5

A new person was hired a few weeks ago. He's tells semi awkward jokes, mostly punny ones or "dad" jokes that half the time, aren't perceived as very funny. Every so often he tells a joke that has a sexual theme or a sexual innuendo in it, that also isn't particularly funny and makes me slightly more uncomfortable than his unfunny jokes.

Just recently at a company outing, with alcohol involved, he made a joke to me where he said a dirty phrase and then pretended he said a very innocuous phrase. He then told this "joke" to a few women directly next me, who either thought he said the innocuous phrase or who were just playing along.

Earlier, one of those women said to me how they were going to the other end of the bar to avoid this new co-worker. She didn't say why, I just assumed because he was being socially awkward and/or annoying to her, but still not inappropriate.

I feel that at this point I am required to address his inappropriate behavior, because it is no longer just impacting me. The company is small (~14 people) and I have a "senior" title, but no one reports to me.

Should I go directly to HR, speak to him directly, go to my boss for advice, or some combination?

  • Why involving more people in the issue? Warn him once, now if he reacts as he should, everything is OK. If he does not,appropriatelly, then your case will be much stronger – David Mar 25 at 7:41
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I'd suggest: talk to this new guy first. Maybe he is trying to prove himself as "cool" or "smart" or "friendly" or whatever, but he needs to know, his approaches are not welcome. We don't know his personal or prior professional background, but he needs to know, in his new workplace, people are not comfortable with his "behavior".

Ask him over for a friendly chat, and tell him

"Hey XYZ, I noticed you passing comments and making jokes on certain matters which are not very acceptable to me and I feel uncomfortable. I noticed some other folks also trying to avoid you, maybe this is related. I believe you do not have any intention to hurt anyone, thus I'd appreciate if you stop making those comments and jokes. We all will go along better then.".

He should get the point and understand and I'd expect that this behavior will stop.

But, if it continues, talk to your other colleagues, and report this to your manager and HR.

2

There are two issues here : the awkward jokes that don't land well or making him annoying, and the sexual innuendos. One is just about how to deal with an annoying colleague, the other is a more serious issue.

The lame jokes

Your colleague is being annoying and people don't want to spend time with him because of this. This is a really common and small issue, it's really not something you should bother HR or even your boss with. You're all adults, annoying colleagues happen everywhere, it is expected of employees to handle small issues and differences.

Since his behavior is annoying a lot of people, it would be a kindness to him to tell him this (see the quote in Max Hodges' answer). It's an awkward conversation to have, but it would be great for him (and the rest of the company) if you could tell him how his jokes are making you uncomfortable. So if you feel up to it, have a talk with him about this (I like the script Sourav Ghosh provided). You also could talk about this to your boss, not necessarily to ask them to intervene, but to get some advice on how to handle this situation (and if they want to talk to this new hire themselves, yay for you !).

Finally, I'd suggest going to the Ask a Manager website, which has a LOT of posts on how to handle annoying colleagues. Here are a couple : Dealing with an annoying coworker and My annoying coworker is driving everyone crazy.

The sexual innuendos

This is more serious and I would try to put a stop to this as soon as possible. There are two things you can do :

One : go to your boss and/or HR and tell them the new hire regularly tells jokes with sexual undertones. This is something that your company will want to know, since jokes like these create a hostile work environment. I'm not a lawyer, but those kind of jokes can be considered as sexual harassment. All that to say, telling those jokes at work is not OK and your company will want to put a stop to it. You already have one woman avoiding him (probably) because of this. You could also ask that woman (or someone else you know is uncomfortable with his lewd jokes) and go to HR or your boss as a group (but this is not a necessity, you can go alone).

The goal here is not to get him in trouble, or to make him a big bad guy. He might just be an awkward dude who never had someone drawing the line for him. The goal here is that someone with some authority over him tells him what is not OK at your company and that they take it seriously. If this is coming from a colleague, even a senior one, it softens the message. He needs to hear it loud and clear.

Two : put a stop to them in the moment.

  • "I don't find this funny."
  • "This is really not appropriate in the workplace."
  • "I don't want to hear those kind of jokes, please stop."

Even just keeping a straight face and saying "Wow", "Not funny" or "Seriously?", then moving on to something else will let him know those kind of jokes aren't well received and you're not going to let them pass without saying something. Many people don't want to do that because it feels rude, but he is being the rude one, let him be uncomfortable instead of everyone else. Here's another Ask a Manager post that could help on a colleague who jokes about violence.

You could try the second option before going to your boss, but what could happen is that he stops telling those jokes in front of you and continues with those who don't say anything (and there's a number of reasons why someone uncomfortable with those jokes might not speak up, not saying anything doesn't mean you're ok with this). If I were you, I'd go to my boss, and only go to HR if my boss's response is lackluster or the behavior continues.

If the behavior continues, call it out when it happens and keep a log (for HR). If other colleagues do the same, all the better.

But hopefully one talk with your boss will put a stop to it and you'll just have to handle the dad jokes.

1

Generally, the best practice is to try and resolve conflict at the lowest level possible. It's generally more effective and efficient to directly talk with someone rather than to escalate it to a manager or HR department.

However, in this case, you might also want to start keeping a personal journal. Write down what was said and when. Also, keep a memo of the conversation you have with him about it. When you talk to him, you can keep the conversation impersonal by simply informing him that he's made a lot of sexual jokes and that kind of talk isn't appropriate at your workplace. If you like you can tell him that you thought he should know because it could eventually cause him some trouble and hurt his success on your team.

Since you know that some other women were avoiding him, you could suggest that they too have some straight talk with him.

Here's something from Patty McCord (former head of HR at Netflix) which I think applies here:

Most of us feel that we can’t tell the people who work for us or with us the truth because: They’re not smart or mature enough to understand it. Or it wouldn’t be nice....this desire to make people feel good is often as much a desire to make ourselves feel good as to do the right thing. It often leads to people actually feeling worse, because they’re not correcting a problem in the way they’re working, and that eventually comes home to roost. Part of being an adult is being able to hear the truth. And the corollary is that you owe the adults you hire the truth.

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Please call this guy and have a talk with him drawing his attention to your observations vis -a-vis what the company conditions of service or rules of behaviour says.It the company's rules is silent on that please bring it up to the authorities responsible without reference to him as you will be helping in building the company in another way.

  • On the phone? Be humble. Be helpful. Do it immediately. Do it in person. Don't make it personal. – Max Hodges Mar 24 at 14:38

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