Owner/Boss Demeaned Me

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about criticized in front of others:

I’m praying you can help me… I am a conscientious, hard worker who comes in early and takes little breaks. I have four “superiors” or bosses. It seems one is happy with me from what I can tell. Anyway, I was recently demeaned in front of two other workers about something trivial by the “owner.” I cannot say what it is, as I’d like to keep this general, but it was a small aspect of my job responsibility.

I see people taking smoke breaks in this company at least 4-6 times a day, talking on the phone constantly with friends, gossiping, hanging around while I am constantly trying to focus and WORK. There are so many double standards it isn’t even funny. I see so much unfairness in this company. About the issue–I was told in a rather hostile voice and tone (I’m there under a year)–“You should know this by now!” That was said at least two or three times with pointing involved and hostility and disrespect in the voice.

I can’t help but feel like a fool/demeaned. It was hard going in the next day. I would have preferred that the boss tell me privately what I had done incorrectly or in another way. I lost the respect of co-workers and my confidence and esteem is now shot. I asked myself, why did I get yelled at? I never see anyone else get yelled at. I’ve seen the same mistakes (repeatedly) done by another co-worker and she NEVER gets yelled at. And why do the people who “loaf” never get yelled at?I’ve had two other jobs where there were “yellers” or “humiliators” that didn’t work out for me. Am I not able to handle criticism? Or is this just not right?

Signed, Saddened By This

Dear Saddened By This:

Unfortunately, some bosses as well as coworkers, have learned that yelling works. Their yelling sends the message, “I’m OK and you are not OK!” Also unfortunately, some of us get picked on, whereas others do the pecking. Especially, those who are new, sometimes get pecked in a work environment in which yelling and demeaning others is the rule.Survival of the fittest rules. Those with the biggest teeth devour the weaker and with the sharpest bark scare off the weaker. That is the way the world works internationally and interpersonally. Right or wrong?

Incivility is one element in survival of the fittest at work. But incivility also has its downside. Undoubtedly, because you apparently are a sensitive individual, you have been saddened over nations that have worked their will by big gun diplomacy. Empires have been built and maintained by might that way. Yet the downside of might and bluster makes right is that hatred festers and at its worst boils over in suicide bombers, guerrilla warfare, in not outright war. So the question is one of survival. Even though it appears you are on the low end of the totem pole, you have options. The first option is to reflect on your own behavior. Look in the mirror to see how you are seen. What about you makes you a scapegoat? Possibly quietly talk with someone away from work about how you come across or with a coworker. Then determine the kind of behavior that will toughen your backbone.

That means you can go about your assignments knowing that yelling is not right, but that words do not hurt you. Let them slide off like a cold shower. You will not like the cold water but you will survive.A second option is be a steel magnolia, giving back what you get. But do that as you would like to have it done to you; in private. Go to your owner/boss and with a cool demeanor to candidly ask, “Are you displeased with my work? I work hard and try to do good work, but when you yelled at me in front of my coworkers, I felt like dirt.” Then listen to what your owner says. Depending on what he/she says, you should not leave without saying, “I never have done or would do anything that I knew would harm this workplace. And I want you to know that I work best when I am not yelled at. I’m sorry that I made this mistake. Perhaps I should know better and I will the next time. Unless, what I have done wrong is immediately unsafe, I prefer to have you criticize me quietly in private. I think that is how you too would prefer to be criticized.”A third option, think team; think workplace friendly.

Apparently your workplace is small enough for you to have contact with the owner, although your yelling contact by him/her was humiliating. If you were owner of this place, what would you do? What would you do to help this place make more money? How would you cut wasted time, supplies, duplication, and energy? What would you do to motivate employees to take fewer smoke breaks, waste time on the phone, and to cut insurance costs? What might change a work group to be a work team? How could you get them to cheer each other on and to commit themselves more to customers? How might you be a problem solver and opportunity seeker? Once you think team and think workplace friendly, you will have topics you want to propose to your owner. One version of my signature line embodies these thoughts: Working together with skilled hands, clear head, and warm heart takes and makes big WEGOS. So think wego and act wego. A fourth option, shape a career. You mention that you had two other jobs in which there were yellers and humiliators. So why did you take a job in which you now are employed by another yeller? You will continue to be trapped in a hostile workplace until you do the kind of pre-employment investigation that rules out yellers.

There are worker friendly places; places that seek to make working pleasant; health care available, day care, massages, exercise areas, beautiful, comfort focused; and most of all respectful of their employees. Possibly you have shifted from one job to the next and then to another because that is what popped up. Possibly, you have not gotten the training needed to make you an attractive job candidate by a worker-friendly organization. If so, hang on to the job you have, but get the training necessary to make yourself worker marketable. It may take some time to do that. You will have to weigh if that is what you need. Will you weigh these options or let them to spark other ideas that might make your working life satisfying rather than frustrating? Feel free to keep us posted.

William Gorden