Fitting in at a Family-Run Firm: Dealing with shouting and disrespect at work

by epi on November 27, 2012

Q: After being out of work for two years, I finally landed a job in a family-run consulting firm.  The problem is, the family members all scream and fight with each other, and they treat their workers the same way.  One of the family members, who I don’t even report to, recently gave me a project to do.  When I asked another co-worker a question about the software I was using, the family member came over and yelled at me, belittling me to the lowest point.  As a result, I spent the rest of the morning crying.  I have never before experienced this type of working atmosphere, where there’s no respect shown for others.  Short of quitting, how does on handle this situation?

A: I’m sorry your work situation has turned out to be so difficult, especially after a two-year job search.  Nobody should have to tolerate such rude behavior at the workplace.  Unfortunately, quitting may be your best option but before you up and leave, I suggest you consider talking to the owners.  Just remember that it’s their show, and they may totally disagree with you or even resent your critique of their behavior.  The only trump card the employees have is solidarity. Here’s what I would do: First, ask around to see if other employees are treated as badly as you are, and would be willing to join you in speaking with the owners.  There’s strength in numbers.  If the problem affects you alone, it will be harder to approach the family but you can still try.  Ask for a meeting, then clearly and calmly explain your frustrations and ask if the owners are willing to work with the staff to make the workplace a more positive, pleasant environment.  If they agree to try to improve the company culture, great.  If not, you may want to start looking for a new job.  Job seekers take note: A job search is a two-way street.  As the company interviews you, you also need to interview the company.  If possible, talk to some employees to get a sense of the work environment.  Find out if people enjoy working there, and if they feel they’re treated well.  Then you can make an informed decision.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Clara November 27, 2012 at 4:48 pm

And in addition: document, document, document. Write down everything! Write down an account of what occurred on the morning that you were yelled at. No one should have to take abuse or harassment at work, and documenting everything can really help you down the road. To be able to show someone concrete records of incidents “Rosie raised her voice at me, swore and slammed a binder down in front of me on September 8th at 1pm.” is much better than saying “Rosie yelled at me twice last month.”


Jerry November 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Eleanore Roosevelt said that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. I think that’s good advice.

If someone is yelling at you, you should feel free to tell them “I don’t allow anyone to talk to me like that.” And if she continues to yell, you can punish her by yelling back or by simply leaving the room. (And if that means you don’t have a job later on, so be it. Better to not have a job than to be subject to abuse.)


Jon November 27, 2012 at 8:59 pm

If it happens again, stand up for yourself. Don’t let the yelling intimidate you.

When the offender finishes his yelling, I’d say loudly, “Wow. That’s really disrespectful of you.”

And then be silent. Observe.

Look at the bright side. If you are already upset about work to the point where you spend half a day crying, it can’t get much worse.


Vanna Keiler November 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Wow, this situation sounds like an episode of Restaurant Stakeout or one of the other business reality shows. Perhaps the person dealing with this problem should write to the producers to get some heavy intervention undertaken.

I agree with the above comments, minus the return yelling suggestion. I would not lower myself to the company’s current (low) standards. Have to think of your own mental health in this situation. I agree with voicing a complaint , if only to feel the satisfaction of them knowing why you are leaving the job. Jobs may be hard to find, but so are good people, and they may realize that and try to modify their behavior.


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