I work for a big company and am fairly new. I'm on my third or fourth week and was transferred to a new (bigger) dept where it's all men. I am the only woman. I'm also fairly young at 25 years old. Today when I went to drop off something with one of my many supervisors (32 years old) he yelled across the dock and asked "Why do you dress like a school teacher?!"

He yelled so loud that everyone in our vicinity heard it and it made me feel so uncomfortable. I made a bad attempt at trying to brush it off and said, "Well how do you know I don't sub in the mornings?"

I almost never have a problem brushing off negative comments but this bothered me the whole day. Especially since it started at the beginning of my shift.

Am I overreacting or is this behavior okay? It drove me nuts because it almost seems like he was asking why I'm so covered up. I was wearing a button up shirt and slacks with flats. The dress code is business casual.

UPDATE: Thanks for all of your input. I had the day to think it over and cool down. I prepared myself to go into work and try to play it by ear. Sure enough as I was attempting to punch in I ran into him, and he immediately commented on my appearance and said, "you see, you look less like a teacher today. Still, a little but less." All while not hiding the fact that he's eyeing every inch of me up and down. I stared at him and said, "Seriously? You're doing this again?" He laughed and I walked away. Within the hour he brought it up again, except this time HIS boss was there and I brought him into the conversation. I got even more upset because the higher up just laughed it off. I walked away realizing I was going to get nowhere. The next time I saw him he apologized and said he didn't mean to offend me, and he saw the "look" in my eyes. Said he didn't realize he was crossing the line.

For the record: when this incident first occurred, two other men immediately informed me about the harassment hot-line and even confronted him, but he chalked it up as sarcasm and laughed it off. He actually knew the number by heart and said "I'm surprised I still work here."

To the person who said I'm not dressed appropriately for the environment: I work in the office but constantly have to walk out to the dock which is why MY dress code is different from theirs. I agree I should be dressing more casually, but as a new employee and the guidelines I was given by my direct boss I need to follow them: collared shirt, slacks, optional jeans on Fridays, and professional shoes. Although it seems only the women in the neighboring dept follow the dress code (typical).

Moving forward I will continue to document and if this behavior escalates I will consider reporting it. At the end of the day, he has seniority and I am just some new employee. Even if HR reprimanded him it wouldn't wind up making his job harder, just mine by either him retaliating or isolating me.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 20:50
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    Which location and culture is this? Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 21:02
  • It sounds weird that she is going to a loading dock dressed like a school teacher to deliver goods. Definitely need more info on the job role, what OP was wearing (roughly) and the industry/country/culture.
    – fabspro
    Commented Apr 19 at 5:38

9 Answers 9


Am I overreacting or is this behavior okay?

No, it's very much not okay. You reacted extremely well in the moment considering it's such an unexpected and inappropriate comment to receive, but it's understandable that you'd be thrown off by it. Any person of any gender would be flustered by unprompted and unwanted comments on their dress choice, but when you add in the gender and age dynamics these types of comments aren't just boundary-crossing, they're also sexist. It's likely that this supervisor wouldn't comment on a male colleague choosing to dress more formal than most at the company. Or perhaps he's an equal-opportunities boor and he would do exactly that.

So no, you're not overreacting. But right now I would still urge you to put it past you. A single comment, while inappropriate, is not something I'd start a Conversation over. But you need to be on the lookout for similar remarks or other sexist/dismissive behavior from this colleague. If he does something similar again, you have a few options:

Say something in the moment.

Go for any of the following:

  • Hey, can you please not comment on what I choose to wear?

  • That's really inappropriate.

  • I'm really not looking for fashion/style advice.

Or simply what I believe is CaptainAwkard's favourite response: "Wow."

These take considerable social skills and quick wit to pull off, but your initial reaction tells me that you're someone who could manage this well. These are fairly strong responses and while you may think you're being rude, it's your colleague who's actually the rude one and it's his behaviour that warranted such a strong response.

But if you're caught off-guard or don't want to push back so visibly, you could also:

Say something to him in private

This may or may not work. It depends on how attuned this person is to social norms and the concept of sexism in the workplace. His behavior isn't promising in that regard but sometimes these people are smart enough to realise their actions were over the line and that you're not appreciative of them.

Say something like:

You've commented on my appearance a few times now and I'd like to ask you to stop doing that. It feels very awkward that you're paying so much attention to what I choose to wear and it feels especially weird as one of the few women in this office. Can you please refrain from making such comments in the future?

