I‘ve held many jobs in the last thirteen years. It’s true my most recent jobs were teaching where I am now. Before these two schools, I worked in two big cities working retail and tutoring at a center.
I started to notice, a little here and there, about how a person is treated is based on what others perceive as weaknesses or strengths. Often, based on few interactions people would draw clues about my social standing, my income, and my importance based on what they perceived to be true.
As I’ve gotten older, it is apparent that this fault in the United States has not be mended.
I say this is a fault because often the conclusions drawn by the coworker or customer was incorrect. The way I spoke meant I was stuck up, the color of my skin (I used to be very pale, I am still pale but not like I was!) showed I was “going to behave in a racist manner,” my clothes and height showed I had money to spend. Being cheerful meant I was stupid, working retail meant I was not going to make it through college… and on and on went these strange assumptions. Many of the ones above were real comments from people I worked with or customers that became regulars for me.
I chalked it up to being young, surrounded by a older, upper class clientele who were out of touch. I also worked with older folks who were in very different places in their lives. Making my own assumptions I suppose.
Anyway, it was made apparent that good, professional people are polite. Professionals do not degrade others. A professional listens politely, waits their turn to speak, does a good, thorough job. A professional does not try to fight another person or professional coworker physically, verbally, or through emails or notes. A professional conducts themselves at all times as a classy, amenable, dependable, hardworking, individual.
As I’ve gotten older and more and more of my age or 10 years either direction I have discovered something.
Maybe it was working retail.
Maybe it was because I was a tutor and not a teacher.
Maybe it was because I was a music teacher and not a general teacher.
Maybe it’s my magic number 31 (my age).
Whatever the reason and whatever the setting whenever I am polite people try to walk all over me.
I’ve been mocked, put down, called “sweetie,” “honey,” “dear,” “sweetheart,”(by men and women but more so women) and spoken to condescendingly. I have be questioned on my right to hold a job at the level I did at the time. When ever I am polite, whenever I defer to senior members of management, whenever I am polite I am treated this way.
In fact, the more polite I am the more callously I am treated.
I thought it was because I was 17, then 18, then 19… and the others involved were 50, 60, it 70 years old. However when I started teaching the people putting me down were younger than me, or the same age!
Maybe it’s me. I’m polite. I’m energetic. I never say a cross word. Some people have mentioned in being polite, they assume I’m a “kiss ass.”
Is being polite a weakness it today’s society? Is it seen as a weakness? When someone refers to someone’s experience or age does this mean you are inferior?
I worry because one, it pisses me off and one day I will screw up. I’m going to clap back y’all and then, what does that make me?
Secondly, he’s to young now so it’s not an immediate worry, but if I teach Connor to be polite, am I setting him up for a lifetime of disrespect?
I feel like I was.
A few years back, I was trying to fit into a new place. Coworkers were not approaching me or trying to get to know me. I’m coming into the break room one day and these two ladies are conversing. They aren’t screaming but everyone in the break room can hear them speaking.
“You know, retail is a hard job.” Lady One says.
“Uhuh.” Says Lady Two.
“I can agree with that,” I say friendly as I go to the fridge to grab my lunch.
“Yeah, and some people shouldn’t be working retail.” Says Lady One as I walk to an empty table off to the side.
Well. Maybe they didn’t mean me. Maybe I was rude for interrupting. Commiserating perhaps is not something you just do when you’re new. Except I had been working there almost a year and I had helped both ladies in their departments. I even gave them sales (since I was a junior employee, my sales didn’t count as much as their sales did, so it never hurt to give away good sales). Or maybe they didn’t mean me.
Yet, time and again little things like this happen. So tell me. Please.
Is being polite a weakness? Is it a mistake? Wound it be better to be perceived as a rude, hard hearted person who “surprises,” you with kindness every once in awhile?
I’m not sure I can live like that. What do you think? If you have any advice, truths, or comments please comment below! I hope your Wednesday at Work goes smoothly! Until next time!