9

Background

When I was 19 my father died, leaving behind a significant inheritance. I’m 24 years at the moment, and the assets are in a family estate of which my mother and I are the owners. Although I won’t say I’m overtly wealthy, I can’t deny either I have had a cozier life than most people in my country. 

I might be biased in my opinions about myself, but I can assert I’m not eager to flaunt. For example, I drive a secondhand car, cheaper than most of my friends’ cars, I’m renting a regular room in my area, I don’t have memberships in expensive clubs or gyms, etc. And to be clear, I don’t do it to fabricate a facade of normalcy. I simply was raised in a family with a pragmatic sense of expending and still approach money in that manner. The only luxuries in which I indulge are things like buying tailored clothes, having vacations and collecting books and movies, or going to concerts. In the same manner, I’m not trying to be overtly frugal. I don’t shun away from spending if needed, like signing to a congress or a course with my own money if the company isn’t paying, or just walking into a store and buying a new Mac when my old one broke beyond repair. Basically, being debt-free and able to build assets from my inheritance allows me to do this.

The Problem

As I said before, I don’t flaunt, but eventually people get to now of my situation when questions like what your parents do or where were you during holidays come around. During my previous and current job, I have seen people trying to bully, shame or harass me because of my financial position. Some of the behaviors I frequently see:

  • If we go to a bar someone will eventually say something of the sort: "Hey! When are you showing your Black Card?" I don’t have one!

  • Someone questioning why I don't have a better car or live in an upper-scale area.

  • People joking in my face that they should buy me caviar for the weekly happy hour or other absurd variations of “we will have to please him with something expensive”.

  • Someone joking that I’m a gangster or that my family has obscure ties.

  • People assuming that I’ll get preferential treatment or promotions.

  • People assuming I'll loan them money. I did this once. It wasn’t a good idea. The money never came back; the friend never spoke to me again.

  • People assuming I have an obligation to donate to good causes they promote.

I tried three strategies to deal with these situations without much success. Ignoring them; explaining how I use my money – like showing how much I save by not having a car loan or that, instead of having dozens of shoes, pants and shirts, my wardrobe fits in 23kg suitcase, so it is not as if I were expending extra money, rather I simply have fewer objects –; being outspoken, letting them know that these jokes aren’t funny (I'd rather have my father alive!).

I’d like to add two details:

  • I don’t believe (most of) my coworkers are ill-intentioned. They’ve just been running an in-bad-taste joke for too long.
  • My personality is of the shy type. I usually get mental block when someone makes a joke about me and this have probably given them basis to keep joking. Also, I’m terrible at lying, I get all red-faced and stutter, so learning to lie and conceal doesn’t seem an option.

The Question

How to deal with this situation? Should I sit one-on-one with each and every of my coworkers and tell them they should moderate their behavior? Maybe it’s me the one who needs to mature and stop letting myself get triggered by these comments. I don’t want to get my manager involved. This is the type of thing I think may effectively make me look like the spoiled child of the company and become a hindrance for my career.

closed as off-topic by IDrinkandIKnowThings, DarkCygnus, gnat, Frank FYC, Jan Doggen Nov 29 '17 at 8:43

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  • 33
    You could always respond with "I'd rather have my father alive than this money." That should get them to shut up. – David K Nov 28 '17 at 17:31
  • 5
    I think a country tag would be helpful here. – Mister Positive Nov 28 '17 at 17:43
  • 3
    @DavidK I did this once when being outspoken. And yes, I hugely miss my father. For the same reason I don't want to use his death as a prompt to solve my interpersonal issues. – Door_199 Nov 28 '17 at 17:44
  • 6
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is not really about the workplace and probably better suited to Interpersonal relationships. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 28 '17 at 17:57
  • 8
    How on earth are these people finding out about your financial security? Perhaps you should be asking a different question as well, because there are plenty of ways to avoid mentioning an inheritance at all. A simple "I save a lot (and live frugally) so I can pay for these vacations" should surely be all you need? Why are you entertaining questions on your financial situation at all? – Lilienthal Nov 28 '17 at 18:41
8

Maybe it’s me the one who needs to mature and stop letting myself get triggered by these comments.

You are correct, it is you. Somehow your co-workers became aware that you have some level of wealth, so now you need to bite the bullet and ignore these comments and the associated behavior. Maybe you should pass on wearing expensive suites around your co-workers too.

In the future never discuss your financial standing with co-workers, as no good can come from this. Only close friends and family have any possible business knowing this information, and close friends is even a huge stretch. Only my wife and my mother know this level of personal information.

I would also I suggest you read the book called The Millionaire Next Door in the privacy of your own home. It essentially describes how to have wealth without attracting attention. The principles will apply to you.

4

eventually people get to now of my situation when questions like what your parents do or where were you during holidays come around

Stop answering those questions, or be more vague. "My father passed away several years ago, and my mother works in (general industry)/is retired" when asked about your parents. It's your workplace, your parents shouldn't come up unless you decide to talk about them. Same with vacation. "I took a little road trip" or "visited family" - that's all. No details about where, how far, etc.

In short, your co-workers only have information about your financial situation because you've given up enough for them to figure it out. So stop over-sharing.

Alas, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube at your current job. What you can do is tell people that their comments/questions are not welcome and refuse to answer them. Tell them "this is not something I'm going to discuss at work and I don't appreciate this line of comments, so please stop."

