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I'm a new college graduate who started working at a large company. Each year, the company recruits some new graduates to join a 2-year program. So, the program always has two "classes" who share a single manager.

I am a gay man and working somewhere with a welcoming, inclusive culture is very important to me. After getting to know the other people in my "class" at work, I told them that I felt like the older class gave off a "bro-y" vibe.

I know it wasn't the best decision to share this, but I shared it in confidence. Now, someone from my class told the older class. Obviously, I'm upset about it spreading, but today the older class surrounded me and basically accosted me about it. They shared that they were hurt by it, and I feel really bad.

To be honest, I can't help but feel like it's a little tone-deaf for straight white men to confront a gay man who's described the office culture as "bro-y." Ultimately, while I'm upset that this spread and was interpreted negatively, I do agree with what I originally said.

Is calling the office culture "bro-y" even offensive? I'll definitely apologize to these people for hurting their feelings, but should I do anything else to get back to a neutral relationship with the older class?

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    hi and welcome! right now your question is not a very good fit, just asking the opinion. Is there you problem you want help solving? For example, do you know how to navigate back to neutral relationship with senior class? Or what to do when you manager asks about the incident? these are actionable questions that can be answered by the community here – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Aug 30 '19 at 1:34
  • Thanks! Yes, I'd like to get back to a neutral relationship with that class. I've added a more clear question at the end. :) – galily Aug 30 '19 at 1:44
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    @JoeStrazzere My gut feel would be seen as a poor attempt at deflection. I personally wouldn't bring up complaints while apologising for something I did. Maybe have a seperate conversation about that once things have calmed down. – Gregory Currie Aug 30 '19 at 3:16
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    @galily Why do you believe it is tone-deaf for someone to take offence at a characterisation of their behaviour? – Gregory Currie Aug 30 '19 at 3:18
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    @Shadowzee en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bro_culture – mattumotu Aug 30 '19 at 10:20
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What is offensive varies from person to person. There could very well be people who would get upset at being called a bro, as it has a certain image that those people may not apply to themselves.

That they are straight white males, and the fact that you are gay does not mean change the fact that their feelings can be hurt.

If the situation was switched and they said something that hurt your feelings, and then you told them so, even if they did not find what they said to be offensive, the civil thing to do would be to apologize for the statement.

As a general rule in the workplace, unless someone is obviously messing with you, or trying to annoy you, then it is usually best to just apologize to someone when they say a statement you made about them was offensive when your original intention was not to offend them.

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So it's OK for you to cast disparaging terms at another group of people? And you're upset that they called you out on it? Is that what you're saying?

The hypocrisy on display in your question is, quite frankly, astonishing.

You seem to be searching for a way to excuse the fact that you offended them. Asking the internet if that term is offensive is immaterial. The target of your use of that term found it offensive, and that's what matters here.

So yes, it is indeed offensive.

Addendum:

I'm a little surprised at the comments to my question. They illustrate the very points that the LGBTQ and the Black communities have been making for years.

It doesn't matter whether the person uttering the term considers it offensive or not, and it matters not whether they intended the offense or not. The target of the term found it offensive, and that's what matters here. Trying to excuse it by saying it wasn't intended and that the OP doesn't personally find it offensive gives us all license to say whatever we want... to or about anyone we want. We could simply excuse ourselves by saying that we didn't mean any offense and that we don't personally find it offensive.

Would it be OK to call someone in the Black community the "N" word if I say that I didn't mean any offense and that I don't personally find that word offensive? Of course it's not OK, and nobody here would support me in such a stance.

Would it be OK to call someone in the LGBTQ community the "F" word if I say that I didn't mean any offense and that I don't personally find that word offensive? Of course it's not OK, and nobody here would support me in such a stance.

This is the crux of the issue here. The OP used a term that was offensive to the people he directed it at. It doesn't matter what the OP personally thinks about the term or whether he meant to give offense or not. He doesn't get to decide what is offensive to other people and he doesn't get to freely cast disparaging remarks simply because he doesn't personally find them offensive.

