Workers are Not Your Punching Bag
A couple of weeks ago the whole family had been out on Friday evening at various activities. Once everyone was finished, we decided to call into Macca’s on the way home and get dessert.
My daughter wasn’t sure what she wanted so we went inside to order on the touch screen. While we were there, there was a situation unfolding at the counter. From what I could figure out, a group had caused an issue in the drive-thru and been refused service. Rather than leave, they parked and rang the store and abused the Duty Manager who hung up on them, and now one of them had come inside to continue the argument in person.
So we had someone about 50 years of age unloading on a kid of about 19.
Having placed our order, my kids and I were waiting as things really began to escalate with language such as “You have no idea who I am. You should be very scared.”
Now, I have to tell you that if I was alone I probably would have jumped in before this point – as I have done plenty of times in the past. But when the kids are with me I exercise a bit more caution.
However, this was one of those moments of truth where I had to weigh up having my children see me get involved in a confrontation versus modelling what’s right. After all, one of the things we encourage in them is “Be an upstander not a bystander.” Plus, if it was happening to my child at work, I would hope somebody would back them up.
So, my kids witnessed me publicly confront a bully.
Was it something I wanted them to see? No.
Was it something they needed to see under the circumstances? I believe so. I don’t want them thinking that that sort of behaviour is normal and that it is just part of life when you work in customer service.
According to the retail and hospitality union, SDA, over 85% of workers are being abused while at work. That’s not ok.
The world has a lot of problems at the moment. We are in a mental health crisis as it is. If we are any chance of healing our society, I think it begins with setting certain standards of behaviour towards others in our everyday interactions and not tolerating abusive behaviour when we see it.
I should point out that I didn’t abuse this person in return or get personal with them. That wouldn’t help. I confronted them about their behaviour and firmly told them why it was wrong. They initially tried to get personal with me but I stuck to my point, and they gave in pretty quickly and left.
What if I can’t intervene in a situation directly?
If you think you might be in physical danger by directly intervening in a situation, DON’T DO IT. If someone is violent, or violence is a real possibility, call the police or security (if you are in a place that has security officers on duty).
If the abuse is verbal only but you just don’t have the confidence to intervene directly, there are other things you can do. For example, maybe walk up to the counter and ask a question as a distraction. Or, simply stick around at a safe distance until it’s over then offer your support to the person who has been abused.
Whatever you do, just don’t let it slide and don’t assume someone else will help.