I recently started working doing CAD tasks for a more experienced engineer. I work in Europe.
I am 26, male. The engineer appears to be in his mid-to-late thirties, also male. He is highly experienced and respected by his own superiors and colleagues throughout the company.
However I have noticed that when we started working together he makes disrespectful comments to me. A particular one that really annoys me is that he approaches me by saying "hey girl" instead of addressing me by name. I don't like this and feel disrespected every time it happens. I respect women and am not sexist, but this has nothing to do with it. I am all too aware that these types of comments are designed to distract, and if they are supposed to be funny I don't find them to be so.
Since I don't like it, I feel like I must address it. I have 4 real choices, all with positive and negative consequences
Take the "high" road and ignore it I could ignore it/divert the conversation. This would help avoid conflict, and enable me to get back to work with minimal distraction. Unfortunately, it could also cause the behavior to recur and escalate. It could send the message that I don't mind such comments and cause the person to try more provocative statements. This would have a negative toll on my emotional/mental health and self esteem, and ultimately job performance.
Report to HR I could take the problem up with HR. If they take my claim seriously they could have the power to truly threaten this individual and have him immediately stop. The risk also exists that they would not take it seriously. If this happened, I would feel insecure at this company, since such behavior (which I find unacceptable in a professional setting) is tolerated by most in the company. What's worse they could have a non-threatening word with him which would make him aware I reported it and further exacerbate working relations.
Respond by employing similar language What I mean here is responding using a phrase like "Hey gorgeous" or "hey lovely woman" or something along these lines. I.e feminize the individual just like he is trying to feminize me. I have already used this strategy with this person. Positive consequences are that it immediately mirrors the behavior and the person is put on the spot, it shows the person that you are not afraid to retort with disrespectful language if you are disrespected, and in my experience it has mitigated the behavior somewhat. Finally it also is a sort of 'light' way to deal with the situation and avoids major conflict. However there are negative consequences. I was not raised to find such language or sense of humor to be acceptable and so it heavily distracts me from work if I have to succumb to the same (and what I consider to be low) comments. Ultimately I don't feel like I am being the best version of myself if I am disrespecting a colleague.
Respond firmly to the situation I could also respond to the situation by saying something loud and clear like "Did you just call me 'Miss'? Please don't ever use that kind of language with me again, OK? I am not your wife or your girlfriend, you don't call me 'miss'. I have a name, you use my name when you want to address me". Preferably this has to be done with other employees around so that there are witnesses. Positive consequences are that I am dealing with the problem firsthand without resorting to HR, and staying true to myself by not succumbing to similar disrespectful behavior. Negative consequences are that the individual might not take me seriously (since there are no consequences to my threat, being a junior employee). Others may find that I don't have a sense of humor or worse that I have anger management issues. Also I might be alone when the individual approaches me and if I respond then it will surely have no effect, or outright amuse the person. If my threat is not taken seriously it will be quite humiliating later on, might even inflate the joke to something everyone uses.
How can I deal with this situation with as much tact as possible? I'm seriously afraid that it might become an ongoing joke, and will take a toll on my future plans with the company.