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The company I work for also owns nightclubs. Due to COVID the nightclubs shutdown. A bunch of their staff got transferred to where I'm now working. There is one former doorman (call him Tim) who is always telling a story to make himself sound cool and macho. He used to work at a gay club and tells stories about physically fighting off gay men and cross dressers who were hitting on him. (FWIW both me and Tim are straight)

I would really rather not hear about this kind of thing. While he doesn't tell me these stories, he speaks loudly to the person next to me so I have to hear. For the most part Tim is a reasonable guy. I would like to at least try addressing the issue with him. Management has requested everyone tries to resolve interpersonal problems at the individual level before escalating.

It almost seems like the fact this is happening in the workplace is an irrelevant so I tried asking on Interpersonal Skills. But the people there didn't see what the problem was. So I'm saying it would be nice if I didn't have to listen to such stories and I would like to do something about it and have a good chance of remaining on good terms with Tim.

Only thing I can think of doing is next time he starts I'd say "Hey Tim could you knock it off with these types of stories? I'm getting a bit tired of hearing them"

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    @Daniel the kind of story
    – Yuftre111
    Sep 3, 2020 at 12:03
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    @Old_Lamplighter the problem is he tells annoying/distracting/disturbing stories, a couple of reoccurring themes involve fighting and sex.
    – Yuftre111
    Sep 3, 2020 at 12:04
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    Out of curiosity does my question make sense? On the interpersonal skills website the most up voted is "I don't really get the offense in your example. Do other co-workers also share your point of view? " which seems strange to me
    – Yuftre111
    Sep 3, 2020 at 12:13
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    @Daniel If nothing else, we agree on this point. Sep 3, 2020 at 13:02
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    related: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/4206/… and workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/10779/… though the issue here is the content, some of the advice might well work Sep 3, 2020 at 14:02

6 Answers 6

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The question here is what your particular issue is. Is the content of the conversation offending you, is the conversation itself distracting you from work, or do you simply not like hearing the same story repeated?

If it's about distraction...

....ask them to keep the conversation to a low volume that is acceptable for the workplace. You're essentially asking them to avoid creating unnecessary distractions in the workplace.

Whether them having the conversation at a low volume is acceptable is contextual to your workplace. If low-key conversations are generally allowed in the workplace, there is no reason why Tim's conversation wouldn't be allowed if similarly low-key.

But I strongly suggest you do so without bringing up the topic of the conversation, instead only focusing on the volume. Bringing up the topic is just going to distract an otherwise valid argument about being disturbed by loud talking while you're working.

If it's about offensive or inappropriate content...

...then you need to address it as such. Explain to Tim that you do not consider this conversation appropriate for the workplace and suggest that they talk about this during their free time, if they so choose.

If Tim is unwilling, dismissive or combative about your request, then you can escalate this to either management or HR (depends on the degree of how inappropriate this is).

If it's about repetition...

...that's not really a valid argument. If Tim tells the same joke every day, and the person/people he tells it to don't mind, then you really don't get to override that just because you have heard it before.

This is crossing a boundary; you don't get to decide what other people should or shouldn't talk about based on your personal opinion.

If the conversation was targeted at you (or loudly about you), you'd have a leg to stand on. But if you happen to overhear a conversation (at a reasonable volume), you cannot reasonably expect to steer others' behavior based on your critique.

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  • It was more on the topic of "offensive or inappropriate content." It's hard when he does it in front of other people and someone laughs. Today he said/did something very disgusting that I would not think anyone over the age of 16 would do. It was so stupid I don't really feel comfortable talking to him let alone writing details here. Should I try talking to him or go straight to manager? Should I ask a separate question?
    – Yuftre111
    Sep 21, 2020 at 7:29
  • @Yuftre111: Without details, it's hard to judge this. No offense intended, but it's impossible to distinguish between something truly horrible and something you find horrible. The fact someone laughs doesn't help answer that either. Generally, you're better off speaking to the person before you speak to management, as a show of good will and not needless escalation. If you escalate, they will respond in kind, and that usually nets a more negative outcome for both of you. However, when you get to the truly horrible, keeping a manager in the loop from the start is a better idea.
    – Flater
    Sep 21, 2020 at 9:37
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I would really rather not hear about this kind of thing. While he doesn't tell me these stories, he speaks loudly to the person next to me so I have to hear.

