My Manager Grabbed My Arm!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about not being allowed to walk out:

What if, on the third day of your college work experience program, one of the managers told you, in her office that apparently you were not doing the work that you were suppose to? Then, you got upset and walked out of her office and she followed you and grabbed your arm and would not let you go? What would you do?

Signed, Frustrated

Dear Frustrated:

That sounds like a very bad situation, if you are describing something that happened to you! It also sounds as though there may have been major miscommunication about how you were supposed to be spending your time in the work to which you were assigned. It could be you weren’t told or it could be you were told but didn’t understand, didn’t listen carefully or did something else anyway. I’ll make the assumption you weren’t told, but you know the exact situation.

If you weren’t doing the work correctly, the manager had a responsibility to tell you so and to tell you what you should be doing instead. Apparently she did that. As long as she wasn’t insulting or inappropriate there doesn’t seem to be a reason to be upset. If her tone or demeanor was very unreasonable or offensive, it might be understandable.On the other hand, part of the reason for a college work experience is to test your ability to work in the real world.

The real world of work is sometimes upsetting–but you can’t just get up and leave your manager’s office.Once you got up and left, you say the manager grabbed your arm and wouldn’t let go. She shouldn’t have done that! I doubt that anyone would say she broke the law by doing it, but it certainly isn’t the right way to handle the situation. She should have let you go and documented the situation, contacting your college coordinator about it. Or, she might have followed you to your work area and insisted that you discuss the situation with her. She might have waited until you returned to work the next day and discussed it when both of you were less upset about it. But, she really shouldn’t have grabbed you and held on, because that isn’t appropriate in any business setting.

You don’t say what you did, although you ask what we would have done. Here are some options:

1. Ask her to let go. I’ll bet she would have.

2. Stop and discuss the situation with her and overlook the fact that she grabbed you in that way. She probably didn’t mean to hurt you or to frighten you. She just was upset that you walked out on her.

3. Either stop or keep going, then contact your college coordinator for the program and tell him or her about the situation. Those work experience coordinators have usually heard it all and may have advice or will mark that employer as off-limits for other students.

Now you will need to decide if you want to stay there or not. If you decide to stay you should ask your manager to be very clear about what you are supposed to be doing at work. Keep in mind that most employers who use students think of themselves as being charitable to do it. Students often don’t contribute a lot and they nearly always require a lot of paperwork and extra attention. Or, as in your case, there are other problems. So, at least appreciate that the work experience is much more helpful to you than to the employer.The employer has the right to make sure you’re doing what is needed. But you have the right to work in a place in which you are given clear directions and are treated with respect and courtesy.

After that meeting, ask for input about your work now and then. Right after your first few days, ask if you’re on the right track. Maybe other employees can be helpful as well.I hope you are able to work this out so you can get the college credit you need as well as the work experience you want. I also hope you and your manager can both move beyond that one bad situation. You shouldn’t have walked out (unless she was being very inappropriate) but she shouldn’t have grabbed you physically. You both could have handled it differently.Best wishes to you with this. If you wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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.