Ideally, that will resolve it. If it doesn't or if you're not comfortable talking to this person, all you can do is:


Talk to your manager or HR. If they're decent, they should quickly realise how problematic these kinds of remarks are and put a stop to them while shielding you from any fall-out. Whether they're decent is something you'll have to decide. HR in particular should be trained to spot sexism like this and immediately make the connection with the legal and moral issues that they can cause. Given you're one of the only women there, it's probably going to be obvious that the complaint will come from you. While you should be protected from retaliation by your manager or HR, and they are often legally required to do so, that doesn't always happen. You'll have to make a judgement call on the risk of that.

Or do nothing

As a final option, you could consider simply doing nothing. Mentally roll your eyes whenever you get such a comment and accept that some people are rude and immature. In decent offices this guy's actions will very quickly reflect extremely poorly on him and your refusal to engage him will reflect well on you. In offices that have skewed ideas on gender such as the typical "boy's clubs" this likely won't work and it's also not an option if this behaviour translates into other areas of your work such as your performance, ability to communicate with this person/team or your evaluation. But for some people this could be a reasonable approach to the problem.

As AllTheKingsHorses correctly pointed out, you should start documenting all instances of this behaviour. I'd do this regardless of what option you plan to pursue but it would be particularly helpful in case it gets to the point where you have to report him. Making note of what was said when and potentially who else was present is very useful to show how serious the problem is.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – enderland
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 13:26
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    but when you add in the gender and age dynamics these types of comments aren't just boundary-crossing, they're also sexist. Everything is spot on, but this line is not ok. You're suggesting that if she was a guy then it wouldn't be sexist. Why is that? You can be sexist to other men just as well as black people can be racist towards other blacks. I really don't understand what you're implying. As a guy working in a mostly female office, I had my fair bit of sexist comments.
    – user1
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 14:34
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    @ClaudiuCreanga Agree strongly. I'm a guy with long hair and I often receive inappropriate workplace comments about it from women.
    – Gusdor
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 10:34
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    @ClaudiuCreanga I don't see how I'm suggesting anything of the sort. The behaviour described in OP's scenario is not just demeaning but meets the typical legal/moral requirements to be considered sexist, that's all that I'm trying to say here.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 12:20
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    @Lilienthal you're saying but when x, also y. So y wouldn't be there if it wasn't for x. x is gender and age. Why are you mentioning gender and age? why would it matter? If it was an older woman or a man the comment was more appropriate? IMO gender an age doesn't matter at all in this case.
    – user1
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 18:54

It sounds at best a borderline comment, as it implies that as a woman you should be more "decorative", which per se is not appropriate, as I assume the job you are hired for is not purely based on appearance.

You should probably check what is the company policy on sexual harassment, gender equality and if there is any speak up policy about such episodes. Then, if you feel molested by such comments, take action.

I would suggest such order of escalation (but this is based on the policy and culture of the company where I work):

  1. Tell the supervisor that such comments on your appearance/dress are not appreciated.
  2. If the behavior doesn't stop, report to the supervisor's manager and/or HR
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    Also, keep a record of what was said when, and which action you've taken to put a stop to it. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 7:42
  • OP makes it sound like just the opposite, that the person making the comment thinks she should be less "decorative" rather than more.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 14:54
  • @Aaron, in my country telling that a woman dress like a teacher implies she shows no sensuality.
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 15:41
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    @L.Dutch it's not appropriate to comment on a woman's appearance when her job is supposed to be done with her brain. Why "a woman's appearence" ? Because instead it is appropriate to comment on a man's appearance when his job is supposed to be done with his brain ? Why does it have to be different if it's done to a man instead of to a woman, or by a man instead of by a woman ? Why if it is done to a man it's just asexual bullying but if it's done to a woman then a whole new set of gender-related issues is always brought up ? Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 23:17
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    @L.Dutch I know you were referring to this case. Is that the reason why you specified "a woman's appearance" instead of "a person's appearance"? I don't think so. The person being a woman rather than a man was definitely an important part of your point, along the lines of the complaints that women are objectified, evaluated for their appearance rather than for their brain, etc. So I maintain all my questions. Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 8:04

I thought I should add my two pence. Before I say what I suggest you do, I thought I should give a bit of perspective from a male point of view. The first thing that people need to understand is that men also get harassed by men, just usually not in a sexual context.

