Someone who has on occasion looked to me for support during a difficult period of unemployment and resorted to short-term assignments while seeking regular employment (you notice I did not use the word permanent, because no one's job is) sent me the following question. I have sanitized it and paraphrased because I think it's the proper thing to do.

It's concerning the treatment of temporary workers and that raises red flags because so many people have turned to temping in these economic times with the hope an employer will recognize and appreciate their talent and work ethic and hire them as a regular.


I don't know if you would know the answer to this one but why do Temps get such a bad rap and get treated so badly? I just finished the assignment that I started in Nov, sadly due to the budget they couldn't keep me on. I didn't finish what I was supposed to do but it was due to the CFO not having the time to sit with me and go through what he wanted to be done and how I was going to do it. So I did help the HR dept and then went onto the CFO's office and A/P.

In the A/P dept I was treated badly and another temp was treated like a child. I don't get it at all. I was being reprimanded by two employees when the CFO walked in through one door of this long narrow office and walked past me and the other A/P employees and went out the other door without saying a word. I feel that he should have intervened, should he have? Should I have told them not to speak to me like that? I was afraid of losing the position if I answered back or told them not to speak to me that way. What could I have done or said at that time?

My Distraught Reader,

I'm sorry you continue to go through difficult times which have resulted in feelings of low self-esteem and doubts of self-worth. It's palliative at best I'm sure to say, "you're not alone" in your unemployment and that 1 in 10 people are feeling your pain.

I don't think there is any difference between an employer who treats temporary employees badly and one who treats regular employees that way. There certainly are too many of them and one goes with the other. Temporary employees have the same right to fair treatment as regular staff. If you are not being treated fairly as a temporary employee you should discuss it with your employer. I suggest discussing it with the agency you are working through or in the event of direct hire, the human resources department at the workplace. There might be a "She's just a temp" attitude going on that needs adjustment.

There could also be something else going on internally within you. The paper, "Contingent Work and Depressive Symptoms: Contribution of Health Selection and Moderating Effects of Employment Status," was co-authored by Suzanne DeHaney and Antonio Ciampi, both from McGill. The research shows temporary and short-term contract jobs contribute to psychological distress and depression. That's a tough situation when one is already distressed and depressed over unemployment in the first place. It would be helpful for agencies and employers of contingent workers to understand these findings so an appropriate strategy to assist in their success could be implemented. I haven't seen any evidence of companies doing this but that doesn't mean it isn't a good idea.

I hate to have to say this, but as inappropriate as your co-workers' behavior was, you allowed yourself to be treated disrespectfully because you accepted and swallowed it like a bitter pill without a peep. It could be you were afraid if you spoke up your assignment would have been terminated. That's why it's important to have documented discussions when funky things are going on. It would be an issue if your assignment were ended and then immediately refilled for no logical reason - like you were not performing to expectations or violated a company policy. It would possibly be cause to file a complaint.

You mentioned that throughout your career you have been embarrassed by others in the workplace and disrespected before. There can be coincidences, of course. However, I find when one individual has repeated incidences it is because of how she handles herself. Again, this could be a matter of self-esteem and confidence, interpersonal skills, or other factors. Have an honest chat with yourself or ask someone you know in person and trust to give you feedback on how they perceive your ability to manage relationships. If you are a person that internalizes, fears rejection, has a high need for acceptance and praise and wants to be liked by everyone, you may be able to learn techniques to help prevent this type of situation in the future.

As for the CFO's actions, I can't speak to a situation I haven't witnessed or investigated. Unless it was an ugly loud scene maybe he wasn't aware of it because he was in his mental P&L spreadsheet. I would have asked him about the situation at the first available opportunity and not allowed myself to wonder forever about why he didn't say anything.

I'm confused about why you said that "sadly" they couldn't keep you on. Why on earth would you want to invest yourself there if they didn't treat you well? I suppose that's a rhetorical question. I know you're sad about it because you just want a stable job in a really bad way.

Hopefully this helps shed a little light on the situation.


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