Single Parent Faith

Monday, September 10, 2012

Difficult People In the Work Place

“If it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim.”
~Richard Bach

The work place can be a  petri dish for stress. The other day I was given an assignment that would require me to have interaction with someone who is very abrassive. 

“Do you have a moment? I have a few questions.” I previously attempted to connect with her by phone and email, but she never returned my messages. It was time to pay her a visit. 

“Not really.” she answered with an edge, “Well go ahead, what do you need?”

I focused on the task at hand and I reminded myself not to take her tone personally. As I asked questions, her answers were ambiguous and not very helpful.  With each follow-up question, she raised her voice and was clearly agitated.

Some years ago I was in this woman’s cubicle and a similar thing occurred, only that time I didn’t say anything, I just left feeling bad. Instead of following up with her, I found someone else who had a good disposition and was happy to assist. For several years I didn’t have to interface with her again, until recently.

I really don’t like confrontation, but this time as she carried on, the words rolled off my tongue matter-of-factly without much effort or preparation.

“You don’t have to yell at me. I’m here trying to do my job, just like you,” I said in a stern manner so she knew I meant business.

“I didn’t realize I was yelling.”

“You must be experiencing a lot of stress.”  I decided to extend her a way out.

“This is a bad time of year for us and I’ve been working long hrs.”  

“I understand. Me too. In today’s world of ‘do more with less people’ we are all overburdened. I myself was up working into the wee hours last night, but I don’t take it out on others.” 

In other words, we should take responsibility for our actions, no matter the stress level we are experiencing.

I wanted to be clear that I do not tolerate being spoken to this way. Obviously ignoring it the first time did not change her behavior. It probably reinforced it— that it's acceptable to speak to me this way. This time I decided to flex my “non-victimhood” muscles.

I get it. We all deal with stress and problems in our lives. Every one is struggling with something and often we deal with multiple challenges at once. However, it is never a free pass to victimize others in the wake of self-absorption with problems. Being stressed and overburdened is not an excuse to snap and bully people. 

Ironically, these difficult people are also victimizing themselves in the process of their self-absorption; Imprisoning themselves in a world where they are the perceived sufferers and, therefore, justified to behave this way.

“Asserting yourself while respecting others is a very good way to win respect yourself.” ~ Janice LaRouche

Ella Venezia
Copyright © 2012 Ella Venezia. All Rights Reserved.

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  1. Good quotes and good post. I always tell people, "We can make this easier or we can make this harder." Whoever's "fault" we think it is, we almost always have a choice. For every choice we have, we should be thankful for the blessing it represents.

    1. And isn't it better to make it easier? Great point Michael! As always, you bring wisdom and insight. I appreciate your words!


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