T Nation

Problems At Work


#1

Hello,

I have a bizzare problem at work that got out of hand in the last couple of weeks. This may sound stupid, but I seriously believe T-Nation is the place where I can get some constructive advice.

I work in a company where there is a lot of direct personal contact with out clients. I'm a fairly big guy - 260 lbs and around 14 % bf - the only non-sedentary person in my department, and probably the only one in the company who lifts weights and takes care about his diet. As a result of this I'm considered a freak among my colleagues, and a constant source of ridicule.

Two weeks ago my immediate superior asked that I was removed from dealing with customers because I was "intimidating" them. I asked her what does "intimidating" mean, and she replied that "being such a huge man I intimidate customers (!)". I went to her boss and pointed out that there never was a single complaint against me by any of our clients. I thought that was the last of it.

At one internal meeting I got into a dispute with a female coworker. Later she complained to the management that she felt "frightened and threatened" because "when I started walking around during discussion waving my arms". I was once again asked to reply to these accusations and I said that this was a professional exchange of views in which I was constantly polite and never raised my voice.

I was cautonied that "during conversations I shouldn't make excessive hand gestures and behave in a threatening way" (!!). I know that my company tries to be as PC as possible, but I was shocked by this.

Anyway, this morning I was summoned once again to the main manager on a discussion about my "anti-social" behaviour at the workplace. There, a list of my "strange behaviours" was given: I avoid lunches in the caffeteria with my coworkers (I bring my chicken, cottage cheese and tuna in a small fridge everyday), I have displayed "offensive" materiel at my workplace - (a T-Nation wallpaper and some photographs of me on a grappling tournament) etc. The list was so hillarious that I started laughing uncontrollably.

I was issued a "serious warning" and advised by the manager that I should "attempt to integrate into the working environment" and "increase efforts to come to an understanding with my colleagues". My first reaction was to call them a bunch of deranged PC maniacs and resign on the spot. However, the salary is quite good and I don't see why I should be on the defensive if my performance record is good and I haven't breached any official company rules. No one has any objections on my work.

Has anyone experienced something similar ? Any suggestions on how to handle this bizzare situation?

Thanks in advance

Loppar


#2

You got a lawsuit if you want to sue their ass.


#3

Nothing you wrote surprises me. I have been told "unofficially" that I was being antisocial by not eating with others. I won't go into detail, but the military is largely divided based on rank. The people closest to my age and background that work around me are generally of a lesser rank.

I truly have little socially in common with the 50+ year old crowd and, as such, if I chose to eat with anyone in order to joke around and relax, it would not be with those that distant from me in age and interests. There appeared to be an issue because I would eat with those of a lesser rank during lunch. I began eating in my own office to avoid any conflict.

Part of this was because of what was listed above, and the other is because I get tired of what I am eating for the day becoming a major topic of discussion whenever someone sees me eat. Needless to say, I still get the "antisocial" label.

Considering my profession, I am sure I get hassled much less than someone else might openly (aside from what may be said when I am not around). It does not help that I am about the same stats as you at only 5'11". I personally would post no pictures at work of anything, let alone of bodybuilding simply because people are stupid.

I never raise my voice because I understand that doing so even once would cause me to fit a stereotype. At work, I am either in scrubs, or a loose shirt. In other words, I try to cover up as best as possible, but truth be known, when you weigh over 260lbs at my height, anything you wear is going to show how big you are.

What I was raised to consider for other reasons than my size is that I am a focus of attention, therefore, to overcome that, I have to act by a different set of rules. This seems to be something you know nothing about. In professional setting you do not discuss things with the overly emotional woman by raising your hands no matter what the gesture.

If you were 130lbs, it would not matter. Because you are not 130lbs, it does matter. You need to learn to stop giving others ammo. You should have anticipated that response from her, meaning your original action should have been to sit the fuck down and remain more calm than anyone. One loud voice or comment could be used against you.

Remove your pictures from your office because you are under a different set of rules than everyone else. Should it be that way? No, but I have dealt with and experienced things like this long before I lifted weights. Your dress should either be more conservative or equal to that of everyone else at work.

Your voice when speaking should be lower in volume than others around you unless for a specific reason. That is, if your goal is to remain below the radar in any way possible instead of the focus of all attention everywhere you go at work.

Your response to this will be based on how badly you need the job, how badly they need you, and your overall goals if you plan to stay. I personally do not kiss ass. It has never been in me to do so. I attempt to treat people with respect, but the over the top brown-nosing I see from others will never be seen from me.

