I work in the I.T. department as I had an issue with cheap toilet roll and unable to sit because of pain so I decided to put in a request. We use a survey site to put in suggestion and those that get passed are applied. I recently made a suggestion which was "mocked" by someone else in the business.

It was an attack on me in reply to what I asked the business "if" they can do it.

I am afraid tomorrow this guy (who is sales agent) can spread it around and start mocking me when he sees me. Do I take an action against him by complaining to HR? or how do I react to it.

  • What are you trying to accomplish by reporting him to HR?
    – sf02
    Sep 18 '19 at 17:17
  • It doesn’t happen again or shouldn’t be accelerated
    – user15704
    Sep 18 '19 at 17:23
  • Shouldn't be closed. It's about a specific issue, but the answers are general. At least as valid a question as most of the questions here. Sep 20 '19 at 13:52
  • Was the survey anonymous? Jan 7 '20 at 23:07

Toughen up a bit.

At this level, it's been one comment, poking fun at something you posted. It's obnoxious, but it's certainly not HR-level, and the fact that you think it is suggests that your sensitivity meter is dialed up too high by at least a few notches.

You can offer cogent argument in the comments about how what you're suggesting is not the same as what he's implying it is - things like actual level of cost difference, and so forth. Possibly include reference to "Is your bathroom breeding bolsheviks?" as a humorous aside supporting the morale benefits of proper paper goods in the restrooms if you think you can get away with it.

That's not the same as trying to invoke official censure on the guy, though. That's the sort of escalation that cranks it way up. Instead, wait. If he shows up the next day, and starts teasing you in person, tell him to stop, and that it's unprofessional. If he continues, then you have a much more solid case to take to HR. Perhaps he won't.

I'll tell you, the mockery level that you've gotten thus far? There's a good chance that that's him telling you to toughen up a bit... and he's right in that, even if the example he chose is lousy. Mockery is not always a hostile act. Sometimes it's trying to tell you things about yourself that you really ought to consider changing. Of course, sometimes it is hostile. That's what you wait for tomorrow to find out.

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    Where you stand depends on where you sit, but I would suggest that responding to a toilet paper joke with "cogent argument" is a near-guaranteed way to make yourself the butt of further jokes, which can be a real PITA going forward. Something like "Not everybody's a hard-ass like you, Bob", or "we're not all so calloused down there" would be much better. If Bob can't take that joke, then Bob looks butthurt in front of everybody and OP looks like the one who can take a joke in good humor. Sep 19 '19 at 12:57
  • It is often the case, especially in smallish companies, that HR really does want to help, it's possible to get on their good side, and doing so can be quite useful. If you go in being obnoxious and demanding, though... well, if you want HR to be your friend, you need to make friends with them.
    – Ben Barden
    Sep 19 '19 at 15:14
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    @DrunkenCodeMonkey Also in the US HR will try to solve problems, because that's the sanest (and cheapest) solution to most problems. But that doesn't change the fact that HR is not your friend. If they can protect the company from damages by terminating your contract, they'll do so and most won't have any bad conscience for doing so.
    – Voo
    Sep 19 '19 at 15:46
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    Because employees in other developed countries have rights and there are laws to protect your employment. Talking to HR is not something I fear as a Canadian. Sep 19 '19 at 22:02
  • 3
    @DJClayworth As the venerable xkcd comic reminds us xkcd.com/1053 , not everyone knows the things that everyone knows. If it is true and important that HR is Not Your Friend, then it will be necessary and proper to keep reposting that response for as long as people keep asking questions here. Sep 19 '19 at 22:25

I think you are misreading the social cues here.

From the now-deleted screenshot of the chat, the sequence of postings is:

  1. You make a posting asking for better quality toilet paper.
  2. Someone (M) makes a straightforward reply that you need to go to facilities, who handle this.
  3. You then post asking if a bidet spray is an option.
  4. Another person (A) posts that maybe the company should buy silver spoons, install cinema seating in the break room, and have waitresses bring champagne.
  5. You make a post clearly aimed at A chastising him for mocking you and telling him you are shocked by his reply.

I don't know if you are aware of this, but in the UK a bidet is considered a luxury item. Virtually nobody outside the very rich would install one. The suggestion that a workplace install one is so outrageous that most people would assume it is meant as a joke.

Given the above it is very likely that A thought you were joking about the bidet. He may well have been following on from what he thought was a joke, raising the stakes by asking for even more luxury items. It's very likely that he wasn't mocking you at all, but was joining in with what he thought was a joke. (If you did mean the suggestion about the bidet seriously then it was a huge misjudgement about what is realistic in a work environment, and a little mockery might well have been deserved. In the UK gentle mockery of people who have made a mistake is considered normal. It doesn't mean they don't like you or respect you.)

