I have joined a big company 2 months ago. In this company, there is a strong focus on diversity and inclusion, as well as making the employees feel well at their work.

However, the department / team where I started does not seem to always embody these values fully. In my team, the most senior engineer made some sexist jokes (in the lines of comparing women to washing machines), and some of my other team colleagues did not seem to mind and even encouraged this behavior. I reported this to my manager and the situation has improved (at least no more jokes were made in my presence, but I have also avoided to be in the team space at the times of the day where this was likely to occur).

Despite this improvement, I have never felt safe again, and I am not able to fully focus on my work. As a consequence of this, I am late on one of my tasks and am being pressured to finish them quickly in a way that makes me feel very uncomfortable, even though I am new to the company and still learning how to do my job as an engineer effectively.

I am now planning to have a conversation with my manager and ask to change teams, but I am afraid that I will be seen as unreliable and over sensitive. When searching for a new team, I will probably have to interview with teams, so I am also wondering how I can present myself in a good light.

I am genuinely interested in doing great work and contributing effectively, but already came to the conclusion that this will be really hard to achieve in my present situation. Can you please advise me as to how to proceed?

  • 3
    "I have never felt safe again" can you elaborate? Also, how do you know that a new team will fix your performance issue? How could the current team make you feel better and is it something you could perhaps address? Are you always going to jump ship, even after the problems you address get resolved? Of course you shouldn't stay in a position that makes you feel uncomfortable, but what is it about the current situation that's not working for you even after the problems being addressed?
    – Jonast92
    Mar 14, 2019 at 12:00
  • 7
    So, is it possible that you're dealing with anxiety, something a new team won't necessarily fix? What's the worst thing that can happen with your current team that you can't handle? I've experienced stress and anxiety myself, so I can relate to you but you need to take a step back and investigate whether switching teams is actually going to change anything. Could you perhaps wait until something actually happens again before asking to switch teams?
    – Jonast92
    Mar 14, 2019 at 12:06
  • 7
    The joke may have been inappropriate and in poor taste (although we don't know for sure and have to take your word for it), but how exactly did/does it make you feel unsafe?
    – joeqwerty
    Mar 14, 2019 at 12:13
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    What I'm confused about is what it is that you're afraid of and what you're afraid of might happen. Why is it affecting your work? What are you afraid of? If you're afraid that you'll get personally harassed, based on it happening before, I'd understand that. If the worst case that can happen is an inappropriate joke, you wouldn't necessarily be physically or emotionally hurt by it, so if it happens again you can always ask to have the situation handled or ask for a transfer once it's clear your team won't be willing to change, but they've shown they're willing to change?
    – Jonast92
    Mar 14, 2019 at 12:14
  • 3
    I am flabbergasted at all the people who seem to think that OP is being ridiculous or oversensitive. Assuming that OP is a woman (which I am assuming because of the reaction to sexist jokes), there is a very real and very reasonable fear to be had from people who are willing to make such jokes.
    – Cooper
    Mar 14, 2019 at 16:26

4 Answers 4


Being made to feel unwelcome, especially due to a serious issue like sexism, I can definitely understand having an impact on your work and while others may disagree - it's clear you personally do not feel comfortable in the presence of that team anymore.

As nobody except for you can determine what will or won't improve the situation for you - I don't feel it's appropriate to suggest any different course of action to what you've asked for help with (changing teams).

Unfortunately, the situation you are in is complex. As such, the best advice that can be given is to simply outline what your realistic options are and the issues with each (rather than trying to prescribe which one you should pick).

Changing teams due to mismatched aspirations
This is possibly the most common reason for an employee to ask to change team. They are performing well in their current role, however they aren't realising their full potential. As such, a request is made to change to a team that provides more opportunities for growth.

"I currently know x, but want to learn y - so I can contribute more further to the business"

Unfortunately, as you've only been there for 2 months - it would be hard to argue that you've already reached your skill ceiling. That isn't to say it's impossible, if there's a massive difference between the current team and the new team (finance vs PR for example), perhaps a case can be made about where you really want to be in 5 years.

But realistically, it would be out of the ordinary for you to have taken a job in one field, and two months later realise you wanted to be in a different field.

Changing teams due to mismatched skills
Second to having the wrong potential, is that you may argue you are skilled, will succeed and bring value to the company - but not in this role.

This can be dangerous in your situation again, as you are making it clear that you feel you aren't suitable for the role anymore.

Importantly, there is every chance that this would be written off as "you need more time in the role to develop" and in nicer organisations "we'll arrange more training for you".

Changing teams due to cultural mismatch
Potentially, you can argue that the culture of this team is mismatched with you. This would definitely be true - the sexism you've experienced shows that.

However, in many companies the culture is fairly uniform with only minor differences between departments (how friendly your boss is). You may find no other team has a culture that is distinct enough to warrant a team change.

More importantly, the other team's culture may be seen as a "perk"; that is - your boss may see no reason you should specifically get to work with that team "just because you want to".

Generally, if you're bringing this up - you need relatively big problems to focus on. For example, the need to work from home, the need to have flexible working hours or the need to work within a more Agile organisation. Also, generally the solution is - you'll find a new company to work for.

Changing teams explicitly due to the sexism
Of course, you can explicitly bring up the sexism as the problem. This would be a legitimate reason for changes to be made.

However, as you've seen from many comments and other answers here - the sentiment is likely to be "well it hasn't happened again, we'll continue to work on fixing that issue - within this team".

Beyond this, there is a real chance that the problem exists in other teams and is dealt with less effectively. That is not to say you need to stay in the current situation; but it's unfortunately a realistic consideration you need to make when making this request.

