Feeling Degraded

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about feeling degraded

This situation happened last night. I have only worked at this Greenhouse for a month. Last night I was trying to keep myself busy while we weren’t busy so I wasn’t just standing around, so I decided to keep busy by untangling the 20 Clematis vines that grew together.

It started to get busy all at once and I stopped what I was doing and went to go to the register and I go over to help to the other associate behind the register and didn’t make it to behind the counter but in front of and my boss asks me what I was doing, in front of all of the customers, and I told him I was untangling the clematis and he went mmmm ok.

Then a customer had already paid and he told me to start packing stuff in the plastic holder but the customer kept saying clearly that there wasn’t room for all of the very full and tall plants to go into all of the square slots, but he kept shoving them in there and made me do the same. I was embarrassed and felt degraded.

Maybe others think I am being too sensitive. I work a full time job and do this part time. He’s made comments to me before, like are you going to do anything tonight. I feel really degraded by him. The owner’s wife asked me to stay and help him with a potting class the one night. So I did, without pay. Even though he still had me doing work. I just feel really degraded. Am I in the wrong? Signed-Feel Degraded

Dear Feel Degraded:

A brief answer to your question: Am I in the wrong? No. But that’s not a satisfactory answer. The more important matter is what have you learned from this and what are your options to respond to this boss’s behavior and cope internally with other degrading work situations that sometimes happen.

You have chosen what should be a pleasant environment in which to work in addition to your full time job. So what are your options:

  1. Review the context that led to this incident. Was this an unusual owner’s behavior or a pattern of giving orders? If it is his only occasion of bully bossing, you might ignore it. It makes sense to walk in the owner’s shoes before reacting, but biting your tongue probably won’t prevent it from happening next time nor will it help you feel you have made him aware you think his orders were disrespectful. 
  2. If you choose to nip in the bud (an appropriate metaphor?), you might request an informal timeout one-on-one during your next time there–when it isn’t busy or after the greenhouse is closed. Think through, but don’t stress yourself, feeling you must have a perfect wording expressing displeasure in his order to stuff the plants in. It isn’t something that you should rehearse and worry about. You can approach this as a quick “How am I doing Mr. Green.  I enjoy working in your greenhouse?” If he says, “You are doing well”, you can then say, I felt you didn’t think so last night. And I felt insulted in front of the customer.” This brief conversation might be enough to teach him how to boss (a lesson some bosses have not learned because no one had the sensitivity and courage to teach them). A slightly different wording also should accomplish informing him of how you want to be respected,  simply, “Mr. Green, Do you remember what you ordered me to place the plants in those containers last night? I was doing it efficiently, carefully, and not wasting time. I felt you disrespected my work in the presence of a customer. I want this to be the last and only time this happens as long as you want me to work here. Do you understand?”     

The sad fact is that the workplace today hasn’t yet matured. Bosses and/or coworkers in some settings are not civil and even toxic. They create a hostile work environment, despite the law against that. Years ago, Robert Frost in his poem The  Code told a story about a worker who had a dramatic way to say he did good work and would not be pressured to work faster!  

Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. You are now with this experience more able to make workplace communication respectful. Will you let me know what options you choose? William Gorden     

-Rhiannan ( rhiannangabrielle@gmail.com