Sadly there are many men out there, that have this need to be "alpha" with all the stupid connotations this term carries. There is a term that describe them, its "bully". I am a very polite person by upbringing, and I had similar situations but in a "manhood" context. Comments implying that I am weak, gay or whatnot. Because of my polite upbringing I had a huge fear of confrontation.

Sidetrack: This is actually a very interesting thing. Our whole set of defensive mechanisms are completely useless for everyday situations. Being afraid of confrontations means having your blood concentrating in the back of your brain and having a very strong urge to act (which normally is to run away from the imminent danger), but you know that this is completely stupid so you don't. However your frontal lobe is already out. So you stand there, frozen in limbo without being able to register properly the situation.

OK, back on track. I have tried few different ways to deal with similar situations and I found that the most efficient way to deal with it is by confrontation. After a lot of effort and emotional pain, I managed to get over my fear of confrontation. There is no easy way to do that. You have to confront people. The way I think about it, is the I am nice and polite, but if you poke me, I will bite you. I find it to be a very useful mental image to have. The whole point is to accept that you have to make hurtful comments. I know how it sounds, believe me. For many years I thought this was wrong. But it's not. If someone punches you, you have the right to punch back. So, If someone is a dick to you, you have the right to be a dick back.

However! You have to learn to do this in a calm and cold matter. This shocks people. If you get worked up and you start yelling, the game is lost. For example in your case a respond could have been "Maybe I am, how is this any of your business?". I understand that this is hard to come up with at the moment, but there are a couple of comments that can get used universally:

  • If I valued your opinion on [insert subject], I would have asked for it.

  • I'm sorry, you must have mistaken me with someone that finds you funny.

You need to say this coldly and dryly and just move on. This usually stuns people. If not, if he tries to top it up somehow just say "Not interested" and walk away.

I find that after that they usually come and say that it was a joke and that I shouldn't take it seriously etc. This is an attempt to manipulate you emotionally by putting the blame on you. I find that the most effective thing is to say "I am a dull and humorless person that cares only about his work. But I'm sure you will find that if you treat me professionally we will get along just fine." and then just walk away. I find that it has a very powerful effect to walk away without letting them reply anything. Just ignore their answer.

You have to remember though, never to hold a grudge. Let past be the past. And don't be defensive. Not everyone is out to get you. I find this to be extremely effective and it actually people tend to respect you more.

I do understand that what I described is not something that many people can do naturally. I definitely couldn't. However I wished someone told me this earlier.

All the best.

Added later: I forgot the most important thing. Do not assume the role of the victim. This was a rude and annoying comment and that's all. Most probably he said this in an attempt to appear cool to you. Maybe even flirt. There exists this whole theory of flirt based on "negging" women that usually men do not understand how to use and end up just being rude.

I'm not saying this in order to excuse him. His motive doesn't matter, if you feel like he overstepped your boundary, enforce it. I'm just saying this to tell you not to be afraid.

And finally, don't be a bully. This may seem to contradict what I have written above, but it doesn't. Your replies should target only the behaviours that annoy you. Do not comment on his appearance, gender, wealth, irrelevant behaviour, etc. This should be a matter of principle, but it is also useful. Later if he realises that he was being rude to you, he will have nothing to hold against you. So if he apologizes later, you should have nothing to apologize about.

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    I agree with your comments. I just really hate the term "alpha". I think it was never a good a good metaphor, but it is being constantly misused. By the way the term "beta" is grossly misused. Being the second in the pack, is actually pretty high up in the hierarchy. Anyway, I actually meant the people that have the need to be "leaders" but they confuse power with violence and respect with fear. The stereotype of alpha male serves as an excuse for them to be bullies.
    – tst
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 14:23
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    By the way, I actually I disagree with your definition of "alpha". For me it means leader and sadly most people do not understand what leadership means. The leader needs to be just, forgiving and care to protect the people he/she leads. A good leader never seeks conflict and never brags about his/her position. I also disagree about bullies, in the sense there is a whole spectrum of "bullism" and you describe the "bulliest". There are people that will bully you covertly and then blame you for liking their comments.
    – tst
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 14:31
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    Your two bullet-point comments that you suggest, "If I valued your opinion..." and the one following it, are completely inappropriate, rude, unprofessional, and possibly even worse than the comment that the man made. Especially since he might not have meant anything bad or sexist by it at all, and he might be surprised and embarrassed later if that view were pointed out to him. I certainly would be embarrassed and very apologetic if someone politely pointed out how that could be taken, but I would not be at all and would be only annoyed if you responded that way.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 15:00
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    @Aaron - I completely agree. 2 wrongs never make a right. Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 15:36
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    Agree with the first comment- a true alpha male is, by definition, not a bully. What you're describing is, at best, a beta male taking a misguided approach to becoming dominant. Bullying is symptomatic of the fact that the bully feels inadequate and needs to hurt those he/she perceives as weaker to fulfill some internal need. Alpha males don't do this; they're the ones confident in their own skin who treat everyone beneath them with respect, which in turn is why others follow them. They might behave differently when competing with fellow Alphas, but that's b/c Alphas want to compete that way!
    – the_SJC
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 15:37

