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How to handle being labelled difficult for standing up for myself against misogyny at work?

October 14, 2021

TL;DR Does anyone have any tips on how to navigate when you are assertive in the workplace and feel like you're been treated as the problem even when you have proof of the opposite? When I return people's energy or tell them their behavior is unacceptable, they think I am being problematic and treat me as such without literally addressing the documented issue. I'm already looking for another job but I'm trying to survive here while I can before I leave.

I've been at my job for about a year and a half, but in the past couple of months, instead of going along to get along, I started to speak my mind more because I was constantly being treated like a secretary or just straight up disrespected/taken advantage of. I've noticed that in the past I've either been harassed, triangulated or talked down to by my male peers or superiors. It put me in a weird depressive spot for a while, but thanks to a new therapist, I gained confidence to be more assertive to shut that down.

Recently, I have had a discussion with my newly promoted boss and addressed my concerns on how his tone seems like he doesn't trust me or that he talks down to me. I brought it up in our 1:1 and he acted surprised but I held my ground. He said he would stop doing that and stop witnessing me get berated by his peers, which has happened several times when I'm trying to get feedback on marketing collateral that I make.

There has been a chauvinistic male coworker that has gone out of his way to treat me like a secretary and humiliate me, cut me off and demean me in our team meetings. No one says anything. Before I had passive aggressively dismissed him or not said anything, but the last time he humiliated me, I called him right after and told him to stop that behavior. He tried to gaslight me and then to (what I believe) "punish" me, he tried to embarrass me via email the next day trying to task me all of this work with our entire leadership copied and wanted them to weigh in on him telling me what to do. I just returned his energy and told him to do it himself and gave him a deadline to give it to me since he has been doing some of it already. I attached the email where I had reiterated that he needed to address me respectfully from here on out. I was assigned a woman on the team to work one task he brought up. The one he was already doing.

I found out yesterday that the coworker had complained to my boss that he "can't express his ideas around me." My boss asked me if I wanted to address that and I told him that the issue isn't about ideas because I welcomed his idea verbally in the meeting he would not let me finish speaking in and in my email follow up and that his first excuse about why he was unprofessional/wouldn't allow me to finish was because "there were a lot people speaking in the meeting." The issue is his behavior. I had already brought up my concerns to him (my boss) about this coworker several times in the past and nothing was done about it. My boss acted like he needed to "investigate" what really happened because he was out the day of the meeting and wasn't there. I told him that I had already called that coworker privately to address his behavior already (and documented it) and felt his email afterwards was retaliatory. He asked what he could do to make me feel more comfortable. I told him there's only so much I can say that he has already heard but he is the manager who is supposed to address it so what will he be doing going forward? He said "Well I'll talk to him again and if he doesn't stop I'll go to my manager." I documented our conversation in a recap and attached the emails between myself and the coworker and made sure to say that the issue is this person's behavior (because he's "angry" "difficult" "retaliatory") and that my manager will be addressing him or engaging his if this does not stop. AKA it's this man's problem and solving it is on you.

Today I was on a meeting with the woman to work on the project task and my boss shows up to the meeting wanting to know what was going on and how things were going. It's hard to explain succinctly, but I feel this is an intimidation tactic to "watch me" because they actually feel I am the aggressor even though I am not. Or at the very least some test. He and the woman were acting like he was all of a sudden needed for his perspective and saying I was the right person to do this task because I'm so good at marketing. My manager has always been optional for this meeting and never attended before. I kept my cool the whole time but I felt it was extremely sus. I don't trust the woman either because she will passive aggressively say phrases like "we can peacefully meet weekly" or "we need to make sure we're all being a team and everyone is heard" or "it's important we all get along." What? Why wouldn't we peacefully meet?

I don't think I'm overreacting here, but if you think I am, tell me. I just don't like that I keep having to pretty much tell people to treat me with basic respect. When I return people's energy or tell them their behavior is unacceptable, they think I am being problematic and treat me as such without literally addressing the issue.

Has anyone dealt with this? How do you do deal with this? I'm looking for another job but I'm trying to survive here while I can before I leave.

