I am new at this great company, 2 months now and loving the project I am working on with three other developers.

But one day, after making a point to one of them about stop playing with a stress ball, stop hitting it on the wall, repeatedly, every now and then, that it doesn't help for my concentration; and that we are in an office not in a backyard; he become arrogant and always mock me in collaboration of another colleague. He didn't accept it easily, tried to make fun of me and our little chat ended in situation where we stop talking to each other.

Now, every time, someone in the office make a somehow disturbing sound he talks and sarcastically say something like 'stop that sound, you make him (me) distracted'. I do not answer him, they are in front of me, I heard them laughing at me I choose not to face them and ignore them especially him with mocking.

I don't know if it is starting to become a bullying act from him but I cannot work with ease in such electric context. I try to control my anger towards him and just ignore his talk. Talking to manager is not an option to me because, it will reflect that I couldn't handle it myself and that I am somehow not social person.

I could use a sarcastic comment and answer him back but I want to make it professional; and the only thing that is between us is work. Any ideas?


4 Answers 4


Sarcasm is rarely best in such situations, as his comments are proving out. They are intended to bait you and unfortunately, as the new employee you’re the one who doesn’t have any social credit built up with the group. And you didn’t help yourself by telling him it’s not a backyard.

Whether or not you feel like you owe one, your best course of action may be to apologize to him. From his standpoint, you attacked/demeaned him. That is, the new guy told him what to do and belittled him. Polite and contrite is a better option than attempting to out-sarcasm him, especially at this point.

[Joe], do you have a minute? I wanted to apologize for how I addressed you last week. I was having trouble working through an issue and it was rude of me to handle it the way I did. Can we move on from it?

Edit My apologies if I'm getting too preachy, but sarcasm in anger rarely turns out well. Sometimes you can win the specific argument with it and shut up the other person. Even then you've usually damaged the relationship, which almost always is bad overall. In this case, not only was the fight not won, but now the overall relationship is bad.

  • The idea of a sarcastic answer was to stop him from continuing in his manner and for me to try using humor instead of going to manager track. But your idea seems reasonable and me too prefer handling it in a polite way. Thank you I 'll try that. Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 15:34
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    @fromTheFifties Sarcasm is rarely ever humorous for the target, try to keep that in mind
    – Josh
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 16:34

You obviously stepped on some toes by addressing your distress about the sound of your colleagues method for stress-management (throwing his stress-ball repeatetly against a wall).

While you are completely entitled to demand some peace and silence in the office in order to concentrate on your daily duties, your approach wasn't the best in this case.

While telling him

..that we are in an office not in a backyard

You could have tried it in a more diplomatic way bay saying:

Dear John, While I fully understand that your job here is quite demanding and can be stressful at times, I would appreciate if you could repsect my need for concentration and restrain from bouncing your stress-ball against the wall every now and then - I would really appreciate it!

But since the milk is out of the jar, I suggest you try and talk this situation over with him. Sit him down in a quiet minute without your coworkers around and have a one-on-one explaining him why his behaviour makes you uncomfortable and offer him an apology for the tone you used in your initial complaint.

Do this in a polite way and hope for his understanding so the both of you can move on having a professional and friendly relationship at work, but do point out that his sarcastic comments are not appropriate.

Good luck!

  • Yes good point; In fact, I replied to him like that after he showed me an arrogant response and neglect my demand. But it's okey I can approach him and try to explain my point of view. Thanks Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 15:42
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    @fromTheFifties You are welcome! Always remember: "The wiser head gives in" - that saying also applies to the workplace and such conflicts you are currently experiencing.. ;)
    – iLuvLogix
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 15:49

As you'd rather handle this situation by yourself, it may be worth trying to speak with this colleague again and attempt to maintain a civil conversation with this person. Perhaps apologise if you came off rude to them the first time and explain why their actions are a distraction for you and ask if there's anything else they could try to do or limit these actions. Maybe even moving desks to an area further away from these colleagues?

