Our rather small company shares a slack channel with our larger parent company. Today I came in to work to find that one of the employees of the parent company had posted a "joke" about the upcoming fifa World Cup in slack.

I'm not going to post the joke here, because this question is more about the idea of sexist banter in general, rather than this specific joke (similar sexist jokes have been posted in the past), but in short, the "joke" was demeaning women by implying they are completely clueless about sport, and frankly demeaning men as well by implying we're all sport crazed hooligans.

The joke received a few chuckles and mutters of "it's true though" from some people in the office, however myself, and another of my colleagues, were pretty disgusted by the message and frankly I'm not sure whether I want to work in an environment where that kind of thing is acceptable.

I've considered going to HR regarding it, however there's the issue of "HR is there to protect the company, not the employee", there's also the fact that the instigator is not an employee of our company, but of our parent company, and I'm also fairly sure HR would simply cast it off as "just a harmless joke".

What are my options here? Should I just suck it up and accept that the work culture of this office are okay with casual discrimination? Should I go to HR anyway? Should I confront the instigator directly?

  • 8
    For Slack specifically, the "thumbs down" reaction seems a good fit here.
    – Erik
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 15:01
  • good way to call out inappropriate jokes is to ask the person what they mean in a genuine manner. Most sexist/racist jokes assume the person hearing the joke is 'in on it' and understands its sexism/racism. If you appear to not understand and ask them to explain it in a public setting, it usually really embarrasses them or makes them think twice next time.
    – atxgis
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 15:12
  • If it's demeaning to men and women, how is it sexist? Being insulting is certainly not good professional behavior, but there needs to be accuracy in classifying the behavior
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 16:43
  • 2
    @cdkMoose The "joke" is clearly intended to demean and patronize women, it is also demeaning to men in the sense of "toxic masculinity" (ie implying all men are sports-obsessed alcoholics who expect "their woman" to bow to their every whim just because it's sports time)
    – Mayube
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 17:09
  • @Mayube, if it was a single joke/punchline, then it his hard to call it sexist when it demeans both sexes in one shot. Sounds more like just plain wrong.
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 17:15

3 Answers 3


This is a difficult question.

In a perfect world you would report it to HR and wouldn't have problems because of that. By reporting it you would do something to improve the culture in the company. But it's a typical example of a situation where something that is good for the company, can be bad for the individual. You can face problems, start to be treated as a troublemaker and a person who doesn't understand jokes. You can even start being bullied.

If I were you I would decide based on my position in the company and alternatives to the current position. If you are a specialist who can find a new job easily you aren't risking much. Even if you start being bullied after reporting the situation, you will change your job and be happy that you don't need to work for a sexist company.

If it's your first job and your market value is low, the answer would be different. It's opportunistic and goes against my convictions but, rationally speaking, I would try to shut my mouth trying to convince myself that "I will show them" in a year or two.

You can also try to reply sarcastically or use self-deprecating humor. What exactly - this depends on the exact joke.

I wouldn't try to discuss it with the instigator himself as many sexist people tend to get aggressive when their sexism is pointed out.

  • 1
    Thanks for the reply, I was fairly certain that confronting the instigator wasn't a good idea but threw it in just in case. Regarding hr, I find it unlikely that I'd be bullied for bringing it up, given the culture of the office, but I feel it would be shrugged off as "just a joke" and ignored. Finally regarding the "nuclear option" , I've strongly considered it for the past month or so, but I'm leaving the country next year so I'm worried about the likelyhood of finding short term or remote work in the meantime. I think I'll sleep on it and consider talking to HR tomorrow
    – Mayube
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 15:16

The best way to "ruin" a joke is to ask the joker to explain it:

A simple:

What do you mean?

should suffice.

By doing this, you are presenting the fact that the joke is not all-inclusive so the joker will have to choose between elaborating on their offensive remark or hopefully delete it altogether.

  • And why would the joker care at all? Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 19:34

First off, as you know HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

The proper way to address this is to address the behavior straight on, with no emotion, and very professionally.

Excuse me, but I don't think that's very professional, and it is certainly inappropriate for the workplace.

Then record the time and place it happened, and who was involved.

If it happens again, repeat the above.

If it happens a third time then.

Im sorry, I've mentioned this to you twice before that this is inappropriate and unprofessional. I have not escalated this and I do not with to do so. Please don't let this happen again.

At that point you've got a pattern of behavior. First proceed to their boss, point out that it's happened several times and you have brought it to their attention. Then wait.

If it still continues and you need to approach HR, then you will be able to head off any questions they may have for you such as "have you brought this up with them" or "Have you spoken to their boss".

Going to HR should be a last resort, because then things become official and then it's out of your control.

  • My main concern with this kind of action is, aside from worrying that HR will simply shrug off the concern, directly confronting the instigator in the manner you suggest would likely lead to me being pulled up by HR for being rude to coworkers. That kind of action would be seen as me being disrespectful as I don't have the authority to dictate to the individual what is and is not acceptable on slack
    – Mayube
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 16:27
  • 2
    @Mayube how is the sentence ("Excuse me, but I don't think that's very professional, and it is certainly inappropriate for the workplace.") rude? Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 20:58
  • @Mayube Good chances are that HR would never openly defend a sexist joke made in writing on an official professional communication channel.
    – Stef
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 9:40

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