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Post Information
Title How to handle being labelled difficult for standing up for myself against misogyny at work?
Author dancedancedance83
Upvotes 99
Comments 10
Date October 14, 2021 8:25 AM UTC (1 year ago)
Subreddit /r/askFDS
Archive Link https://theredarchive.com/r/askFDS/how-to-handle-being-labelled-difficult-for.1079601
Original Link https://old.reddit.com/r/AskFDS/comments/q7vfuv/how_to_handle_being_labelled_difficult_for/
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[–]BabyGothQFDS Specialist 21 points22 points  (7 children) | Copy Link

first, the other woman is definitely scared that by association she’ll receive crap from the obvious misogynistic culture of the company. keep an eye on her and don’t vent to her at all, but she’s just worried that her meek woman act won’t keep her safe.

it’s the manager that you need to focus on, because he’s the only one with the real “power” here to change things.

at this point, you need to re-evaluate your goals: since you said you want to leave the job, why are you pushing so hard on changing things within the company? this isn’t to shame you, but to get you to figure out where your priorities lie.

the way I see it, you have a few options and need to consider the consequences:

•you continue pushing the issue, create divides within the company and force management to essentially step in like a referee. this could go your way if they see that the other employee is less of an asset than you, but considering the way the woman said things like “peacefully” and “teamwork” the culture isn’t on your side because you come off as the disruptor, even though all you’re doing is standing up for yourself as one should. if they kick him out and you end up leaving anyways, think about how that might affect future network opportunities. however, there’s a higher chance that they’ll side with him out of familiarity and it’ll be rough for you until you leave or get pushed out.

•you can make it clear (with the numbers and influence you have) that you are the better employee for the companies bottom line and that if you leave like you’re planning to they’ll suffer for it, hopefully sparking them to 1) treat you better, 2) change the culture, 3) give you better perks. but again, is that really what you want?

•or you can “keep your head down”, put ALL of your focus into finding some place with a culture that fits you AND appreciates what you bring to the table and shows it through your desired means. and by keep your head down, I don’t mean “peacefully” be a “team player” but more of a grey rock situation where you matter-of-factly, without explaining yourself, without taking all of the extra time to keep trying to change the culture, do what you gotta do for YOUR job, then bounce.

[–]dancedancedance83[S] 10 points11 points  (6 children) | Copy Link

since you said you want to leave the job, why are you pushing so hard on changing things within the company?

I don't want to change things within the company, it's a huge company with ingrained toxic systems-- like most corporations they like band aids instead of solutions. With the therapy, it was learning that I actually could and was 100% within my rights to demand basic respect in the workplace because I had been treated badly for most of the time that I had been there; I had a core belief that being asked to be treated with respect and dignity would automatically mean I'd get fired (how wild is that?).

I just want to work in peace; I can't stop the power tripping or the egos but I was basically trying to say don't do it to me because I no longer want to tolerate it. But I see now that it's impossible because they want to try to force me to for the sake of the "culture." Which is why I think I am being branded as a problem. So I'm seeing me standing up for myself and having that work persona as built momentum to lead with for my next job. I think I was naive in thinking that cultivating that here meant that I could start to be left alone. Don't think that's working.

Your other suggestions would be great ideally in a better situation, but I don't think the company is worth it and I don't wish to stay. I did make connections outside of my team that I found were decent, if not positive interactions and/or folks that have praised me and my work, to the shock of my shitty leadership. What I'd like to do is what you outlined here:

“keep your head down”, put ALL of your focus into finding some place with a culture that fits you AND appreciates what you bring to the table and shows it through your desired means. by keep your head down, I don’t mean “peacefully” be a “team player” but more of a grey rock situation where you matter-of-factly, without explaining yourself, without taking all of the extra time to keep trying to change the culture, do what you gotta do for YOUR job, then bounce.

BUT I am asking how to do so when I'm being pitted as an issue? If I'm being attacked again do I just say nothing this time around and stop setting boundaries? So I still have to survive even while I'm interviewing and putting my exit plan in motion.

Or do you suggest not even caring anymore about the drama? Maybe it's just better to not care about it anymore because I'm looking to get out ASAP?

[–]BabyGothQFDS Specialist 12 points13 points  (5 children) | Copy Link

I’m glad this helped a bit!

