Wolf-whistling has been at the heart of some of history's most iconic films since the early '40s and is central to the storyline of some well-known cartoons. In recent times, it has become synonymous with men on job sites who view it as nothing but harmless banter. However, to the recipient, it can be rude, disrespectful and even considered harassment.
While this is just one example, disrespectful behaviour is often seen differently between those dishing it out and those on the receiving end – and varies in its extremes. Disrespectful behaviour can include swearing at each other, name calling, comments about colleagues’ appearance or dress, public humiliation, dismissing comments or ideas prematurely, gossip mongering, excluding team members and inappropriate jokes.
In fact, any behaviour that makes the recipient feel unwelcome, unsafe, uncomfortable or devalued in any way is considered disrespectful. So, what do you do when you witness disrespectful behaviour from one of your workmates and are put in a position of having to stand by or stand up?
Tip #1 - Don't participate
Being around disrespectful actions are unpleasant and proven to be highly contagious. The more this type of behaviour is part of your everyday environment, the more likely it will become socially acceptable. The last thing any workplace wants is to degrade the workplace culture - ultimately making it harder to attract and retain amazing team members.
If something feels off or unacceptable to you, chances are it is. Make a conscious effort not to engage or participate to prevent herd mentality.
Tip #2 - Call it out
The behaviour you walk past is the behaviour your stand for. If you see someone being rude, disrespected or treated poorly, make it known that you are unsupportive. You may feel like yelling at the worker, giving them a dressing down or even giving them a dose of their own medicine, but this can put you in a position of behaving poorly yourself. Instead, try and have a quiet word with your colleague and let them know how their actions are impacting others. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t aware of their poor choices. Chances are they will be embarrassed once it is brought to their attention.
Tip #3 – Find your tribe
Counteract the time spent with disrespectful workmates with those who are like-minded and energise you. Find those whose ethics, morals and values are similar to yours. After all, spending time with those who are engaging in positive behaviours can restore your spirits, increase your positivity and ensure you don’t fall into any negative patterns.
Tip #4 – Confide in a Co-worker
Some workplaces do a great job of making their standards of behaviour clear. In these workplaces the behaviours that are considered unacceptable are well-known and anyone seen not toeing the line is putting themselves in a position of disciplinary action. In other workplaces, what constitutes disrespect varies from person to person and, unfortunately can be left open to interpretation. Swearing on a building site may be socially acceptable in one workplace and unacceptable in another.
If you witness behaviour that doesn’t sit well with you, it is important to listen to that inner voice. Sometimes sharing your feelings with a colleague can help to give you valuable perspective. Perhaps they are feeling uncomfortable too.
Tip # 5 - Approach a Supervisor
If you are uncomfortable talking directly to your colleague, then respectfully share your feelings with your supervisor, focussing on the behaviour and its impact. They may be able to solve the issue at a team level rather than an individual which will ensure the poor behaviours cease and prevent any fall out with your teammates.
Keep in mind that disrespect is one thing but crossing the line into harassment, bullying or abuse is another. If this is the case, immediately notify your supervisor, human resources personnel or workplace manager and allow them to manage the situation.
Tip #6 – Stay True To You
If you find there is an organisation-wide clash between your values and that of your workmates, the job may not be the right cultural fit for you. You may decide to find a workplace that is more aligned to your way of thinking – just be clear on what is important to you in order to ask the right questions at your next interview.
Standing up to a disrespectful colleague may create some initial discomfort but the way you handle these situations can cement your character at work. Remember, in many cases your teammates may see their behaviour as masculine or even funny and be unaware of the impact is has on the recipient. Have a respectful conversation with them – it may even strengthen your relationship.
If you are open to new opportunities, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and receive advice from the experts in labour-hire, permanent and contract staff.