Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Do You Do When You've Been Disrespected in the Workplace?

Hey Edsters,

So I've been doing some thinking, and I've decided that I'm too nice. Stay with me here, I promise this isn't a self-praising post about my gracious and charming personality (that's next week). This sudden realization stems from my most recent experience of being disrespected in the workplace simply due to my position as an intern.

Crazy, right? Allow me to elaborate:

This week I was offered the chance to assist at a photo shoot for an upcoming issue. From my previous experience of attending photo shoots, there were two things that I knew I could immediately look forward to: 1) A day away from the typical intern life of researching, transcribing, and reading angry letters from readers, and 2) Free food. Obviously, I accepted the offer immediately.

Annie (my fellow intern) and I arrived early that morning and were immediately informed by our editors that there wasn't going to be too much for us to do at the shoot. We were invited so we could observe, and maybe run some errands if needed. Neither of us had a single complaint and we carried on with our day of watching background props get picked out and held ridiculously still for periods of 3-5 seconds at a time (it's a photography thing... I think). 

All in all, the day was going really well. A few hours into the shoot, Annie and I found ourselves alone in the studio, so we ran off to find our big group of people that had all disappeared one at a time. We found them preparing some props downstairs, and after about 5 minutes of standing in the corner and laughing on cue, one of the stylists, who is unaffiliated with the Lifestyle Mag, turns to Annie and I and says "OK kids, we love ya, but get out." Too many cooks in the kitchen? Not a problem. Thanks for letting us know.

Annie and I once again laughed on cue and started making our way to the door, when Mr. Stylist yells at us, "Oh, and do me a favor and find my tweezers." More laughing and nodding and agreeing before Annie and I were back in the studio, looking under sheets and between crevices for a pair of tweezers that were nowhere to be found. It took us approximately one minute to realize that Mr. Stylist had his coveted tweezers with him downstairs, but felt the need to play an unnecessary game of finding a needle in a haystack with the enthusiastic, happy-with-their-lives, and eager-to-please interns. 

Mr. Stylist returned to the studio a few minutes later, proudly escorting a tray of perfectly coiffed props. Without looking away from his grueling job, he asks if we had found his tweezers, and if you were paying attention to him like I was, you would have seen the devilish smile spread across his face.

What I wanted to say in response and what I actually said in response are drastically different dialogues. What I wanted to say was no sir, we did not find the tweezers that I currently see hanging from your apron, even though we searched high and low, near and far, doing our job with pride because in order to make it in this business, Annie and I can't afford to offend even someone as yourself. I also wanted to tell him that I thought he was really mean and that his pants were incredibly unflattering for his figure, but alas, I did not. What I actually said was, "No, sorry, no such luck." And let's not forget the sympathetic eyes and encouraging smile I sported.

Days later, this encounter is still bothering me. I've been lucky up until this point to have been fully respected by my employers and treated as a member of the team rather than as an assistant to an assistant. It was only a matter of time before I experienced the real world reality of people who can just be downright rude. I realize that my first experience of being disrespected could have gone much worse, and like I said, I'm lucky it didn't, but it still sheds a new light on the hierarchy of the magazine world. Respect is earned, not immediately given, and if I didn't do my share to earn it on my own, I would essentially be shooting myself in the foot and stopping my career dead in its tracks.

What have your experiences been on this subject, Edsters? Do any of you have jobs where this wouldn't even have been a glitch on the radar, or is this as foreign to some of you as it is to me? I'd love to hear about all of them in the comments section.

Until next week,
Lifestyle Intern


  1. I spent a semester interning at three radio stations in Nashville. The promotions director wasn't much older than me (maybe only 1.5-2 years) and she was often not very welcoming or friendly. My direct supervisor--the sales manager, who was quite lovely--sent me to talk to her about obtaining some boxes they use to collect entry slips for giveaways. She gave me one but made kind of a big deal out of it, and when I brought it back to my boss she said they needed several more. So I went back and asked, and she gave me all this attitude and yelled at me about how they didn't have many left. She eventually gave them to me, though it was really more because I asked the assistant director who was very friendly and got them out of storage. I was kind of upset because it was the only time someone in the office was disrespectful to me. I told my boss, who was annoyed I had been treated that way. Later the girl came into my boss's office and apologized to HER, but never said a word for to me even though my boss tried to drop the hint that she had been unreasonable to other people on the team. Not surprisingly, she doesn't work there anymore.

  2. First of all, I gotta say it was sort of rewarding reading this post. It may sound selfish, but it feels less crappy to know I'm not the "only one".
    I'm currently interning at a company of water supply. I've been recently feeling disrespected by some of my coworkers due to my sexual orientation. Although, I'm not "openly" gay, it is not hard to infer I'm gay. I'm ok with my sexuality, but I can't avoid feeling aggravated when they come up with these homophobic jokes/comments while I'm having a conversation with them.
    My boss is very nice, but he hates drama (just like anyone would). Talking with him about it, is not an option to me. I'm an intern, and I don't wanna be seen as a "drama queen". It would be very detrimental for my starting professional career. I've tried to make them respect me since I fully respect them, with no results. This situation has prevented me to enjoy these months of internship..