God Help The Mister Who Messes With My Sister

, , , , , , , , | Working | March 16, 2020

This is how my little sister unknowingly helped me assert myself at work.

When I was in college, my younger sister, about 17, worked for a call center. She told me about how she was instructed to handle creeps and rude jerks, which she had opportunity to practice. If a guy called in and started yelling, making inappropriate comments, breathing heavy, etc., she would very pleasantly say something along the lines of, first, “Excuse me, sir, please don’t talk to me like that,” second, “Excuse me, sir, but if you continue to talk to me like that, I’m going to have to hang up,” and third, “Excuse me, sir, but you have continued to talk to me like that, so I’m going to hang up now,” and hang up.

After college, I took a job working with people with special needs and moved up to supervisor. I worked with a particular man and met his mom. She was generally okay, though she condescendingly told me my own life experience of a similar illness, which I had shared to say that I understood, didn’t count. When I became a supervisor of another department, my former supervisor — an awful, condescending person herself — warned me that this woman can be pretty awful and keep you on the phone for an hour. 

Then, one day, with my former supervisor nearby, she called. She didn’t appreciate me pairing her son with another participant due to staff calling out sick, but I prioritized my participants, so I know I was doing what seemed best for everyone. I told her specifically that I had to prioritize everyone as a whole, not just her son. But she continued yelling, insulting my ability to do my job, my lack of consideration, etc.

The yelling after I explained myself only lasted a couple of minutes. I remembered my sister and cut in with, “Ma’am. Ma’am! MA’AM! It is not okay for you to talk to me like that.” I heard her sputter, and say, “Uh… Oh, oh. I’m sorry.” And we ended the call calmly. Since then, I know to just call it out; name it. No insults or anger or bickering are needed to put someone back in their place. Not that it always works, but it often does.

I believe, though we never said a word about it, that my former supervisor had been waiting to enjoy my suffering and thus legitimize herself, and that makes this memory that much better.

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