I am about to join a new organization and I wonder how I should tackle negative banter from co-workers.

The perception others have of you could be tainted with how you respond. What is the best way to respond to in-office banter?

  • I heavily edited the question as the original was a rant about not taking advice from coworkers. I'm still voting to close as I don't see this as productive. feel free to roll back and try to re-edit.
    – squeemish
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 19:03
  • @squeemish: How you deal with your co-workers at the start depend what impression you make, and that carries ahead, and the same way they deal with you in future. How do you say it's not productive?
    – RajSanpui
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 19:05
  • 1
    your initial question mentioned people said things to you like 'speak more slowly' and 'did you take notes'. that's not banter, buddy, those are legit questions and advice. so your initial question was not productive, as the only answer to give would have been, "listen to your coworker's advice." it didn't come across as banter, which is defined as light-hearted joking
    – squeemish
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 19:09
  • i edited it again to try and help. your assumptions don't help the question.
    – squeemish
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 19:11
  • 1
    I think this is a great question. It's also applicable to new people you meet even in an established organization.
    – enderland
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 19:27

2 Answers 2


Did you throw away my notes?

There are more than a few ways this can be expressed and while some may be rude, I'd probably take a couple of other approaches first. My initial thought is that someone may have misplaced their notes and wants to know if I may have discarded them, whether accidentally or intentionally. I don't see this as rude as much as asking a question that may come after trying to find them and being rather unsuccessful about it. Secondly, there could be the sarcastic vibe here where this is meant as a joke or tease in which case this is just someone wanting to see how would I handle being labeled as a "bad boy" in a sense. I could respond in kind or I could just acknowledge, "I wouldn't do that."

My main thought here is to consider what kind of image do you want to present and what kinds of interactions do you want to have with your co-workers? While this may seem like a simple suggestion, I'd argue most people don't really consider this question too deeply. What kinds of characteristics do you want to show off regularly? What kinds of things should people know about you within those first few minutes of meeting you? To some degree you have to consider if you want to be a, "Just the facts, ma'am," kind of worker or do you want to be a Linchpin? Do you want people to see you as driven, ambitious and egotistical? Do you want people to see you as reserved and rarely talks? While some of this can be considered personality, some of it is character and some is what kind of role do you want to have in this workplace. Some people like to only talk when it is necessary, some people prefer to talk all day long about anything.

how you don't know that being a x+ years experience

This is likely a trap where I'd be aware of a few points here:

  • If you answer this question, is it likely to just cause more questions and let the person continue on a witch hunt? Some people may have various assumptions that when an anomaly happens, it blows their mind and they make these knee-jerk remarks.

  • If you try to be overly mature, you may well come off like the person bringing down the mood as this may have been intended as a joke to some extent. "How could you not use a singleton with 10 years of programming experience?" could well be answered by simply noting that one may not always like this pattern and thus rarely uses it or sees it used.

The other thought I'd have here is to consider your own emotional intelligence. This can be a very useful soft skill to have in the world and if you want a book suggestion here, "How To Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie would be my suggestion in this area.


Judging from the way you write about this, I believe that you are very defensive, and very quick to interpret what others say as putting your in a negative light.

The shortest advice I can give is don't be defensive, but I also think it may turn out to be the hardest in your position.

The thing is that if the person who said something like "Did you throw away my notes?" didn't intend to offend you, you'll only aggravate the situation by responding in a defensive way.

You need to let your guards down and focus on just getting your work done. A very good tool to help you get back on track by using assertive communication. There are plenty of courses that can help you get started.

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