Handling disrespectful behaviour by superiors

Globe and Mail

Globe and Mail

COLLEEN CLARKE, From Friday’s Globe and Mail

The scenario

I have been working for this company for more than five years and have always gotten along very well with my superiors and my colleagues. But we have a new manager who just doesn’t seem to like me. His attitude and behaviour toward me is causing me great stress. He has insulted me more than once in front of my co-workers, yelled at me about a spelling mistake in a report in a very loud voice, and won’t return my e-mails, memos or requests in a timely manner. What should I do to win him over? What are my rights?

The advice

Many employers still haven’t gotten the message that it is in their best interest to prevent violence – physical and verbal – in their workplace, and that in many places it is their legal obligation to do so.

Working in such a harassing relationship with your boss is intolerable and most provinces now have, or are developing, labour laws requiring employers to prevent incidents of harassment in workplaces. This should give you added incentive to grieve unwelcome and disrespectful behaviour by superiors and colleagues.

You should take immediate action to resolve the conflict with your boss. Make an appointment in a neutral space, such as a meeting room, at a time that is least harried for your manager.

In a calm, non-emotional tone say: “When you criticize me in front of other people and don’t return my calls and e-mails in a timely manner, I feel disrespected and violated. I would appreciate if you would talk to me in private when you have an issue with my work and just send me a quick ‘got it’ when I e-mail you, to let me know you received my request and are considering it. How does that sound to you?”

If the disrespectful behaviour continues or escalates, the next step would be turn to your human resources department. Some companies say they have a zero tolerance to harassment, but then set out to prove the complainant inept and have the person terminated for poor performance, rather than deal with the abusive boss. Many workers fear filing a formal complaint exactly for this reason, but you must make your distress known if you expect to see the situation improve.

Colleen Clarke is a corporate trainer and career adviser in Toronto.