I choose to deal with the "antisocial" label and do my own thing while simply attempting to have my shit in order so that if ever questioned, there are no issues aside from human factors.


#4

No he doesn't. Do you have a contract? Or an employee handbook?


#5

How do you figure that? Shit like this goes on more often than you think. They simply told him to his face whereas some jobs may have fired him or simply not hired him in the first place without much of a word.


#6

Thank you very much for the advice, Professor X. I guess I was pretty naive with this whole thing, believing that the same set of rules applies to everyone.

However, I'm amazed that some of my coworkers can openly discuss their use of recreational drugs over the weekend, while my behaviour causes consternation.

I'm sure they would fire me if they could find some excuse. Fortunately, I haven't broken any employee rules and my work record is totally clean. They are attempting to "pressure" me into quitting.

I'll keep my mouth shut and try to keep a low profile, but won't apologize for anything. I definitely will not kiss ass and will look for another job in the meantime.

Thanks again for all your responses guys.


#7

Let me ask you this, when you were hired, were you a miserable pip squeek? Did you eat McDonalds every day with your co-workers?

Just some simple questions.

Ask your employior(sp) for a copy of your complainst and copies of every write up.

If you were 5'5 and weighed 350 and 60% bodyfat and had a gland problem, would they write you up?

I'm 6'5 and weigh 325lbs probably 18% bodyfat right now(took some time off, getting back down below 10 by summer) in a professional sales postion in which I have never intimitated a customer.

I think your manager is just jelous(sp), is she a fat pig?

If their that worried about your rage, just beat their ass and tell them if they mess with you again that the beating will be worse next time and that you know where they live!!! JUST KIDDING!!!!


#8

I have never been "written up" for intimidating anyone either. However, I also don't act without thinking about the reaction of those around me in professional settings. I hear people whispering or talking to each other when I pass by that I am intimidating, but nothing has been said directly to me. It also depends on what it is you do for a living.

I am also speaking to people all day, so generally, there is more interection than simple appearance beyond the initial shock. I got one "holy shit" from a patient in the waiting area when I was walking through last week so I know the perception is out there.

You also have the benefit of height. Even if you were under 230lbs, people would still react to your height first.


#9

Personally I don't think we're hearing the whole story here. It's from one perspective. You listed way too many things and explainations don't add up.

Are you a top performer?

Do you get along with others? If not, it may be you.

I'm not saying it is you because I don't have enough data. But you haven't accepted anything (at least by the tone of your message). So I'd bet it's not going to get any better and you'll be better off just leaving the place (regardless of who's at fault).

I'm by no means anywhere near the size you are (or ProfX). I'm 6'2" and 215 lbs. And although I haven't been written up I have had comments in the past that I bullied someone. In truth I don't believe I did. However, perception is reality. So now I'm very careful when I discuss things with folks - especially if we're in dissagreement. My point is that I don't think I ever bullied anyone at work but I've changed my approach because there was a small issue and I didn't want it to get bigger.

Carlsbad


#10

No offense intended... but I find it hard to believe that you are in a professional sales position with your spelling ability.


#11

All Lawsuits are a matter of contention who's story is more beleivable.

First unless you make a substantial amount of money you maybe hard pressed to find a lawyer to take the case as these types of cases are hard.

Second unless you are a contract employee a lawsuit would be even harder to prove as you would be considered an at will employee and in a nut shell your employer has a little more leway in pulling you back and even firing you.

Honestly it sounds like certain people are trying to make it hard for you and ultimately may get rid of you.

I would advise you to seek the advise of a competant lawyer and lay out your story to him/her and see what they say unlike what a lot of people think attorneys are not jumping to take these types of cases so you may need to talk to several. On the same note look for a specialist in employment law and discrimination and don't just jump at the first attorney that says he'll take your case make sure they have done this befor and were successful.

Having said the above realize if it goes that far that the company will come heavy as well and will have their own specialist attorneys and this could get ugly and time consuming.

I feel for you and beleive you. I hope everything works out. And wish you the best.


#12

Since when does selling something have to do with sales. Only if your doing a presentation in which you spend more time on and use a spell checker. Of course your the best speller and never make any mistakes.

No offense taken


#13

Well, almost all of my coworkers (including my boss) hang out together outside work - they are a pretty tight bunch. I don't have almost anything in common with them - for example, they all drink quite heavily on the weekends and the office is filled with pictures from such "parties". I never attended any of this "social events". I'm polite to everyone, but I do my work and go home and don't waste time on cigarette breaks or after-work beers like everyone else.