There's too much room for subtext, body language, tone, etc. to know for certain what his motivations or lack of consideration are.

Could be the evil male gaze, or it could just be him awkwardly learning how to interact with you. I'm inclined to think it's the latter, personally, and it's not a bad policy to give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt at first while you get to know them.

I've always worked in environments where razzing was the norm and it's the way I like it. It's how a lot of guys relate to people. Some guys are unsophisticated and only have a few ways of relating to people. My boss knows his audience and says things to me he would not dare say to someone else. (e.x. penis jokes).

In any case, you can simply say:

I'm sure you don't mean anything by it, but it actually bothers me when you say that. If you have actual constructive criticisms of my attire or my work, then I'm happy to talk about it, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't joke about it. Thanks for understanding.

When you simply ask for what you want, while giving someone the benefit of the doubt, you'll find you almost always get what you want.

In a sense, it doesn't actually matter what was appropriate behavior or not, because it's a relationship you are voluntarily there for and have the power to improve.

People do dumb things all the time and they need us to ask for what we want.


You are overreacting, but not by much. I would be annoyed too, but it does not necessarily sound sexist and it is not possible to know at this time if there were sexist intentions. Maybe, maybe not.


When I started my current job, more than one of my peers commented on my appearance. I wore a tie, and nobody else did. One of them went so far as to tell me that I should not wear it anymore. None of these people were my managers or were higher in the hierarchy at all; they were all peers. I decided that they probably didn't want me to make them look under-dressed by comparison, so I stopped wearing it.

Do not feel like you should change your appearance for them; do it only if you decide to. I have other aspects of my appearance that I was asked to change at a previous job, and I refused. Someone even went to HR to complain that I looked unprofessional for our setting; some people are jerks like that. For the record, my boss told me that same day that he thought I looked plenty professional.

What you should do/expect

It is possible that there were completely innocent intentions behind that man's comment. You mentioned that he shouted "across the dock," so it sounds like you may have been over-dressed for the environment; we at SE do not know. Maybe he was thinking "That nice lady dresses well, but she is going to get that fancy outfit dirty here at the dock." and then simply blurted out his question without thinking about how it would sound to others.

Or maybe he was hitting on you in a completely and entirely sexual way which would indeed be sexual harassment.

You should not over react for now, but you should be concerned. You know the situation better than us: if you think it was more likely to be harassment, then you should be very concerned, and you should take notes of similarly offensive behavior complete with quotes, times, and maybe a few witness names.

I have been on both sides of this fence. I have been very offended by comments others have made, including about my appearance. I have also had people be very offended at me, so much so that they have either gone to HR or made rude comments to me (similar to comments suggested by other answers here). When this happens because of something I said, sometimes my quote is taken out of context.

Sometimes when someone does the "That was inappropriate" or "Wow!" on me, I truly don't even know what they were talking about or what about my words bothered them.


Don't overreact for now, but yes be leery and concerned. Take notes. If it was harassment then it will likely (unfortunately) continue; once it is obvious then take action.

Not only will this protect you in the case that the man was innocent of any intention of harassment, but this will also protect you in the event that he falsely claims no intention of harassment. If he is harassing you, he is not likely to admit it, and you need more than you currently have to make a good case.