Only thing I can think of doing is next time he starts I'd say "Hey Tim could you knock it off with these types of stories? I'm getting a bit tired of hearing them"

If you can't just shake your head and walk away, rolling your eyes and saying that should work.

You might consider saying "I'm getting a bit tired of hearing them AGAIN.", with emphasis on the last word.

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  • Not to negate this answer but rather to point out a likely consequence: since we're dealing with a person who is seemingly proud of proactive aggression, this approach may put you in their crosshairs. I'm not saying that he'll physically assault you over it, but it seems highly unlikely that this person is going to silently accept your critique of him and his stories.
    – Flater
    Sep 3, 2020 at 12:04
  • When shaking my head and walking away, how exactly should it be done? Subtly or in a way that makes it clear like looking at him when doing it?
    – Yuftre111
    Sep 3, 2020 at 12:06
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    The advantage of this approach, to me, seems that it can also be done in a good hearted manner, along the lines of "Oh there goes Tim again with his story!", roll eyes and smile
    – bytepusher
    Sep 3, 2020 at 22:56
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Hey Tim could you knock it off with these types of stories? I'm getting a bit tired of hearing them

This is clearly incredibly aggressive and almost certainly going to lead to a bad result. The important thing is to focus on how they affect your work:

Tim, I'm concentrating on a hard problem here. Could you keep your voice down a bit please?

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You want to avoid being the office busybody, and any action you take may get you labeled as such. I'm somewhat troubled by the fact that you are ascribing motives to his actions where you do not know what his motives are, unless of course he's openly stating as such.

Management's advice to you is reasonable. Everyone is present is an adult, and can resolve their own problems. Failing to do so makes environments more like minefields and war zones than a healthy workplace.

If he's talking to other people, the best course of action is to just pack up what you are doing and walk away without comment. Keep doing this and eventually the person will ask you why.

At that point, you should state your case in a friendly manner, if possible. You don't want things to escalate, and you want "clean hands" in all professional dealings.

How friendly, or joking, is up to you and your relationship with Tim. The office environment/culture is also something to take into consideration.

You can approach this from the perspective of his volume, repetition, or content, but do so professionally.

It's okay to "zing" a person a little bit, especially if the management culture is to sort it out yourselves.

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While he doesn't tell me these stories, he speaks loudly to the person next to me so I have to hear.

Only thing I can think of doing is next time he starts I'd say "Hey Tim could you knock it off with these types of stories? I'm getting a bit tired of hearing them"

I'd find it rather rude if you get in on two other guys' conversation in that way.

I'd rather try:

A. Professional approach: If somebody talks near your desk, just say "Sorry would you mind to keep it down a bit or move to the coffee kitchen maybe? It's making it hard for me to concentrate on my work." Don't target Tim individually when he is part of a conversation that you are not.

B. Interpersonal: Have a private conversation with Tim and tell him how you feel. Don't invalidate him but rather make it about how it makes you feel. Use I statements. Something like "Hey Tim, I really enjoy our conversations. Only, from time to time they make me feel a little bit awkward. Its especially these macho stories "example" that are bothering me. You come across as a tough guy anyways, there is really no need to convince me further with these stories."

Depending on whether you want him to stop distracting you at your desk or if you only want to hear less of these kind of stories. Note that you won't change him with that one conversation. These kind of things need to be consistently reinforced. He will probably never stop this altogether, but he should tone it down around you.

We have a friend in our social circle who tends to do the same thing with gross bed stories. We got him to tone down most of it, but sometimes he snaps back into it and we have to remind him again.

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In most cases the request of management that people try work to work out their issues amongst themselves is quite reasonably. However when you are faced with a muscular former bouncer who likes to brag about his martial prowess, this can understandably be a quite intimidating and daunting prospect. In this case I think there is nothing wrong with immediately (anomously) voicing your complaints somewhere else. And I think it would be unethical (and possibly illegal) of your company to demand from you to try to resolve it yourself first.

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