You were spot on with your second assessment. Keep your boundaries, 100% but no longer care whether or not you’re heard or understood. A sort of “my way or the highway” vibe but without feeling the need to change anyone or anything about the company.

For example, in my household I was the people pleaser, I was desperate for people to hear me, understand me, accept me. I needed people to change (they were abusive, manipulative, users, etc.) so I was constantly coming up against and trying to push back against brick walls.

Things changed for me personally when I decided that I’m gonna focus purely on prioritizing what I want and need. I went grey rock which meant no longer explaining why I feel the way I do or do the things I do, no more asking people or expecting people to care about me and my wants and needs, I essentially went dark mode lol when they asked me to do things that before I would’ve lost my mind about, or tried to explain why I won’t do it and how their actions/words are affecting me, I simply say “No.” and walk away lol I give myself all the time and space I need to work through the hurt of it, but I no longer desire anyone to acknowledge the hurt they’ve caused me - because I know they won’t. And that’s another part of it is no longer expecting more from people who’ve shown you exactly who they are.

Translating this to the workplace, instead of calling to explain what you want/need and trying to hold them to it (which in normal circumstances is the mature thing to do and would be appreciated) tell the co-worker in the moment: “no, that’s your responsibility.” and leave it at that.

Obviously, tailor this approach to what works best for you and the people you’re talking to.

[–]dancedancedance83[S] 4 points5 points  (4 children) | Copy Link

You're 100% right. And I identify a lot with what you said about being a people pleaser consciously (and subconsciously) wanting to or I guess try to make people see their behavior and acknowledge their BS. But they aren't going to do that. I see that hurts me and also the situation because it's fruitless.

A lot of these people have shown me who they are, and I do think I'm still trying to change that dynamic while also wanting to leave as I'd mentioned. I guess it's not a one or the other kind of thing because it's impossible to stay here and also leave lol.

What helped you consistently practice gray rocking even when provoked?

Thanks again for helping me through, just trying to process and be intentional where I can be better.

[–]BabyGothQFDS Specialist 6 points7 points  (3 children) | Copy Link

I’m definitely still working on it, but #1 is giving myself grace and compassion for still reacting instead of responding when I do get provoked. Remembering that I’m not talking to conscientious, well-balanced people and that, either on purpose or subconsciously, they don’t have my best intentions in mind has helped me stop feeling guilty for setting my boundaries and sticking to them.

Another thing has been saying something once and not letting people try to haggle me down or poke, prod and insult me into changing my mind/do what they want unless it actually makes sense for me.

Last is taking deep breaths lol if you’re anything like me, I shake like a leaf when I even think of conflict and standing my ground. But even though my body and emotions are all over the place, knowing that #1 I’m not actually hurting anyone, regardless of what people like that try to tell me and #2 I’m finally doing what’s best for me after decades of being walked all over is empowering in the moment.

[–]dancedancedance83[S] 2 points3 points  (2 children) | Copy Link

!!!OKAY!!! This is really, really, REALLY helpful. Like you don't even know. It is really hard to give myself grace because I've been working towards moving away from being walked all over after many years too, just like you. I think because what should work out perfectly in theory when setting boundaries doesn't always play out and I get frustrated, and dare I say it, sometimes frightened.

Of course, logically, there is no REAL danger but like you mentioned, I also feel that my body and my emotions are all over the place when I react to a provocation-- usually when I feel put on the defensive-- so I tend to think there is some threat or something to try to 'control' or 'explain' even though I didn't do or say anything wrong by standing up for myself and the reaction wasn't kind or respectful. People are allowed to be mad if they want, even put in petty complaints like this dude, but it IS about putting yourself first.

Lol I don't shake like a leaf but my heart pounds like CRAZY and I guess that's my body's fight or flight kicking in. Some days are better than others and that is realistic. And just because there's now a refusal to be a doormat doesn't mean that you nor I are actually hurting anyone. And you're right, it's so empowering to do what's best for you.

Thank you so much.

[–]BabyGothQFDS Specialist 2 points3 points  (1 child) | Copy Link

you’re very welcome, though it sucks that you can relate so well :/

just remember to take care of your emotional, mental and physical well-being during this process of boundary setting. it’s ROUGH out here sometimes, but it gets easier and you feel more and more proud and relieved as time goes on. that’ll help you remember that it’s worth it.

edit: oh! also sometimes you’ll feel really mean doing the grey rock method, and sometimes you might be mean on accident trying to overcorrect people pleasing in the opposite direction. there’s a balance between triggered and passive that was hard for me to get, but learning to say no without frustration or anger or defensiveness gets easier too.