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    @henning Your boundaries are yours to define, but that doesn't mean you have any right to cause problems for people who very accidentally cross them. People who do that are themselves the problem and could potentially be guilty of harassment. You cannot expect me to mind your boundaries if I don't know what they are and am making an active effort to be nice and simply slip up on occasion.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 15:55
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    Any down-voters care to explain what is actually wrong or bad about my answer? Is it unreasonable to ask people to have a slight amount of forbearance in case they are mistaken?
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 15:56
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    This is a very good answer and the reason for the downvotes is just that this answer doesn't fully embrace the ideological "sexist" tirade that unfortunately is mandatory in situations like this one. Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 16:13
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    @PoloHoleSet How is it completely unrelated? That is a huuuge stretch you are making. The basis of the question is "Is it unprofessional to comment on someone's appearance?" That is exactly what happened in my case. OP makes it sound like someone commented on her over-dressing for the occasion; that's exactly what I read from it. My anecdote is about the same thing happening to me. I see the anecdote as being almost identical to OP's situation; "almost" identical because OP's might have a sexist root cause - barring that they might well be exactly the same thing.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:46
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    @PoloHoleSet Thank you for the clarification. It sounds like you are making multiple assumptions. Business casual means different things at different places; it is different between my current job and previous one definitely. In her case, it sounded to me like the man might not have thought she was dressing exactly to expected standards, made more evident by the fact it was at a dock - not generally a "dress like a teacher" place. Where do you get "wanted her to dress more attractively" from, an edit I missed? I saw that nowhere? I don't see how that is implied even if his intent was sexual.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 23:48

"Why do you dress like a school teacher?!"

Answer: "Seems appropriate for you boys." Deliver with optional contemptuous stare... but not too pointed, you're replying to a bad joke with another suitably crummy bad joke, not with an insult. This should earn chuckles from all the other guys directed at him and dent his ego. This should also earn the other guys' respect.

Now to your question: IMO, his delivery was a lot more rude than the bad joke itself. Had he told you that in private, it would still have been a bad joke, but yelling it from the other end of the room for everybody to hear sounds a bit like hazing the new team member.

You could ask your colleagues if everyone got the same sort of "warm welcome" from this guy when they walked in for the first time. If this is so, the whole thing is not about your dress, and they would sympathize with you.

The window of opportunity for a snarky retort is now closed, unfortunately, but I still wanted to comment on the other answers, because I feel a crucial point has been missed:

You have been given with an opportunity to demonstrate to the team how you handle problems and conflict. The way you handle this will be noticed by the other employees, and you will be judged for your actions, even if no-one tells you this explicitly. The whole thing may also be a conscious test (although I doubt it).

No business or money is at stake, only egos and feelings, so it doesn't really matter. It's just practice. So, the problem you've been handed is: you walk into a situation where you know no-one, something bad happens, and you have no information at all to help you.

I mean, perhaps there is a reason for this guy's behavior, perhaps he was in an exceptionally bad mood due to external events, or perhaps he's always like that.

My point: you can either choose...

  • Play the victim and run to HR. If you do this, everyone will reach the perfectly valid conclusion that if a very important client is a bit rude to you on the phone, you will not act professional and do your best to do your job, but instead cost the company a client then run to HR to complain. No-one wants a team member who escalates conflict instead of working with the rest of the team to solve conflict. Even worse, no-one wants a team member who will turn into a liability when other people crack under pressure and say stupid stuff. In other words, you're fired.

  • The professional attitude. Solve the problem in the company's best interest, putting your feelings second. As for any other problem, gather information (does he always do that? is there a reason for his shitty mood?) then use this information (the goal should be to get an apology from him at a more appropriate time, after everyone calms down). If, after a while, you do realize that there really is a problem with this guy (for example the majority of the team confesses around the coffee machine that they can't stand his attitude) then you might consider going to HR, but it has to be a well thought out process.

Now, everyone else heard it and they know this guy was very rude. If you handle this well and show some toughness, you will get the other team members' respect, turn the whole incident in your favor, and make a good first impression. This is much more important than getting him to apologize, btw. In fact, the ideal outcome would be for someone else on the team to respect you enough that they would suggest the offender to apologize...

HR is not your therapist. You do not go to HR because you're upset. Remember it is also HR's job to fire you if you are a liability to the company...

