to talk to them. Emphasize to the boss that working on this now will save lots of angry remarks and unpleasantness down the line. It may be that you will have to let him know of your thoughts about leaving. If he values you as an employee that may be enough to let him see that he can’t ignore this any longer.

I hope these thoughts will trigger some of your own as you decide how best to handle this situation. Best wishes. If you have the time and want to do so, keep us informed about what develops.

Scheduling meetings to resolve explosions can be motivate civility. Until you take action on disrespect, your workplace will suffer from lack of WEGO spirit.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.