Changing team with a different employer

Unfortunately, the reality is this is the option you have most control over. If the current employer is not working for you - it may realistically be the easiest option.

I don't feel it's worth going into pros/cons of doing this.

As a final note; be aware if you are under a probationary period. While it would be great to think all companies will try to maximise the use of all hires - the reality is you will be sticking up a big "this isn't working for me" flag.

In the context of probation periods - some will argue that's "exactly what they are for", and at that point, may suggest you and the company part ways.

Be aware of this potential outcome when raising request.

  • 2
    Thank you, this was the type of help I was looking for. You made me be aware of the tradeoffs of all the options, instead of second guessing my reasoning. I don't know yet if I will actually ask for a team change, but now have some good ideas to guide my decision.
    – emperorof
    Mar 14, 2019 at 15:30

I reported this to my manager and the situation has improved


Despite this improvement, I have never felt safe again, and I am not able to fully focus on my work

and why that would be?

You are very right to complain about something that was a problem for you (as it was a pretty bad behavior, in general, I agree) and it was resolved. What is stopping you form getting back on track now?

The one(s) who made the mistake realized their faults and improved themselves - unless this happens again, there is no reason to dwell on the past.

I am now planning to have a conversation with my manager and ask to change teams

Why? What would that solve? Being devil's advocate here: Can you ascertain in your new team someone won't repeat the same thing (knowingly or unknowingly)? Can you guarantee that it will solve the problem you think you're still having?

All above are rhetorical questions: the point is, whatever problem you may think you have, changing the team is not the solution. If you feel by "running away" will solve your problems, well, think again, more likely you'll run into the same problem again.

The best way to find a solution is to involve.

  • Talk to your team, instead of avoiding them because of the mental picture you've painted, try to get to know them. Chances are, they will turn out to be better than you might have thought.
  • If you feel you're too "scared" to even talk to people - probably you need some professional counselling to help you find out how much truth is there in that "theory".
  • 1
    This seems more like a comment / question on the original question to get more info than an actual answer.
    – DaveG
    Mar 14, 2019 at 12:00
  • 2
    It is helpful. Sourav Ghosh is trying to show you that there is no reason to feel unsafe in your current team because the situation changed. A team change will likely not change your problem as it is basically guaranteed that there is always someone in a team who will make inappropriate jokes.
    – GittingGud
    Mar 14, 2019 at 12:12
  • 1
    The thing is, @GittingGud, that feelings are not logical, therefor we can't expect OP to find this exact answer helpful unless it digs to the core of the feeling. You can't tell someone to feel one way or another. Yet I agree that the answer does bring good points that may help.
    – Jonast92
    Mar 14, 2019 at 12:19
  • 1
    If changing teams does not solve the issue of sexist jokes, then the entire company's culture is toxic and OP should focus on finding a new job somewhere else.
    – Cooper
    Mar 14, 2019 at 16:27
  • 3
    @SouravGhosh The issue was caused by a culture that allowed people to believe that making those jokes was acceptable; even if the joking has stopped, the overall culture may not have changed.
    – Cooper
    Mar 14, 2019 at 18:17

I had a similar situation a few years ago, and based on that I'd encourage you to go ahead, talk with your manager, and try to find a team that's a better fit. In my case, the problem was a "team dynamic" because the team was only 2 other guys who very good friends, and it became clear that anything I said or did was going to be dead on arrival.

But the end result was that my boss was understanding (these two guys had had problems with other developers so my manager knew what was going on) and got me into a much better situation. In your case, given the "jokes", it's completely reasonable to request a reassignment to another team.

You should be clear with your manager, but when interviewing with other teams try not to badmouth your existing team. When I interviewed with the other team, it was more a case of discussing what the team did and how I would fit in, rather than discussing why I wanted to switch. In other words, more like a regular job interview. You wouldn't talk about all the stuff that was wrong with your previous job, you'd ask questions about your new job.

  • 1
    Thank you for validating my gut feelings about this, and showing me that this can be a viable option for me as well. And thank you for your empathy and understanding.
    – emperorof
    Mar 14, 2019 at 15:32

This company-values stuff is very hard work. They don't teach it in engineering school.

Your company has stated a focus on diversity, inclusion and wellness. That's great! Stated company values are helpful when you want to know the direction of the company. But, obviously, these values aren't always shared by everybody at the company. Do these values represent the hopes of the company's executives? Or are they part of the present reality? There's a difference. Sad but true.

You said it's a big company. Big companies are like oil tankers: changing course takes a long time and lots of hard work. There's always someone who doesn't get the word about stated company values. If these stated values are new to the company, there will be many who have not yet gotten the word.

In many countries you have the right to a workplace free of crude sexist jokes and other such foolishness. The behavior of your teammates was unacceptable, and you did the right thing by raising the issue with your manager. It seems your manager did the right thing: the situation has improved. Good.

You're now part of the company. Your presence is part of the company's culture. You made a big difference by calling out your teammates' behavior. And you will continue to make a difference. You are willing to take a personal risk to help the company live up to its values. It's unfair for the new person to have to take all the risks. But you still did it. It took courage and moral clarity. Well done!

Keep this in mind: You're not oversensitive. This stuff is a giant pain in the neck. But you are not the problem, you're part of the solution. You've already proven that. You are an agent of change. That takes a lot of patience and tolerance for neck pain.

Still, you're not safe at work and your work isn't going as well as it should. Your question is what to do about it.

  • Should you ask for a transfer? You can do that. You should if you're in danger.

  • But you have another choice: stay with this team. It will be unpleasant. But it is possible. You will do good work if you stay, both as an engineer and as a member of the company's community.

Keep your eyes on the prize: what will your workplace be like when you are a senior director?

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