The toxic disrespect
Ignacio Pacheco, Monterey, CA

“Wow, I have to work with this person?”

That’s what ran through Ignacio’s head when it quickly became clear that his new supervisor was a habitual purveyor of disrespect.

“I wasn’t listened to. And when I was listened to, I was cut off. And when I made a valid point, words were chosen to belittle me,” Ignacio says. “I felt powerless. It doesn’t feel good when someone’s constantly trying to make you feel less-than and dominate you.”

Ignacio dealt with the situation in two ways. First, he tried to get into the head of his supervisor — and realized that his boss didn’t know any better; that was the management style.

At the same time, he examined his own feelings and discovered a well of inner strength that would sustain him. “My need for human dignity had to come from within me,” he realized. “Knowing that I’m a good professional. Knowing that I work hard. Knowing that the work I do with my clients empowers them and that, internally, I was in the right.”

Surfacing his own values allowed him to keep his cool and manage a toxic situation. Ignacio hung in, kept his dignity, and redirected his efforts to helping colleagues better handle the manager’s behavior.

He adds: “The only person that I can change is myself. Some people are stuck. And some people make the decision to get unstuck.”

And, when you do get stuck dealing with disrespect, he offers this advice from his own training as a social worker:

• Acknowledge that there is tension in the room and change your mindset from “confrontation” to that of “resolution.”
• Be assertive, but also know that, if you become angry, it won’t do anything to resolve the conflict.
• If your anger starts to feel out of control and you need to resolve it, excuse yourself.