If they continue to do so after you've asked them to stop, you're getting into harassment/bullying territory and it is appropriate for your manager to be aware of the situation so that it can be addressed. It's negatively affecting your work performance and the culture of the whole office.

1

First things first, don't say anything that gives a strong signal that you have a lot of money.

Where exactly you want to draw that line is up to you - it's a trade-off between opening up versus getting fewer comments and jokes. Note that even something you could easily afford on the low-end of salaries at your company can get you marked as rich by those who are less frugal or have more financial obligations (including dependants).

Following that, any comment or joke about how much money you have can just be responded to with:

I'd prefer it if you didn't make assumptions about my financial situation.

At this stage, you can modify it slightly:

I'd prefer it if you'd stop making assumptions about my financial situation.

This should make sense for most comments or jokes, clearly tells them that you don't appreciate their comments, shouldn't require any explanation (beyond perhaps "it just makes me uncomfortable") and doesn't make any claim about whether or not you actually have money (but does lightly imply that their assumption might be wrong).

Of course, if they directly ask about your financial situation, or if they ask indirect questions about it (such as asking about your car) you can respond with:

I don't feel comfortable discussing my financial situation with you.

If you've already explicitly told them about your financial situation, if it wasn't recently, the above can still work, because money can be gained and lost, so they don't really know how much you have now. If confronted about this, you can simply say:

That was a long time ago.

0

If you behave normally while a few others do not it is they who need to change, to find another source of cheap amusement.

One tactic I've found useful is to observe whomever else thinks this amusing and look at them like it's a sad situation for the person, and unfortune for them that they accompany someone who brings embarrassment to the group; that person might tap them on the shoulder and suggest they behave normally.

Some quick answers to your examples:

  • If we go to a bar someone will eventually say something of the sort: "Hey! When are you showing your Black Card?" I don’t have one!

It's invitation only.

  • Someone questioning why I don't have a better car or live in an upper-scale area.

You don't want to live near them and their better car is a lemon (manufactured with flaws).

  • People joking in my face that they should buy me caviar for the weekly happy hour or other absurd variations of “we will have to please him with something expensive”.

Look at them like: why state the obvious. A US way of saying it is "Thanks Captain Obvious".

  • Someone joking that I’m a gangster or that my family has obscure ties.

They are waiting outside, you'll introduce them.

  • People assuming that I’ll get preferential treatment or promotions.

People who aren't rude are respected and get ahead.

  • People assuming I'll borrow (lend) them money. I did this once. It wasn’t a good idea. The money never came back; the friend never spoke to me again.

You'll introduce them to your Loan Shark relative. You'll arrange the sale of one of their kidneys, the money will be sent to your spouse.

  • People assuming I have an obligation to donate to good causes they promote.

You gave so much to charity now you're broke, they should buy the dinner for everyone.


Knowing the country or culture might assist us to give better answers.

Some people will always look for something to complain about, whether it's a useful thing to do or not. They want to increase their importance by knowing something and being able to contribute, that's only natural but when it's negative and unwarranted that's just harassment.

Telling your boss or HR about the loss of productivity created by their goofing off might both give them more to occupy their unfulfilled lives and leave you uninvited to their roasts (a dinner where someone is made fun of).

Understand if it's jealousy, dumb jokes or hate. Deal with it using measured methods.

Your unfortunate situation is made worse in that they attempt to joke that it's an advantageous tradeoff. Seems uneducated and unnecessarily hurtful.


Find better friends for off work hours and look to find better colleges to work with.

I never spend a lot of time with people I work with away from work, that helps to establish a boundary; often I'm a supervisor and favoring certain subordinates wouldn't be professional.

But I don't take a job to make friends though I understand the culture, that the only friends some people have are the ones at work.

Condolences, many years will pass and it will be easier.

-6

You cannot change this. Everybody live what you describe at different scale. I think you should get over it.

Almost everybody had a friend or a family who borrow money and you never this friend again.

A lot of people who bring chocolate to sell for their kid assume that co-worker will buy everything, even if you are not rich.

We had an Italian co-worker and we always joke about everything related to criminal, politician, club, etc.

We had a co-worker who is Irish and people joke about him: are you drunk at job? will you fight in the next meeting?

We had another guy who drive high end car and people told jokes like you share in your post.

I agree that sometime the joke are repeated so often that it is boring or it start to irritate the concerning person.

This is life and it is a small cons for everything that we get from the society.

  • 4
    You need to cut back on your humor if you think any of that is funny or appropriate in the workplace. – HLGEM Nov 28 '17 at 19:34
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    @HLGEM It depends of the company culture, there is no universal best work space that fit for everyone, it is possible to influence the company culture but it is not possible to set it. If OP is in a organisational unit that does not fit his style, I think he is free to find another team, department or company that fit him if it really bugging him. – Sebastien DErrico Nov 28 '17 at 20:05
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    @HLGEM I find it harsh that you judge of something personal like humor being outside of my past and current work space. – Sebastien DErrico Nov 28 '17 at 20:07
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    Because those types of insulting personal jokes are harmful to people and should never be appropriate anywhere. They are bullying. They are NEVER funny. – HLGEM Nov 28 '17 at 20:28
  • @SebastienDErrico You mentioned company culture, but you don't seem to realize not all cultures are good. Some are called toxic for a reason. I'm pretty sure you're desensitized to the jokes so that's why you're saying what you're saying, but realize most people are not like that. It is possible this culture you're in is not acceptable to majority of the population. – Nelson Dec 1 '17 at 5:37

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