6

I have come across a situation where an employee more senior than I (I am 30 and he is probably in his 50's or 60's) has taken a habit of making deprecating comments towards me such as the following. Please note that I am an immigrant under a working visa from a developing country, and the senior employee is a native of the developed European country where I currently work. Let's say I come from Kazakhstan:

  • "kazakhs are barbarians"
  • "Your goal is to work here and then run off to kazakhstan so you can collect welfare money, right?
  • "Do as you're told, Boy."

The senior employee has a lot of international experience in developing countries, speaks kazakh, and so probably thinks that they are being light-hearted. At first I took things lightly and didn't think much of it, but the repeated and increasing aggressivity of the comments has begun to take its toll.

I called this person earlier today and proposed that we go grab a coffee. I thought I would inform them in person that I don't find these interactions funny or amusing anymore. However this employee is a senior, has very little time, and probably sees the trap laid out before them. They did not take my request to grab a coffee seriously, diffused it and probably will not address it again.

I decided the next best thing is an email, so I wrote something along the lines of :

Dear Senior Employee,

It appears that both our schedules are too busy for us to have a one on one coffee like I proposed earlier today. This unfortunately leaves me no choice but to write an email.

The reason I wanted to talk is as follows: I wanted to inform you that I have reached a point where our day to day interactions make me uncomfortable. I am referring to both general comments and specific ones related to, (for example) my ethnic and cultural background.

While your intention may not necessarily be to offend, I would like to inform you that I perceive things differently. I find most of these comments highly offensive and inappropriate. Would it be possible for you to take this into consideration in our future interactions?

I hope that this message will not jeopardize our working relationship and I look forward to working together on future projects. Please do let me know if you would like to further discuss in person and I would be happy to do so.

Best Regards,

I want to give this person the benefit of the doubt. If this email doesn't have the desired effect (i.e. for them to completely stop all snide comments and limit interactions to things related to work). I thought I would collect all incidents in writing and stop by HR.

Would you guys please let me know if this is a reasonable approach? Does my email have a reasonable tone? Do I run any risks by making such a complaint in writing? I would like to eliminate this source of toxicity in my workday.

EDIT

Some problems I see with this approach is: - the employee could decide to ignore the email and persist with the behavior, and claim to never have been made aware if I ever end up going to HR - the employee may actually miss the email - the employee may read and acknowledge the email but not respond.

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, Rory Alsop, solarflare, user32882, JazzmanJim May 10 at 19:56

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    To address your edit: The employee can "claim" to have missed the email, but cannot steer clear of the fact that you communicated the problem to them. They missed the email - that's again a problem from their side, you'll have enough proof to show that you initiated the communication. – Sourav Ghosh May 8 at 18:33
  • If you vote for the question to be closed would you please indicate why? – user32882 May 8 at 19:00
  • not you @SouravGhosh. I was saying in general... – user32882 May 8 at 19:03
  • They are actually pretty close, unfortunately. They are however delivered in a joking tone. It is true that among "Kazakhs", for instance we will self-deprecate and use such language, but amongst each other it doesn't sound as offensive. Kind of like black people in the US find it OK to call each other the N word but highly offensive if a white person uses it. This person, since they speak my language and lived in countries similar to my own, thinks that they are entitled to these kind of comments... Except they are white-european, and I have never granted them permission... – user32882 May 8 at 19:16
  • Offensive language is offensive no matter what race you are. – Donald May 9 at 1:30
12

Yes, I think you did the right thing. The language and tone of the email conveys the message in a perfect way, you can send it.

Wait for the outcome. If the email do not change the situation, go to HR. The first two comments and likes are harassment and discrimination - most likely it will not be tolerated in any sensible workplace.

  • didn't send the email yet. Wanted to run it by you guys first to see if its appropriate... – user32882 May 8 at 17:41
  • 1
    @user32882 I'm in for the idea, send it. – Sourav Ghosh May 8 at 17:42
  • Will wait to see if other people have different answers. Would like to get some perspective on this.... though I of course agree with you – user32882 May 8 at 17:45
  • @user32882 Of course, I did not mean to rush you. All I'm saying is - you're thinking the correct way. – Sourav Ghosh May 8 at 18:01
  • 3
    @user32882 Agreed with Sourav - you're approaching it the right way, and HR will likely ask you if you've tried to resolve this directly with the employee anyway. – Havegooda May 8 at 18:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.