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Shitty people will always treat you like shit. There’s no two ways around it. We can give them excuse after excuse and often people won’t be able to see the woods for the trees (pardon the metaphor, how old-wives-tale of me) which is fair but any good manager, boss, entrepreneur should be a bigger picture kind of person, no? They should be able to step back and see thinks objectively, and also react in a manner befitting their position.
Yes, it takes two to tango (another metaphor) and you’ve got to accept the role you have played in every situation, but there comes a point where you can’t find fault in yourself and you can find fault in the way you’re being managed. It takes a long time to realize you are actually worth more. That their time might be gold but so is yours, and you can always say NO.
The worst part about shitty people is that they can be nice sometimes, so it confuses you. The shitty way they act means the bar is lower and when they do one normal thing we think it’s insanely nice and we begin to question why we even thought they were shitty in the first place.
You might think this is muddled between romantic relationships and work and it is. Both are relationships and both have elements of give and take needed to make them work. But for all intents and purposes this piece is about work. You’re expected to put in the hours, do the graft and they’re expected to support you in return (with more than just monetary compensation, I might add). So how do shitty people get away with being shitty?
1. They’re doing you a favor by offering you the work
This is my FAVORITE excuse for people acting shitty. Whether it’s internships, volunteer work or paid work for a brand that thinks they’re a little high-and-mighty and therefore you should be bending over backwards and all kinds of grateful to be getting calls at midnight about something that is both inconsequential and could DEFINITELY wait until 9 AM the next day. They think this gives them license to tell you everything you do is wrong, not good and not okay without an explanation of where you have gone wrong (if you’ve gone wrong) or can improve.
2. They’ve done this once, so they obviously know everything about it AND they can do it better than you.
I mean, this one is pretty obvious isn’t it? Someone started their own Instagram so they obviously know how to create engaging content and make sure the right people see it. Someone started their own blog so they are an obvious master of the English language and basically have a degree in Wordpress design. Some dude sold a dress to a woman out of his bedroom on eBay once so he definitely know exactly what women want to wear every season, which is why he signs off all the collections for a brand. I feel like mansplaining fits into this one as well, because if you’ve got a dick and you’ve done it once you’re definitely better than any woman trying to do it, right?
3. They’re paying you, so you have to deal with whatever tantrums they throw at you.
Whether it’s paying you a wage or paying you to keep quiet (here’s looking at you Philly Green), they think the compensation means they can do whatever they want whenever they want. At some point in their muddled up lives they got confused and don’t understand the difference between paying for a skilled person to do a job and buying an inanimate object that they then own. Paying me a wage does not mean I am in servitude to you.
4. They don’t actually know what they’re doing or actually want and kick off when you can’t figure that out for them.
There are always going to be situations in life where people don’t quite know or can’t articulate what they want which is fine, if it becomes part of a civilized discussion where you work together to unearth exactly what it is they are after. What isn’t fine is when they explain something with one word, and then can never identify what is wrong with your work or why it needs to be changed and rely on stupid excuses such as “the work is good but it’s not moving after I read it." Moving what, the kitchen table? When people cannot look objectively at work because they have an idea in their head that they cannot explain in any way shape or form is the easiest way for someone to be shitty, because everything you do will be incorrect and you’ll be punished for not being able to read someone’s mind. The worst part? You’ll find yourself apologizing because you didn’t realize the job description said you needed to be clairvoyant.
The list could go on and on. I’ve interned at modeling agencies that don’t even pay your travel expenses (which is illegal) and the managers smoke in the office (also illegal). I’ve worked in retail, where not only are you berated by managers, but by customers. I’ve worked for big name fast fashion brands, where the words of a CEO and the feeling of being trapped and unable to leave due to the constant emotional abuse has exacerbated and led to crippling anxiety (I believe they call this gas-lighting). And most recently I’ve worked for free in exchange for bed and board while traveling Latin America, where people are taking advantage of you because you can’t get paid to work on your visa and they can offer you the bear minimum in exchange for your services. This experience means I can safely say, shitty people exist everywhere, in every company, at every level.
You feel like you need to do it to prove yourself, stick it out because you need the extra experience on your CV. You feel like you need to stay so you don’t look bad. You feel like you need to keep at it just so you can do something “right” for a change and time isn’t wasted. You do not need to stay. If you want to stick it out, that is fine but you need to practice removing yourself from the situation when people start to get shitty, so you don’t start to feel bad and get stuck in a never-ending cycle of self doubt spurred on by the shitty-ness. Try laughing at how ridiculous the situation is. Try killing them with kindness when you reply and don’t rise up to their shitty actions or comments. Just know that if something isn’t working for you, it is okay to part ways and leave that relationship and it doesn’t mean you are a failure. Whatever you do, remember your worth and never forget it.