Rise Above Disrespect In The Workplace

If you ever experienced, whether as witness or as subject to, disrespect or incivility in the workplace, this article is for you.

Whether the behavior of disrespect be a result of the desire to exert power, unresolved childhood issues or low caliber, outdated leadership, it does nothing good for the employees. Shouting, belittling and the use of unprofessional words in the workplace is more pervasive than you think.

Effects of Disrespect in the Workplace

Impact on Career

You cannot be at your natural best when faced with this situation, whether you are the subject of disrespect or it happens around you with you as an observer. Stress, fear of speaking up, hindered decision making and low self-esteem are natural consequences.

None of these will help you in advancing in your game.

Misguided Leadership

Disrespectful or incivil bosses and individuals have their own allies and favorites, too.

Suppose you are one of them so your career took off even in this environment. But, what kind of modelling, mentoring and guidance did you get? That it is ok to shout at and shame people in front of their peers and direct reports?

If this resonates with you, better find yourself a mentor or a coach outside of this environment.

Impact on Health

From personal experience, mine and your own, we know that stressful situations have huge impact on health.

There have also been several studies around the topic, such as the one below.

Multiple studies have shown that these sudden emotional stresses — especially anger — can trigger heart attacks, arrhythmias and even sudden death.1 Although this happens mostly in people who already have heart disease, some people don’t know they have a problem until acute stress causes a heart attack or something worse.

How Stress Affects Your Health by the American Psychological Association

Impact on other Areas of Life

When I was still in a very incivil workplace, I was also short fused at home with my daughter and also highly emotional and easily triggered to cry in conversations (sometimes confrontations) with my husband. They did not and do not deserve this version of me. Initially, I thought it was hormonal and age related, but it really wasn’t.

The day I left, my heartburn and palpitation were gone. I’m also more patient and more loving now at home.

I didn’t know these were directly related to workplace experiences and to think, I was just an observer.

Take Action

Unfortunately, victims of disrespect or incivility in the workplace often don’t realize they are victims or are too afraid to do anything. To an extent, they behave like a battered wife – knows it hurts and is wrong but does not have enough will, energy nor courage to break the cycle; or develops a self-blaming attitude over what happens.

So, if you are currently facing this situation, here are my suggestions.

Request for Feedback

Many people faced with this situation blame themselves even when disrespecct in any situation is wrong. To clear things up, it is best to request for a 1-1 and ask for feedback on things that you can still improve to make the situation better. Then, work hard to develop in these areas.

Give Feedback

Sometimes, the person/boss is blind to the effects of his/her actions. So here, let’s assume good intent and let him/her know how his/her actions, words and manner of speaking made you feel and what thoughts you had around it.

Depending on your role in the organization, you can speak on behalf of the group (with confidential data to back you up) or call forth the values of the organization.

Report to HR, Ethics Hotline or A Higher Level, More Mature Leader

If these did not work, there are people in authority who are concerned about employee welfare. Let them know and let them take the necessary actions.


Now, if you’ve done all these and things still hasn’t changed, what are you still doing there? Leave! There are many other workplaces for you – warm, friendly, inclusive, high performing ones. Don’t lock yourself up in the dungeon when you can be out in the garden on a beautiful summer day!

Finally, let me close with this video…

Want more worklife related articles? Feel free to like and follow us on http://www.engagementimperative.com and on FB @engagementimperative.

Thank you and hoping for all the best in your life! God bless!

About Emile Therese

Emile Therese is a graduate of the University of Philippines in Diliman with a degree in Psychology. She is happily married. She and her husband, Dennis, are blessed with one amazing daughter (and hopefully at least one more child). She believes that values and character ought to be taught as early as possible and that these are key to community and nation building. This was also how she and her siblings were brought up by their two awesome parents! She is a Certified HR Professional who advocates employee engagement in its entirety. Emile believes that true employee engagement rests on the pillars of basic human needs and in ensuring that process and leadership basics are in place - the employee engagement imperatives. She hopes to contribute to making this world a better place for all of us now and the next generation. She loves sipping tea, conversations, reading and writing. The latter gave birth to two blogs - Purposeful Parenting Journey (purposefulparentingjourney.com) and Engagement Imperative (engagementimperative.com).

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