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My coworker is ruining what's otherwise a great job. I love all my other coworkers and the benefits are great, but this guy is incredibly offensive and rude. Here's some highlights:

  • He'll make comments about my body, like saying that he likes that my shirt is low-cut or that I have "nice forearms".
  • He tries to start political arguments. Today I was talking to something else in the hallway about dogs and he walked up and said "That reminds me of how I called into a radio show yesterday to argue with this dumb republican. You're not one, are you?"
  • He criticizes every thing I do or own if it's not something he's into or owns: "Why do you go to the gym? You know it's bad for you." "What are your plans this weekend? Why do you like going out for a drink? You seem like an alcoholic."
  • He chews while talking and spits food on me all the time. Today it was when I had my headphones on and didn't know he was talking to me.
  • He comes into meetings I'm having with someone else about work projects to tell me that he watched some TV show yesterday and it was good.

I've tried telling him that I don't like each of these individual things, but there's always something else he does. If this was outside of work I'd say something like "shut the fuck up" but obviously that's unprofessional here. What are some ways I can deal with this?

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    Seems to me it is time to talk to your boss about it. Keep it factual, describe how it affects you and your performance, and document some situations before you talk. – michi Feb 22 at 21:20
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    This may be nitpicky, but I think you mean he has zero social grace. A social cue is something one person gives another (wearing headphones in public) that someone else may miss. – BSMP Feb 22 at 21:35
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    My politicial opinions are quite opposite of a Republican, but if he asked me literally whether I'm a dumb Republican, the correct answer is "I'm a highly intelligent Republican, but you sound a stupid Democrat". (Parties swapped if you asked me whether I was a dumb Democrat). – gnasher729 Feb 22 at 22:49
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    This isn't "zero social cues". This is workplace bullying. He's very aware of the effect he's having on you, take the light as the prime example. – Brad Thomas Feb 23 at 1:30
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    "saying that he likes that my shirt is low-cut " sounds like sexual harassment to me, and grounds for dismissal, especially if repeated in from of witnesses. report it you boss and/or HR. – Mawg Feb 25 at 11:34
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Like all the above answers have said, yes, you should strictly tell him to stop making personal comments about you, you don't like him interrupting in meetings and when he makes racist comments.

Any sane person will understand and will respect your preferences and opinion. If the behaviour still continues it is a red flag. It's high time you ask your boss to intervene.

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Every time he starts talking to you in a way that is offensive, shut him down.

If he makes a comment about your body or clothes: "Please don't comment on my body."

If he starts talking politics: "I would rather not hear political talk at work, so please stop."

If he starts putting down people based on race: "Please don't make racist comments around me."

Don't argue or try to explain your reasoning. If he says the comment isn't racist or tries to explain why what he said or did wasn't offensive, just walk away.

Annoying comments about TV shows and possessions can be ignored, but when he comments on your body or makes racist comments, that's veering into protected territory. If he doesn't stop those, you have a responsibility to go to your manager or HR. (And yes, even if you're a guy, it can still be considered sexual harassment for him to comment on your body.)

Edit: Considering the comments about the person possibly being on the spectrum of autism - Someone with autism is perfectly capable of playing by the same behavioral rules as everyone else, they just need those rules more explicitly defined. So when shutting down inappropriate conversations, you don't need to unkind, but you can still shut them down.

Some conversations are just ones that annoy you, and there you are better off making it about you, not them: "Hey, I'm working with Jose right now, so please can you take your TV conversation elsewhere so I can concentrate?." "Please, can you eat elsewhere - it bothers me when you eat that closely to me."

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    @RichardU Asking a co-worker to not talk about race or your own body - it doesn't matter if they're on the spectrum or not. There are laws to keep that out of the workplace. They may need more clear guidance on how to be appropriate, but they still have an obligation to be appropriate. – thursdaysgeek Feb 22 at 21:56
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    @RichardU In other words, although the ADA laws might protect this co-worker in some ways, the laws also protect me from being subject to sexual and racial harassment. He doesn't get to be a jerk when it crosses the lines based on other laws. – thursdaysgeek Feb 22 at 22:00
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    It's an ADA-actionable myth that autistic people aren't able to understand that some behavior is off limit. This is a prime example – George M Feb 22 at 22:03
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    @RichardU - comments on clothing and body can go that way quickly. Shutting it down before it gets that far is best. And usually the people making comments like that are not autistic, they are normal jerks. Someone with autism will not normally want to offend, so letting them know that conversation is off limits means they will then stop talking about the OP's body. A jerk, on the other hand... – thursdaysgeek Feb 23 at 0:35
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    This, but remove the word please. "Don't comment on my body" is much stronger than "Please don't comment on my body" - it is less polite, for sure, but you don't need to be polite when someone crosses a line. – corsiKa Feb 23 at 0:49
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Is your coworker autistic? If so, does HR know?

If so, then you need to tread lightly, as you could get an ADA action against you if you are not careful.

If you tell him to not do a specific thing, and he stops, then does something else similar, then he's doing EXACTLY what you are telling him.

Full disclosure, I am autistic and have a similar problem to your coworker, what works and has worked with me is being explicit.

If he's stopped doing the things that you've told him to stop, the best way to address it is to lay out clear guidelines.

Bob, we've had discussions before, let me be clear this time. Not only do I want you to stop commenting on my shirts and forearms, I do not want you commenting on my appearance at all.

You can take it a step further.

Bob, I don't want to hear about your politics, and I don't care to hear any criticisms about anything not work related.

If he does indeed have autism, things that may seem as common sense to you are things that need to be spelled out to him.

When and if you do so, be clear, vehement, concise, and don't get into a debate with him.

If he starts to make an argument, just say.

Bob, I've already made this clear to you and I am not going to discuss this further. Stop these behaviors, I don't care if YOU see nothing wrong with them, they are bothering ME and that is not going to change. Thank you.

Now, that might sound harsh, but it's what MANY autistics need to hear if you're going to correct behavior. We tend to think yes/no, black/white with little nuance. We don't catch subtle hints, we don't catch obvious hints. Anything less subtle than an airhorn just may escape our notice. The good thing is that we tend to NOT take these seemingly harsh pronouncements as rude.

Good luck

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