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  • It doesn't sound like the OP considers the term to be disparaging but rather a description of his impression of them. This response seems unnecessarily aggressive, although pointing out the OPs need for some introspection is a valid point. – mattumotu Aug 30 '19 at 10:17
  • If anything, it seems like the word the OP intended but perhaps didn't think of (based on their responses above) is "cliquey". That's not necessarily disparaging (although it can be used that way). Often people naturally form into cliques without even realising that's what they've done and it makes it hard for outsiders to join in. On the other hand, the group surrounding and confronting OP sounds very intimidating, and even if OP's description was intentionally insulting, I don't think their reaction was justified. – delinear Aug 30 '19 at 11:43
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People don't like to be stereotyped even if you don't believe the stereotype is inherently negative. Exchanging the word "bro-y" with just about any other adjective that isn't explicitly complementary would likely trigger a similar response. I think your instinct to apologize is correct but your apology would be more meaningful if you take some time to think about why your actions were wrong.

You just started a new job and are already engaging in gossip about the people who were there before you. The professional world isn't high school and you shouldn't go around saying things about people you wouldn't feel comfortable saying to them directly. More importantly, you're passing judgement on people you barely know. Before assigning them derogatory labels, take the time to get to know them as individuals. If you go into a conversation with a set of assumptions about the person's character, you'll likely find what you're looking for. On the other hand, if you go in with a neutral perspective, you might discover something surprising.

So yes, apologize but make sure you understand why you're apologizing. If you give them a phony, "sorry I hurt your feelings but I still think I'm right," it'll only make things worse. Inclusivity is a two way street and as a new hire, it's important for you to make an effort to acclimate to the company culture. Maybe you'll find that the culture is simply a bad fit, and that's fine too, but if you're inflexible and hold people to impossible standards, you'll likely have this same problem anywhere you go.

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After getting to know the 4 other people in my "class" at work, I told them that I felt like the older class gave off a "bro-y" vibe.

I think this depends on the what you mean by bro culture, but I take this to mean young white (straight) male centric culture that is prevalent in bad company (especially tech) cultures. Bro culture is not a good thing. It's similar to calling the older class, racist, sexist, ageist, anti-LGBTQ+, etc all in one.

If you don't think the older class has a bro culture as I just described, then yes you effectively insulted them and I would apologize for mixing up the terminology.

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  • Hm, I probably should have mentioned this in the post, but does it change how I should address the situation if I do feel like they embody some of those values? For example, I heard one of them allude to not liking spending time with female coworkers. – galily Aug 30 '19 at 3:39
  • @galily - Why is that a bad thing, unless it's happening at work? I'm selective who I spend time with in my free time. Would you think me a bad person if I didn't socialize with co-workers young enough to be my children? You really have a LOT of pre-conceived notions about what other people should be doing. – Julie in Austin Aug 30 '19 at 22:38
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I'm a part of the LGBT community, I'm also older, female, etc. Lots of things which actually aren't limited to the younger and ... less bro-y ... crowd.

Terms like "bro" can be extremely offensive for many reasons, because they are so highly loaded. We "know" what "bro culture" is, and for many of us who are over 30-40, female, queer, not into video games or table games in the break room, "bro culture" can be a huge indication that a workplace is just plain not for us.

But "bro culture" is also not monolithic and you do a disservice to people when you toss "bro" or "bro-y" out there. Saying one group is "bro-y" isn't actionable. Especially if the group isn't a perfect stereotype of "bro culture".

And as one homo to another (I don't think "homo" is offensive. I mean it as shorter version of the letters "LGBT", which are just too hard to type in capitals, I hope you understand ... maybe ...), going for the "homo" card is, like, tiresome. What does it mean to be "unwelcome"? You're young -- people will talk about their opposite sex partners and hanging out with all the opposite sex partnered friends doing opposite sex things like having babies and getting divorced and being just plain miserable. This is normal. If you want to be "welcomed" you have to be welcoming, and interesting, and not think everything is about some facet of your life. Sometimes it's actually about you. And the way you think saying "bro" is okay.

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Sometimes it feels like this world has gotten too caught up with what it's offended by. If the stereotype fits then so be it. Obviously they exist for a reason. If you are uncomfortable about the environment created by the other class then that is your opinion. Other people should not shame you.

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