If A thought you were joking then your response was also out of place. The best you can hope for is that he took your response as a joke too. If you want to retain good relations with him you might consider a lighthearted apology.

Under no circumstances follow this up, especially not with HR. If you happen to run into A, then I suggest "nice joke about the silver spoons" would be an appropriate remark.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    May 22 at 7:42

I seriously doubt that AR is going to mock you for asking about better toilet paper. What he will mock you for is acting as if a juvenile joke about toilet paper is a personal attack against you.

If you take this mishmash to HR they are most likely to tell you that just because you have a sensitive asshole it is no reason for you to be a sensitive asshole. Your best tactic is to let it go.

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    Teacher! Johnny just said the a-word! Sep 19 '19 at 11:04
  • 2
    Isn't a sensitive as***** the whole reason for the request? Not sure how your suggestion changes things.
    – iheanyi
    Sep 19 '19 at 15:26

Is the total extent of AR's mockery this one post? If so, I really think you need to calm down.

What do you expect HR to do? Do you think they're going to fire him because he made one snide remark about toilet paper? Or even give him some sort of formal reprimand? In a normal, healthy workplace, people joke around with each other all the time. Trying to turn this into an HR-intervention-worthy offense is escalating this far beyond reason.

If he came back tomorrow and made more comments about this, and the next day and the next day, and turned it into a constant, steady stream of harassment, yeah, there might be reason to escalate this.

But complaining because someone made one sarcastic comment ... If I was the manager or HR person and someone came to me with a complaint like that, I would not for a moment think, "This guy who made fun of him is a problem". I'd be thinking, "This guy who complains about trivial things like this is a problem." Make enough complaints about things like this and the company is going to be looking for an excuse to get rid of you.

Just ... don't.

If someone makes fun of you like this, realistic options are: 1. My favorite: Laugh along with it. Make a similar joke about yourself. If the person was just joking in good fun, this puts you on the same side. If the person was really trying to be hurtful, this shows that you're not hurt by it at all. 2. Ignore it. In a case like this, easy to do. 3. Make similar caustic comments back. This turns it into a fight, but if you're good at it you could win. Possible but I wouldn't recommend.


how do I react to it

Ultimately, that's a question that needs a personal answer based on your own goals and your feelings.

No one likes to be mocked, especially when making a helpful suggestion about a sensitive topic. But it's important to also keep in mind that those who mock are often just looking for attention - they want to get a rise out of you, and they want others to laugh along with them. With that in mind, sometimes it's best to ignore a mocker if you can.

Or, disarming them by either responding without any emotion at all (i.e. in a non-provoking, non-engaging manner) or sometimes even by laughing along with them if it's appropriate, can de-escalate the issue and take the steam out of their sails.

In your specific scenario, depending on how your company is structured and how the survey is run, maybe there's an admin person responsible for the survey system who would be willing to remove that comment - and, potentially, have a talk with the offending employee about proper use of the comment system.

You also asked,

Do I take an action against him by complaining to HR?

Ultimately, if a person shows a pattern of mocking you to the extent that you feel they are creating a hostile workplace - and you've exhausted reasonable attempts to solve the conflict yourself - it may be appropriate to involve HR. But keep in mind, HR basically exists to keep the company out of legal trouble. In other words, they are there to stop you from suing the company. They are not there to solve your arguments or worry about your feelings. So, don't engage HR unless you are prepared for a legally-oriented, risk management approach to solving your problem.


Human resources doesn’t care about individual, isolated incidents.

First and foremost, I am honestly not too sure what you mean when you say this:

I work in the I.T. department as I had an issue with cheap toilet roll and unable to sit because of pain so I decided to put in a request.

But in general — and unless the incident is incredibly crazy or violent — individual incidents of harassment are not of a concern to human resources. What human resources is looking for in most any organization is the existence of patterns of behavior that stand in the way of work getting done.

These incidents can include a specific incident like this… But without other incidents to show a clear pattern of harassment, human resources will not solve any issue here.

So I would recommend you simply make note of this incident personally somewhere; date time and details. And if more incidents happen, then you have a case.

But as far as this individual incident goes, I would recommend you simply address the person mocking you straight on and don’t be haughty or indignant; just clearly state

“Well, this might not be the biggest issue we have, but I think it’s something that should be addressed in some way.”

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