It never fails to surprise me when an adult reverts to abusiveness directed at me in the work setting.  I’m not sure why it still is a shock to me since it happens fairly regularly.  This week at work, a patient made an extremely unreasonable request and when I denied the request (as a male co-worker had done before me) the patient responded by a couple of abusive tactics.  The first tactic was a threat to go over my head to not only my supervisor but to the director of the entire facility.  It struck me as rather funny initially because it was just so childish and, again, the request was extremely unreasonable.  Also, I could not imagine my supervisor or the agency director granting the request either.  I have to admit I laughed so maybe that was not the best response on my part.  As I laughed I said “sure, maybe the director will …(I named the ridiculous request).   The patient then resorted to a direct verbal attack on my credentials and intelligence.  In his words (and spoken with contempt), “how did you get your job”.  The old me would have just let it go but the new me confronted it directly by saying “it’s not necessary to be abusive”.  He then responded with a little more verbal abuse by saying “you don’t even know your own supervisor’s number” because I was looking in the global address directory to provide my supervisor’s number as requested.  I did not tell him that I communicate with my supervisor using her cell number because what I was doing at the time was determining which number my supervisor had designated to give out to the public.  I would not give out the cell number unless it was listed in the global directly (it was not).  Again, I admit my response was not the greatest response either because I responded with humor again by saying “I guess I’m not as smart as you are”.  However, I noticed at this time the patient refused to look me in the face and had stood up to tower over me (another bully strategy).  I’m thinking, if you are going to put me down and belittle me, have the courage to look me in the face when doing so.  I called him by name and said “look me in the face”.  When he did so I said, “I’m a person too” several times.  I’m not sure why I put forth so much effort to confront the pettiness of the man’s abusive comments but I did.  It was the end of a long day and maybe my patience was not what it should be.  I’m sure I accomplished nothing because as he left my office looking down at the cute note paper I gave him with my supervisor’s name and number on it, he continued to mumble in a derogatory tone although I could not make out what he was saying.  I resisted the urge to confront the mumbling because, why bother?  I do know his direct attack on my intelligence and credentials was a trigger for me as it was exactly the tactic my ex-husband used to keep me insecure and subservient to him for many years.  That, for sure, is what I refuse to go along with any more.  Surely by now I know that only men who feel inferior have the need to belittle intelligent and assertive women.  Sadly, it’s not only patients I run into this with.  There are many men I work with that engage in this type of put down (although more subtle) when something I’ve said or done threatens their ego.  Mostly, the message I get from male co-workers is to remain silent.  I’m trying to come up with some sort of a quote or saying I can put on my door to warn men that I may very well say “no” to whatever they ask of me.  Maybe with a bit of warning the men won’t be as inclined to respond abusively when I don’t act as they expect me too.  I do, however, need to be careful and I don’t take the potential threat to my person lightly.  A couple of weeks ago a man admitted he thought of coming back and shooting me simply because I said “no” to a request (or was it a demand).  Abusiveness toward women can result in death and that’s a concern.  That I should have to deal with this very real threat in the work place is, sadly, a commentary on the lack of true progress in real respect of females in professional roles.

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