As far as my performance is concerned, I'm among the two top performers in the department. The customers have consistently rated me as their preffered contact. I have never had any problems with the customers - I occasionally draw some good-natured comments ("My God, you're huge") but thats all.

I believe the problem is, like Professor X said, that I didn't adjust my behaviour according to my size (BTW, I never even considered myself big).


#14

Huh?


#15

haha, I thought the same thing when I read that. But I think he meant "Since when does sPelling something have to do with sales".


#16

The people around here drink like fish. Needless to say, I am absent from many get togethers as well. I have what must be thousands of patients by now that can speak for my performance so that is where my strength lies. If you truly perform your job well, the only other item to clean up is the weapons you give others to use against you through your actions. That can come from the way you dress, your tone of voice and your physical gestures. It is a constant effort to "downplay" my physical presence, especially when I have never worked with the patient before. The difference between my job and yours, is that I have to instill trust within the first few minutes of meeting someone...enough to actually allow my hands to touch them. You learn the psychology quickly if you think within those terms.


#17

That's good to know. The important thing is to keep your performance up and work on your interpersonal skills.

Absolutely! I agree. Even if it's not your problem if you want to stay at this place then you have to work at meeting the expectations of those in your team. Teamwork is a key to success. If someone in my company is not getting along with others on his/her team then I will first try to get him/her motivated to work with others more effectively. If that doesn't work I'll move him/her off the team (and on to another team). And if that's not an option I'll work to more him/her out of the company. I'll do this no matter how effective an individual contributor he/she is. I've had extremely effective (smart) individual contributors - but they were such a distraction (and management nightmare) that they were a net negative. I'm not suggesting you fall in that category but if you do then don't think that just getting your job done is enough. Note: reading your response I don't believe you have a problem because you're working at changing your behavior. Keep at it.

I wouldn't want to hang out with a bunch of drunks either. And to your point of gaining trust in a matter of minutes shows that you have acheived skills that most of us will never achieve.

Carlsbad


#18

I am going to agree with Professor X. I am 34, and have lifted weights since I was 15. I got my first managerial position while I was in college (at an amusement park). I managed about 30-40 people. I ended up getting demoted because, as my boss at the time said, "Your subordinates are afraid of you. You are a big guy, and they are really intimidated by you." It also didn't help that at the amusement park, we all had to wear t-shirts. You could see my biceps, and my forearms were huge at the time. Co workers used to squeeze my forearms to see if they were real.

Since then, I have held manager positions for about a decade. The only times I ever had problems was in situations where I either had to wear a t-shirt (to do physical labor), or take my shirt off (if we had a company function at the lake).

I really had to examine my demeanor. I am 5'10", 220 pounds (15% bf), black and bald. To most people, to see a buff black guy walking their way (in the workplace), they get intimidated. Things I have learned to do:

1- Smile more. I save my "gym face" for the gym, and that's it.

2- Be friendly and make sure that I am attending some social functions outside of work. I don't have to drink alcohol, but it helps people to relate to me better that I made the effort.

3- I try to wear dress shirts (even in a business casual situation) and maybe even a sport jacket. At 220, I am by no means a mass monster, so I can still hide it by wearing long sleeves and a jacket.

3- I always try to help my co-workers. They know I am a also a Christian, which brings me quite a bit of ridicule (quite alot more than being a big, bald black guy). Many people will ridicule me for my beliefs, and then sneak back to me later to ask for advice or for prayer. I am genuinely concerned for their problems, and this deflects that I have 19" arms and a 48" chest.

They may need help with decisions, or need help meeting their quota. Since I am the #1 performer, I usually help them out when they are in a squeeze.


#19

I don't usually walk around smiling for no reason. I have had people focus on this even though it isn't as if I walk around frowning. One thing I have noticed is that it isn't like anyone else is walking around smiling all of the time either. I may smile upon entering a room, however, the amount of smiling it would take to satisfy those around me who focus on every instance I am not smiling would require a Joker-like permanent grin and face paint. I once even tried wearing glasses in order to downplay my image ala Clark Kent, however, I kept forgetting to wear them ruining the effect. What makes it worse for me are the fact that we have mandatory physical training sessions. You can't hide 20" arms no matter if the t-shirt is a XXXL or not. In the summer, wearing a full sweatshirt is usually not an option. The one rule I do have, however, is no tank tops anywhere near or around work. I am sure there would be issues if they ever saw my shoulder and trap development without full coverage.

Oddly, one of the other guys who worked as an assistant for two years who was also pretty big never seemed to get any of this attention.


#20

The Clark Kent thing only works if you have the wavy lock of hair laying on your forehead. Did you try that?