[–]dancedancedance83[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

Hi! I thought I'd give an update on the situation since you helped me a lot. I ended up quitting that job at the beginning of the year for a higher offer at the company's reseller. Because I was offered the job while I was out on break (the company was also closed during the week of Christmas), I could only give 1 week notice. Before the break, the team was interviewing another girl to come join as a PM and from what she said it seemed that my boss, senior manager and his right hand said that I could use some help and she wanted to help me. I did agree with her on that, but I knew by then it was already too late.

The day that I did put in my notice, my boss I guess wasn't even there and my notice wasn't even acknowledged until the next day. My senior manager was MAD mad and felt that they had solved the problem by having that egotistical coworker go on another team, and that he knew that I didn't feel respected but, in his words, "X coworker didn't really respect anyone at all." I told him my boss already knew my concerns. He kept pressing why I was "really" leaving and I said I knew that the role was in a silo when I took the offer 2 years ago, but I needed support. He asked me basic questions like "are you leaving for a competitor?" "is it also WFH" and then wished me luck.

My actual boss didn't really want to know why I was leaving and I told him I was made an offer I couldn't refuse. He was ambivalent and for feedback he said I was a team player and that I "did as you were told."

That woman I mentioned kept making meetings for me to attend (she didn't know I had quit) and it gave me SO much satisfaction to keep declining them because I did not trust her worth a damn and gave her nothing during our time working together. I got really good at circular talking and not giving her the answers I knew she wanted to squeeze out of me and buy time for myself. She thought if she became my friend, I'd be comfortable telling her my grievances. No.

I actually didn't produce any of what she wanted (which was DOUBLED by the time I was leaving-- so they wanted me to do all this work, under her watchful eye, without my agreement or the actual person, my senior manager, asking me to do it, he told her to tell me wtf?) . She ran to my manager before coming to me as to why I kept declining her meeting during my last week. Petty, but I ignored her messages. I felt it was right to only give my manager about 1/4 of the work that I was actually handling because I felt he needed to see and now ACTUALLY DO all of what I was actually doing and what he was taking credit for since he thought it was so easy and a good booster for his career at the company. I was calm and collected the whole time. What stood out to me was that one of my contacts on a project was also leaving for another company, and they seemed to care more that HE said that they don't pay competitively at all and cared more about him leaving than me. Publicly, I was thanked for my service on the team in an emergency team meeting and I handled my offboarding by myself lol, sent a thank you note to everyone and those who were professional with me and then I was on to my next job.

From the amount of hits I got on LinkedIn from people I worked with in the time that I have moved on, I'm thinking people were shocked that I left. But you know, I kind of feel like because of that manager/the leadership, that team did it to themselves but I'm hoping my network who saw my good work and the relationship I built with them was worthwhile and respected.

I'm still working through the emotions of my leaving and grappling with going back (crazy right???) because some family members weren't happy I left and implied I'm not competent because I was only there for 2 years and should have stuck it out because I was just "feeling attacked." My new opportunity turned out to not be a match for me either, but I am entertaining other offers and interviews until I find my long term fit. I still need to work on allowing myself grace like you had advised to do; I'm a work in progress on that one. And I have to remember why I decided to leave.

[–]nomadzebra 14 points15 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

Following because i need help with similar

[–]heliodrome 3 points4 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

Stand up to a point. As you've done and that's all good. But if it looks like you're dealing with somebody personality disordered here and while they remain in the company, this situation will be toxic. Either they have to leave or you have to leave. If you stay, be very smart and dare I say manipulative on how you handle everything and you have to be smarter than them. And play smart and brilliant against dirty. The right people will understand. And indeed if you fight back you will be seen as an aggressor because rest assured the personality disordered guy acts different with everyone in the hierarchy, so they won't have the experience you are experiencing, so they won't know what you're talking about basically. Suss out very discreetly who your allies are in this whole charade, make friends and play smarter than everyone else.

You can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea.

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