Have you ever heard the old saying “nothing in life is guaranteed except death and taxes”? It’s true, but as a woman… there are a few other things that we experience more often than our male counterparts.
Being mistreated means different things to different people. As a woman of color, the list of potential offenses is much longer and much more complex.
I have to be honest, I didn’t experience mistreatment at work until after college and once I was working in mid-level management. I was just fortunate in that way, I guess. But once my eyes were open to how blatantly and frequently women experienced snide degrading comments, dismissive dialogue, and sexual harassment, I knew that I was not alone in my feelings of disgust and empathy. It’s easy to minimize how something affects you personally. Most of us have mastered the art of hiding pain behind smiles and starting new… every single day. But there’s something about witnessing someone else being treated poorly or violated that has the power of moving us to action.
The first and most important thing is that we stop allowing the poor behavior of others in the workplace to go unchecked. There are ways to handle mistreatment without sacrificing your integrity or dignity… here are a few tips to help you overcome bad behavior in the workplace.
don’t be afraid to share your experience
Confiding in someone is sometimes the first step to helping you feel empowered enough to face the person that is doing you harm. By sharing your experience you also allow for fair dialogue and give yourself the opportunity to understand a different perspective. For example, if Sean was upset at work due to a death in his family, him being short with you last week might not have been a personal attack. On the other hand, talking to someone you trust also helps you to not validate the actions of others. For example, you may be quick to say something like Mark touching you on your hip ‘is just the way he is’, your confidante will have the opportunity to tell you not to make excuses for being mistreated and to speak up about actions that make you uncomfortable.
react but don’t retaliate
When bad things happen at work, it needs to be brought to the attention of those that can do something about it. That usually means informally speaking with your supervisor or manager, your human resources department. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking with someone internally, or if you have and you feel that your interests have not been protected, it might be time to find out if you have any legal recourse.
Don’t be afraid to consult with an attorney and learn your rights. Get clear on the entire process and what that will look like for you – from how it can affect your employment to how process servers will inform your employer that you’re taking legal action. It’s important that you understand as much about the process, ahead of time. This will help you prepare yourself mentally, emotionally, and maybe even financially.
maintain your dignity
It can be tempting to fight fire with fire. But doing so only reduces you to the same level of the person that has mistreated you. Although it can be a tedious process, utilize the steps outlined in your employee handbook to ensure that you report the offense thoroughly and correctly.
what happens if nothing changes?
If following your company’s policy for reporting poor behavior doesn’t provide relief from your situation, seek legal assistance immediately. Most of us simply find a new job and move on, but it’s important that mistreatment not go unchecked. Stand up for yourself and all the past and future women that might encounter the same mistreatment and not be strong enough to speak up.