We work in a building with 5-6 different companies sharing 3 elevators. One day, one of my male colleague and I entered into a lift which was 3/4th filled. By mistake, my male colleague's forearm touched one of the women and he adjusted immediately. But, she responded rudely to him and said something nasty. My colleague and I were not happy with what happened. Yes, he was hurt and he said the same after coming out of the elevator.

She is not a colleague and we have no idea which company she works for.

I was wondering, what could I have possibly said to him to pacify him or infact, to that woman?

  • You may also ask "what could I have said to that woman"... – Solar Mike Jun 23 at 15:34
  • @Solar Mike, edited. – Sara Jun 23 at 15:55
  • please add if it was just nasty or if it was an insult, also if the woman in question works in the same or a different company and if you know the company she works in. – Sascha Jun 23 at 16:39
  • @sascha I felt she could have ignored that unintentional touch and her reaction was unnecessary. Edited the post. – Sara Jun 23 at 17:34
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not about navigating the workplace. Probably best ask this in "Interpersonal Skills". – solarflare Jun 23 at 22:54

In the moment, apologize and let it go. It was likely a misunderstanding.

Let your colleague know you observed what happened, that they didn't do anything wrong, and that it's probably best to let it go. Weird interactions happen from time to time, it's just the nature of working in social organizations. Your colleague will appreciate the validation that they behaved appropriately, but nothing more needs to be done.

If this individual repeatedly treats others rudely or disproportionately, consider offering them some feedback. The gender or employer of an individual doesn't change the behavioral norms or standards of your workplace - undesirable behavior is unwelcome regardless of who the actor is.

You don't need to work with someone to offer feedback - if this is someone you occasionally run in to in the elevator, and have similar interactions, speak up.

However, you should be thoughtful and careful in delivering feedback. Be careful to not draw distinctions along gender. Focus on the specific behavior you observed and the impact it had on you - never presume what the recipient of your feedback may have been thinking or trying to communicate.


Just say "I think that was uncalled for - some people are idiots - sorry you have to put up with such crap." to your colleague. Depending on your mood and aggressiveness you can say that with the other person in reach or not.

If you feel very aggressive, the next time you see the woman in the elevator and are with a male colleague, point ironically out to him to keep a safety distance.

  • I prefer quite much your approach of the 1st paragraph, the 2nd not so much, especially in a work setting. It is a small world, you never know when you are crossing paths with that person tomorrow, much less with someone working in the same building. The 2nd paragraph feels childish. +1 for the first paragraph. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 25 at 11:43

Simply tell him that, statistically, there is always going to be a certain percentage of fools, and there's no point in worrying about how they react; all he should be worrying is if he did everything from his side correctly.

If he did, and the other person still reacts in a rude manner, it's that person's problem, not his.

Of course, in places and times with inane laws and courts, this answer might need some modifications...

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