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3 Ways to Deal With an Offensive Co-worker Who Just Doesn’t Get It


In the workplace, there’s a fine line between joking around and being offensive — and there’s always that one co-worker who just doesn’t seem to get it. If you find yourself being put in uncomfortable situations due to a colleague’s lack of manners, then you’ll want to read on to see how you can professionally and effectively handle your officemate’s distasteful behavior.

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(Photo credit: Scott Beale/Flickr)

A work environment is no place for employees to test the boundaries of what is and isn’t considered offensive. However, it seems there are always those few co-workers who think that rules need not apply to them. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an inappropriate comment from a colleague, then you know how awkward it is to try and deal with the situation at work seriously. Most people will simply brush off the rude remark and assume it had to be a joke. What happens when the jokes stop being funny and become downright offensive? Here are three ways you can take action and ensure that you nip the behavior in the bud before it turns into a more serious issue.

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1. Address the issue. The next time your offensive co-worker takes a cheap shot at you, take him aside and explain that his comments aren’t appropriate and that you’d appreciate if he’d refrain from saying such things in the future. If are concerned that you will come off as confrontational, start the conversation with, “I know you might not realize it, but…” and that should help set a more neutral tone for the rest of the conversation. Hopefully, this will alert your co-worker to think before he speaks and prevent another super awkward conversation in the future.

2. Put yourself in his shoes. Obviously, there’s never an acceptable reason to offend someone, however, see if you can figure out if there’s more going on with that particular co-worker that would be encouraging him to take his anger or ignorance out on you – maybe a loved one recently passed or he’s threatened by your success. Whatever the case may be, try and see things from his perspective because you may discover that you’re not the problem at all.

3. If all else fails, let go and let HR. If the behavior continues, despite your efforts to put an end to it, then it’s time to take the issue to HR before it turns ugly. Employers are obligated to investigate and deal with such issues, because they could potentially turn into harassment or hostile work environment lawsuits. You’ll be surprised how quickly HR will put an end to the detrimental and offensive behavior.

If you want to know how not to act towards callous co-workers, read this post. You should never use the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality on this one. Ever. Read this post to learn how to deal with other types of difficult co-workers who can be just as annoying as the offensive ones.

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Have you had to deal with “that guy” at work? If so, what did you do to put an end to the rude behavior? Share your story with our community on Twitter.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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