I've worked with an engineering consultancy firm for a little over 2 years now, on a team of approximately 15 people. I’m one of three graduates on the team and there’s one guy (we’ll call him John), who has been with the company for ~6 years and is the next grade up. It’s more or less John’s responsibility to “look after” us by delegating work, showing us how to do specific tasks, etc.
It took John quite a while to come out of his shell. Having been the youngest on the team by quite a margin for a few years, I think the arrival of three bright-eyed and bushy-tailed graduates quite upset his work dynamic. He slowly opened up to us more, joining us on trips to the pub or joining us for lunch, and he actually admitted he was happy that we’d started as he now had people of a similar age to chat with. As he got more comfortable, he started ‘bantering’ more and more, joking that he thought our new haircuts were ugly, that our shirts didn’t match our trousers or that we looked particularly ugly one day. It was funny at first and believe me, he’d get back just as much grief as he’d dish out. As time has gone on, I feel as though his jokes are getting increasingly personal, and I’m starting to have a hard time seeing the funny side.
I have psoriasis, which I’m very self-conscious about to begin with – it’s not as bad as it could be which I’m thankful for, but it does mean I can have quite inflamed/dry skin. Last week alone, he commented on the appearance of my skin 3 times in a jokingly/insulting manner. This isn’t just a one off either, it’s the same every week. When he would joke about our outfits or our hairstyles I could laugh it off knowing it was just a joke, but when he brings up the condition of my skin it makes me feel so embarrassed, ashamed and aware of what I look like. On a recent staff night out I confronted John saying that his jokes are starting to genuinely upset/anger me, to which he responded that he could tell they were, he was sorry, but he just “couldn’t help it” and that “it’s just the way he is”. He insisted that he thought fondly of me and felt bad about how he’d made me feel.
When in the office, I’ve been trying to distance myself from John, in an attempt of reverting the relationship from a friendship back to a professional one. My thinking was that this would discourage him from directing any further jokes towards me. Although, my recent workload has resulted in me having to work one-on-one with John and sure enough, the jokes have creeped their way back in.
It’s at the point where I no longer look forward to coming into work on a morning, and am considering looking for work elsewhere (which is a shame because I really enjoy this job usually). I’m not sure how I can go about addressing this issue without completely disrupting the team’s work dynamic and causing a fuss. John is quite close with our line manager (we’re generally quite a close-knit team), having worked with the company for a considerably longer period of time so I feel as though I can’t approach them for advice on the matter. I also think involving HR would be too extreme. I’d approach John directly again, but this proved useless last time.
Ideally, I don’t want to have to change jobs just to avoid one person, but my patience is wearing thin. How can I deal with John so that he stops making personal jokes about my appearance?