Over the past few months, we’ve talked about how defensiveness and stalling are just two of the tactics used by negative people to create a toxic work environment. Here’s a third – being disrespectful to both their peers and their managers. And this one, particularly if you are at the receiving end, is the hardest to swallow. But if you do happen to be at the short end of this stick, it is worth remembering that being disrespectful is actually just another way that negative people attempt to mask their own lack of self-esteem. By making someone else look weak, the attacker believes the focus is deflected off himself and on to the receiver. Put-downs are specific examples of disrespect. They are small jabs for control. The negative person who uses put-downs may be trying to save face in an uncomfortable position or to regain some control if he’s feeling threatened.
So how should you handle it? Don’t stand for it. Be assertive with people that exhibit disrespect. Speak up. Express how you feel and your expectations for communication with them. Never show disrespect yourself, or you’ll lose credibility. Try “Sam, that sounded like you were being sarcastic. I hope that isn’t true? I’d like to work with you, but we’re not going to be very successful if I feel that you are disrespecting me.” When you call them on their disrespectful behaviour, most people with low self-esteem will back down; at worst though, you’ve put them on notice that you won’t tolerate this kind of behaviour.
So … have you observed situations where disrespect from negative people creates a difficult and poisonous work environment? How have you dealt with it? Do tell!
P.S. Dealing with workplace negativity comes up a lot on my blog; that’s because leaders are constantly asking what specific things they can do to avoid negativity or at least limit it from spreading. Here are several previous blog posts that offer tools to deal with workplace negativity.