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My team is 100% male contractors. We all work for different companies, and our manager is also a contractor working for another company than mine. Our manager is being misogynistic as well as racist on a daily basis.

Regarding his misogynistic views, he thinks that because we're all males, we're all OK with him berating women. He sees women as objects and we keep hearing "look at that ass" or "nice boobs". Also, in his view, I shouldn't allow my wife to work. And, still in his views, men are superior to women because of a lot of reasons which barely make any sense. When confronted, he uses some unverifiable sources that he read online. He never publicly exposes his views when in the presence of a woman.

On the racist side, he's a metis (african father, european mother), but identifies himself as a black person. He uses that to keep saying that black people are superior to white people for a lot of other reasons which also make no sense. When confronted, he poses as a victim: "so you're saying white people are superior to black people?"

The team doesn't condone this and has tried to have him stop his behavior, usually by trying to reason him, without success of course.

What to do with him regarding this behavior? In normal circumstances, I should go report to HR or management, but given that I'm a contractor, there's no HR and given that he's my manager, I will obviously not report to him.

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    Is it possible to go over his head? Report his behavior to his supervisor. – Xander Apr 10 at 9:30
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What I take from your description:

  • There is no way to reason him. You already tried and it's obvious this doesn't work out. So there is really no point in having the same tiring discussions with him again and again. He won't change.
  • You also don't want to be silent, because beeing silent can be taken as tacit approval.
  • As you are a contractor, there is no really no place to go, which has the authority to make him stop his behaviour, without having a high likelihood of backfiring and getting you into trouble instead.

Of course you could just search for another job, or tell your company to give you another position, but the truth is, that we will unfortunately meet a lot of those people in life and we don't always have the choice, to work with people who are likeable.

What I would therefor suggest in this situation - atleast if you are unwilling to change it by searching for another job - is showing brief disaffirmation, without engaging in a discussion, everytime this happens.

Some examples how you could behave:

  • He makes a racist comment: You just point out "That's racist." nothing more.
  • He makes a misogynistic joke: You just say (with a 100% serious face of course!) "That's not funny." and nothing more.
  • He is berating woman: You just look at him with disrespect in your eyes and say nothing.

Of course this will be awkward at the beginning, but the goal here is to withstand the natural reflex in human behavior, to play over awkward situations by joining in the group or trying to change the topic. Let it be awkward. Awkward silence is actually a strong tool in making people realize, how silly they are. Just don't give him that confirmation, that it's okay what he is doing, because it's not!

Deciding on how to act:

While the above is in my opinion a sound mode of behavior, which enables you to face this situation with integrity, at the same time we also shouldn't ignore the fact, that we don't know how your manager will react to this.

In the best case you will be able to just keep on working without beeing bothered by this anymore, because he will just stop socially interacting with you in this way. In the worst case of a really toxic person, he may make your job really miserable to the extent of bullying and working to get you fired.

In the end, how to behave is your call to make and a lot of factors may play into this decision. (Would your company back you in case of a conflict? Do you have any job alternatives if the worst is going to happen?) Keeping your head down is certainly also an option, if you feel that you are not in a position to start a conflict at the moment.


Alternatively you may also want to try out the following, which is one of my favorite strategies in the case of racist/misogynistic jokes: Play dumb, say that you don't understand the joke and ask him to explain it. There actually is no way to explain a racist/misogynistic joke, without actually admitting beeing racist/misogynistic in the first place, which will make him look really silly. Of course you can't overdo this (it works better with peers instead of with your manager because of the power-balance), but I did that a few times in the past and had a good laugh at the people struggling to explain such a joke.

  • 1
    @bruglesco That's certainly a valid point you are making. I totally missed that aspect in my answer somehow and on rereading, that paragraph really comes of wrong ... I hope you don't mind, that I stole your viewpoint and edited that part in the answer. :-) – s1lv3r Apr 15 at 11:11
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What to do with him regarding this behavior?

Based on the information you have provided, I believe you are in a classic no win situation. Going to HR would most likely not offer any relief, and may in fact make things worse should you reporting the behavior get back to the manager.

You have three options in my view:

  1. Tell your employer to find a new home for you.
  2. Just put your head down and do the work, ignoring the behavior.
  3. Find another place to work yourself.

Good luck with this situation.

  • 2
    Re: #1 - don't just tell your employer to find a new client, tell them why you're asking for the change. – alroc Apr 13 at 12:48
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The team doesn't condone this and has tried to have him stop his behavior, usually by trying to reason him, without success of course.

This already tell a lot about the person. And about your chances to actually fix the problem.

Since you have no HR or other authorities, then the only way is the face to face "confrontation".

If you tell him anything about what he thinks / talks / does, he may get offended; therefore you may have greater chances of success talking about you and about how he can help.

This is one way to put it:

Hey boss / James / (or whatever you call him). I feel uncomfortable when you say that (you can mention exactly what bothers you). Of course, I respect your opinion, but it does not help me feeling better. Therefore, will you please not say that while we are in the office, and keep it professional? Thank you.

You may add (to support your point of view):

I have a different way of respecting women, and I do not enjoy watching only certain parts of their body. Also, I think all people are equal, and no group is inherently superior to any other group.

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