There’s so much stress in the kitchen. Often, co-workers and subordinates are disrespectful to me. How can I handle it without blowing up at them?
Dear L, thanks for your question. When you are dealing with disrespect - you have a right to be angry. The challenge is to be “good and angry” and to work through the anger in a healthy way.
It's very difficult working with people who treat you this way and won't take responsibility for their actions and behavior.
Time-out: since anger rears it’s ugly head within 1-3 seconds you have little time to plan a healthy response. Take a time-out if you can. State you will get back to the person in 20-30 minutes. It’s ideal if you can take a break from work. If not, walk away, giving yourself time to clear your head and cool-down your emotions. Think about what the issue is and a request you might make of the other person.
Speak the Truth: The most important step for you is to be able to speak your mind honestly and respectfully. This is a skill most people have not acquired. Read about the ASERT approach which provides steps on how to approach someone directly about an issue.
Confront: I suggest you confront the person in private as follows:
“I felt embarrassed (humiliated or hurt) when you said, _____________________________________ use the exact wording which was disrespectful but, don't accuse the person of being disrespectful) in front of our co-workers. I would appreciate it if you would refrain from treating me this way in the future.”
Maybe you will need to expand your request by saying: “If you have a problem with me or my work – please come to me in private so we can discuss it one-on-one instead of bringing it up in front of others. This will help improve our relationship and communication.”
Practical Steps: Interrupt the person by saying, "excuse me. I think that it would be good for you to speak to me in private about this matter. I suggest we go to the staff lounge or my office to discuss it." Or paraphrase what the person says, "You believe that I was dishonest about_______________" or "You think that I have been irresponsible because__________."
That way, you will be trying to clarify what the person is saying and at the same time, will make it clear to the whole group that he/she is making an accusation against you. The person may back-pedal and say, "oh no. That is not what I meant to say."
If the person doesn't back-down and keeps accusing you - state forthrightly that you disagree with their view of your character or work and that you need to talk with them in private about this or with your supervisor - not in the group.
Words Hurt: People do not realize how hurtful words are. Proverbs says, "there is life and death in the tongue."
Write out what usually happens so you are ready the next time someone is disrespectful. When you are prepared – you will be able to think more clearly. You may even have to say, "what you just said was really hurtful and I disagree with you" in front of everyone. Saying this will honestly express your feelings and point out their rude behavior.
Alternative: If someone continues to put you down in a group then, you may need to ask your supervisor to mediate this issue between the two of you. No matter what happens, if you have a come-back, it will help you keep anger in control.
Read more about: What's Good About Anger?
~ © copyright 2005 by Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC. Lynette is a Marriage and Family Counselor with CounselCare Connection and National Certified Counselor. She is the co-author of What's Good About Anger? and a speaker for community, women's and church organizations.