4 Ways to Handle Insensitive Managers
By: Brittney Oliver
Imagine walking into your weekly meeting with senior management as a comment is thrown around in poor taste only to find that you’re the only one who felt the sting of the insensitive remark. Laughter rings through your ear as you wonder why no one else found the joke inappropriate. Situations like this can happen often in the workplace and you may be conflicted on whether to continue to be silent or to address the problem. Who do you turn to when you feel uncomfortable at work? Do you speak up and let your manager know that they’ve offended you? Do you make mention of it to HR? Not sure? Here’s what to do.
Steer Clear From Social Media
Don’t head to Twitter or Facebook to let off some steam. Don’t even blog about it. Instead, go for a walk to clear your head or grab some comfort food to settle you down. Text or call a friend to vocalize how you feel or send an email (from your personal email account!) to your mentor who’s not affiliated with the company to ask for advice on how to handle the situation.
Address The Person At Fault
Muster up the courage to tackle the issue head-on. Before going to HR, give the person a chance to apologize or recognize what went wrong. Give yourself 24 hours to digest what happened at work then craft what you plan to say to the person. Be mindful not to attack him or her but rather find a way to create a teachable moment. Find a private area where you can address the issue and explain to the person at fault how the comments made you feel. Make sure to keep it professional and authentic, but make your feelings real to them by finding ways to connect. For example, if the person is an older man with a daughter, ask how he would feel if his daughter experienced a similar situation.
Find a Senior-Level Ally
At smaller companies the COO can be HR, too. If you find the issue is with someone who is also in HR, get support from a senior-level ally. Whenever you start a new job, one of your goals should be to create a relationship with someone in a senior level position to help champion your career trajectory. This person can be the key to your professional growth, but they can also be the person that you talk to when you feel uncomfortable at work. The level of authority they have can help you navigate your way to finding a solution to any workplace drama. Take the conversation offline and have a face-to-face meeting with them to address your concerns. Ask them to offer advice for handling the situation. They can be that voice for you when you aren’t allowed in certain rooms, so let them know what is going on.
Keep a Track of Continued Insensitivity
Whenever moments like this occur make sure to immediately record it in a private journal or document and save or print out inappropriate emails. Write down the details so that you can have a record to back you up if things get sticky at work. If the insensitive behavior continues, place a formal complaint. Use your documented proof to help make your case to HR, and if HR is not a safe place then it’s time to find a new place of employment.
Most of the people you will encounter in your career lack empathy. They may have traveled the world and worked with an array of people, but there will still be something that separates them from truly understanding what it feels like to be in your shoes. Be mindful of that as you navigate through your career, because there will be times that you will have to pick and choose your battles.
Brittney is a freelance writer and marketing communications professional based in New York City. She has written for ESSENCE, Huffington Post, xoNecole, Levo.com and other online publications. This Tennessee native is a proud Howard University alumna. She is using her career journey to inspire and motivate others through her Lemons 2 Lemonade platform. Follow her on Twitter @Britt_S_O and visit www.brittneyoliver.com to see what she's working on!