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    -1 - Answer: "Seems appropriate for you boys." - This is both counterproductive and could actually lead to her facing a sexual harassment complaint. Two wrong do not make a right, ever. Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 15:17
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    I'm quite confident "Seems appropriate for you boys" would solicit more comments, not stop them. In fact, many of the men there would suddenly find her very appealing and want to push further with her. If some of the men there didn't take the first comment sexually, they do now.
    – user15729
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 18:51
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    It's okay. No one seems to want to mention the most likely thing: she dresses weird. It's not unusual to point out the weird kid (er, colleague) who wears weird clothes. Calling her out like that was rude, but he's probably right. The way she dresses makes her stand out in a bad way.
    – user15729
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 7:25
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    @fredsbend ah well, I'm French, here the threshold for offense is a lot higher, that would explain the difference. Note that while I very much like Americans, I do find you guys a bit weird sometimes: nothing wrong with bombing random countries, yet when one quips about the way someone is dressed, everyone flips their shit... Contradictions, contradictions...
    – bobflux
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 10:02
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    @peufeu Thank goodness someone else noticed. I thought it was just me.
    – user15729
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 16:58

I enjoy wearing nicer clothes to work. I prefer to have a professional clean appearance. However, my department likes to wear polo tops and often I would get made fun of for a tie and shirt "What? You leaving us already and going on a job interview at lunch?" those comments would happen ALLL the damn time to the point I just decided to only wear polos. There was even a time I bought an outfit for my high school reunion that I had not had a chance to try on yet. Decided to wear it to work to see how I liked it and again got made fun of. Told them I wanted to try on my outfit for my reunion and still got harrassed about it.

Everyone gets harassed at work if you don't go with the status quo... Aaron stated it best that you shouldn't let others dictate how you dress. I have started to wear my dress clothes again and I don't care if they make fun of me or not. I want to wear what I want to wear. As long as it is work appropriate, I won't let their peer pressure force me into their culture.

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    "I won't let their peer pressure force me into their culture." So, you don't want to be a part of the culture around you? Why would you isolate yourself on purpose? Other jobs might fit your dress preferences.
    – user15729
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 18:49
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    @fredsbend I am actually working on the "other jobs" part. But no, no one should have people making fun of them simply because they want to wear a dress shirt and not a polo. No one should make fun of a woman just because she wants to wear a dress/skirt instead of slacks and a nice top. It has nothing to do with isolation, we get along well as a team, but they shouldn't be constantly making fun of the way you dress. That's not how you make people feel included for one and if anything creates the isolation you talk about. As long as you dress within the guidelines it shouldn't matter.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:09
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    Looking like you belong is a primal instinct to help decide if you do belong. Culture expects you to conform, not stand out. Stand outs are not in group, by definition. Sorry, but you're fighting innate human behavior.
    – user15729
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:30
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    It's not that they want you to feel unwelcome. It's that you don't seem to want welcoming.
    – user15729
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:35
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    @fredsbend I understand what you are saying and I do get it. However, it seems fairly trivial in my opinion to harp on someone wearing a dress shirt rather than wearing a polo but still, your point still stands valid.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:42

I am answering after the update. By now your supervisor has made it clear that he considers himself entitled harrassing you over your professional attire matching the dress code and that he will continue doing so. He also has made clear that he knows this to be harrassment, that he has a history of doing so, and that he expects to get away with it like he previously did.

Since this is not a basis for getting work done, record those interactions and ask HR to remove this individual from being in supervising position with respect to you since he has made abundantly clear that he is not intending to entertain a professional relationship with you and that he expects to continue seeing no consequences for his apparently preexisting pattern of harrassment.

That you were informed by several male colleagues of the company harrassment line when he started getting on your case is a strong indication that you are not the one being out of line (with respect to overall company culture and behavior) in those interactions and that they don't expect lesser measures to be effective.

If HR refuses to do anything about this, they are likely transgressing the law. You might want to contact a lawyer concerning your options and independently start looking for another job. It would appear that there is a reason you are the only female in that department.

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    That was not established and should not be taken for granted. Social awkwardness, her manner of dress, and many other factors could also explain his behavior. "He's a bully who knows he's a bully" is something you're reading into the situation, not a fact.
    – Kevin Beal
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 0:37

"Why do you dress like a school teacher?"

"Why do you dress like a creeper who makes inappropriate comments?"

"Why do you talk like a sexual predator?"

"Why do you act like someone who's looking for a sexual harassment lawsuit?"

Say it with a smile!

  • Although I don't usually recommend passive-aggressive approaches like these (fight fire with fire they say), but these are actually good responses that should effectively calm that guy.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 3:25
  • 10
    Pretty solid strategy to make everybody at your new workplace instantly hate you. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 6:45

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