Miranda Priestly, the role played by Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada is unfortunately the type of behaviour that is sometimes seen in the workplace in real life.
When you are new in an organisation you want to impress but you do not want to be walked all over or taken advantage of.
Competing pressures may mean that you cannot do it all but you may be afraid to speak outforfear of being treated unfavourably. This can be even more soforsomeone who is fairly new to the work environment who does not have any previous experience of asserting themselves in the work place.
I was recently speaking to someone who was in such a position whose director had requested she do a piece of work urgently. That same morning her supervisor (whose character bares some resemblance to the character portrayed by Meryl Streep) demanded she do some work that she said was neededfora meeting the following day. The young lady tried to explain to her supervisor that the director had requested her to do something but the supervisor was not having it.
Faced with the dilemma of who to please, she spoke to the director as her supervisor had been quite certain that there was no shift in the deadline. The director spoke to the supervisor who told him that she did not need the work until the following week, making the young lady look a fool (it is my opinion that the supervisor tried to save her face with the director at the expense of the young lady).
A client of mine was regularly being asked to do things by her director that were not in her job description as well as being asked to carry out tasks with unrealistic deadlines. My client does not like confrontation and felt that because of the director’s seniority, she could not address this with her.
After I got her to examine her fears of addressing this and eliminating them, I got her to look at how she could address this in a way that was authentic to her, whilst taking in to account the personality of her director. She then felt confident to address the situation which has resulted in a complete change in how her director treats her.
Her director was quite taken back and had not realised the impact of her behaviour on my client. Now it is as if my client has gained a totally new level of respect from her director who makes a concerted effort to ensure that she engages in 2 way communication with my client.
If you are someone that does not like confrontation, it can be difficult to assert yourself in the workplace when you feel that someone is taking advantage of you.
For some people, confronting such situations can make them come across as aggressive which can be damagingforthem so you need to be assertive but not aggressive.
If you are in a situation where you feel you are being taken advantage of or unrealistic demands are being made of you, what can you do about it? Here are a few tips: -
- Speak to the individual concerned about it in a non confrontational way.
- Give them the facts i.e. specific incidents
- Keep it about their behaviour and not the individual
- Let them know the affect their behaviour is having on you
Failing to address such a situation will only leave you feeling resentful which in turn could make you start to hate your job or cause you to feel stressed.
If you do not feel confident enough to address it, coaching can help you with this.
If there is no improvement after attempting to address it yourself, your organisation should have HR policies that set out how they deal with such behaviour, particularly if you feel you are being harassed or bullied. Alternatively, if you are in theUK, the ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) code of practice sets out principles that you and your employer should follow to achieve a reasonable standard of behaviour in handling grievances. The code of practice can be found here. ACAS also offer free impartial advice and can be contacted on 08457 474747.
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