Another option is would it be possible have earphones in so you can listen to music as a way to deafen out the sound of your colleagues actions?

If none of these succeed then it may be best to speak to your manager about it, explain the situation, how it escalated, how you've tried to handle it yourself and go from there.

  • Exactly the same two ideas I tried: moving to a chilling box when I want to focus on my work. Yes, it may be worth trying speak with him in a civil conversation. Thank you, the headphones tip is noted. Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 15:37

I suggest you respond with: humor.

One person might: Plan a dramatic moment, like in a movie. where you bring your own stressball, and you're asking your co-worker for coaching on, "okay, how do you do this? should I aim for that point on the wall, or this?" ("After you found that bug so fast the other day, I'm questioning myself whether I should try this!")

Someone really intense might: Bring a set of noise-reducing headphones, earplugs, and five signs that say "Noise-Free Zone." When the co-worker makes the "you're bothering him" comment, all this paraphernalia comes out of the desk drawer or backpack. Then you say, "no, no actually it's fine! I actually worked out a solution over the weekend!"

  • ...slowly put in earplugs.
  • ...slowly don headphones.
  • If people are looking, slowly pull out signs and place them around the desk.
  • Ask someone for a piece of tape, or a thumbtack if you have a corkboard.
  • Twenty minutes later, you try to play music or audio on your computer, ask a co-worker "what is wrong with this darn thing? I have the volume on."

Someone like me might: plan a series of small jokes and gags. (remember, what your co-worker will say is pretty predictable.)

  • Falling out of the chair when he says, "stop that sound, you're distracting him/her."
  • Joking, "YEAH! It distracts me. Also, it would be nice if nobody would BREATHE for the next (checks watch) 3.8 minutes. That would be really helpful." (pausing to look around)
  • If anyone has turned their head to look at you, you say "I think that's pretty reasonable, right?" (You've been characterized as someone fussy and unreasonable, so just take it to its logical extreme...)

Your own ideas are going to be better than any of mine, since they are custom-designed by YOU. The key to this is not taking yourself too seriously. Recognizing within yourself (and your own past actions) the potential for the ridiculous.

Your goal is not to "win" a conflict. Your goal is to loosen up and help everyone else to loosen up around this whole issue. One incident has gotten blown way out of proportion. (possibly because it connects to deep parts of who each of you are - your valuing being able to concentrate & do what you perceive is professional and... maybe your co-worker's value of playfulness & a relaxed environment.) You want to put things back in perspective.

If you can't see anything ridiculous about your role in this conflict... maybe tell the story to a trusted friend, without saying that you are even one of the people in the story. Then you could ask something like, "So the guy who's getting picked on is really stuck. Is there anything he can legitimately apologize for?" (I've done things like this before, and friends have thought of things I never would have myself.)

Also, keep paying attention to what you value about your colleague in his work. Keep thinking about that and noticing (not necess. aloud) what good he's doing on the project. It will affect the tone of everything - things you say and things you don't.

If you want to try using humor, don't be surprised if you're nervous beforehand. There's an element of risk to it. Feel free to run your ideas past someone in your life whose thoughts you value! Even rehearse!

If that seems too "wild-and-crazy" for you, go for the vulnerability option as someone talked about above. (in fact, one of the best kind of results of successful humor would a good laugh followed by a conversation where you're able to "get real" and be vulnerable with your colleague.) In any case, you know what your goal is... you have a great workplace, interesting project, & you want to be able to restore things so you are at peace & able to work together wit the rest of your team well. (maybe even rise to a level of working together & functioning that is BETTER than before!)

Best to you, in this & other ventures!

  • It would help if these were actually funny. Instead it would make OP look like a creep.
    – Green Cell
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 7:27
  • Tell me some funny ones you have in mind, Green Cell! (Or do you just think that whole way of going about conflict resolution is flawed?)
    – user110352
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 17:41

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