Standing Up Against Disrespect–A StoryTime

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Letting folks disrespect you gives people a license to continue to do it. Don’t know what I mean? Keep reading.

The beginning

At one point in my office career, I worked as a temporary Shipping Administrative Assistant in a parts warehouse at a major car manufacturer in a nearby town. I really enjoyed the job, but the coworkers were a different story.

One morning I was at my work desk, minding my own business, when the Warehouse Team Lead (a white man) came into the office and started talking with the Parts Manager (a white woman). Our parts manager was at her desk which was diagonal to mine. 

I wasn’t really listening because it didn’t concern me, but I could hear what they said. The Warehouse Team Lead talked about how his dog had had some puppies and he had been able to sell all except the n***** (black) puppies. 

I froze when I heard the ‘n’ word. I couldn’t believe that someone would say this in the workplace! I looked over at the Warehouse Team Lead, and from the horrified look on his face, he knew he’d messed up! Apparently, in his excitement to tell the Parts Manager the news, he’d either forgotten or didn’t notice I was in the room.

Now I could have said something. But because of the terrified look on his face, I figured he had suffered enough; so I didn’t say anything. I just shook my head and went back to my work.

I thought he had learned his lesson about saying certain things. So I went on with life and acted like nothing had happened.

After that, whenever I saw him, I acted like my usual friendly self. I was being nice and letting the incident. On the other hand, anytime he saw me, he had a scared look on his face.

Well, my plan of letting bygones be bygones seemed to work, because he started to lose that scared look. I guess he figured I had forgiven him and wouldn’t beat him up in the parking lot.

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The advice

A few days later, I told my brother what had happened. His response was, ‘What did you do’? I told him I had let the situation go since the guy seemed repentant. 

My brother was not happy about this. He told me that I shouldn’t let stuff like that slide. ‘Because they will think it’s okay to say stuff like that’ and will ‘do it again.’ 

I had never heard this before but, after thinking about it, I took it to heart. And you know what? My brother was right.

The event that got me fired (I think)

Some months later, the office I worked in moved into a bigger office. This office held the logistics and warehouse departments, so it was a huge open area.

At the same time–in my personal life–my husband wanted to leave the restaurant franchise he was working for and work for the restaurant directly. The corporate headquarters was in a city not far from where we lived. 

I was okay with the move but didn’t know much about the city. There was a new girl in the office who was from that city. So one day, I asked her about some of the neighborhoods in the city. 

I didn’t want to live in the ‘hood.  The new girl, we’ll call Lacey, said all the neighborhoods in that city have their hoodie side. 

Do you remember the Parts Manager I spoke of earlier? Well, her desk was pretty close to where we were. She said, “I thought you’d be okay with living in the hood?”

I looked at her like she had lost her mind! Are you serious? 

I’m thinking, okay, she’s got to be joking. So I just laughed and asked her what she meant by that. She shrugged and said she thought I’d be okay with living in the hood.

Again, I was in shock! It’s not just about what she said but where she said it. It was in front of co-workers and bosses.

Before I could think, I said, ‘I oughta knock ya upside yo head fa that’! Some sounds in the room died, but I didn’t notice because I was in Anger mode. Since I didn’t think she heard me, I repeated it. All of a sudden, the room went quiet. So quiet that if I had dropped a pin on the floor, everyone would have heard it land. It was that quiet.

I stared at the Parts Manager, and she didn’t move. That’s when I heard the silence and glanced around me. It seemed like everyone was frozen. That’s when I knew I had said too much. So I quietly walked back to my desk, and went back to work.

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Photo from Pixabay

The aftermath

Well, I lost my job.

I understand, and it was for the best. I had wanted to leave for a while. 

The way it went down was the Warehouse Manager came to me in the breakroom a few days later and told me the department was restructuring. Therefore, my job was eliminated. He went on to say that today was my last day, and it would be nice if I left as soon as possible. He added that I would be paid for the rest of the day. 

Surprised, I asked if I could say goodbye to my co-workers. Of course, he said no. So I went back to my desk, logged out of my computer, and left. I wasn’t upset. I was happy, and appreciated the discretion he used. 

After I left, I called the coworkers I was cool with and told them what had happened. I wanted to say bye, and wanted them to know my side.  There was no telling what kind of story they would hear at work.

The takeaway

I learned from this that you cannot let folks disrespect you. Because it will cycle back and hit you in the face.

I’m pretty sure the office incident wouldn’t have happened if I had said something at the beginning when the Warehouse Team Lead had said something about his black puppies. I think both of them would have been on notice that I wouldn’t put up with comments like that. 

Was it worth it? No and yes. No, because I lost my job and my workplace dignity. I feel sorry for what I said. It was harsh. I strive to be professional when I’m at work. Yes, maybe she’ll understand that some things aren’t said in the workplace.

My advice is: don’t let disrespect slide. When it happens, you can walk away or speak up. If you do decide to say something, please do it calmly. It’ll go better.

Just saying! 

If you’d like to share a story or comments, please put them down in the comment section below. Your comments are always greatly appreciated.

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