Recently I am experiencing an awkward situation with my team. We are 10 people, divided in three micro areas. I have daily contact with my direct supervisor and one colleague and we work really well together.

Once per week we attend a general virtual meeting with the others. I notice that there are moments in the meeting when someone clearly looks at the phone and starts smiling and consequently all of them do it. I know some of them are mean: we have a general chat on WhatsApp where they make fun of the appearance and the skill of our HR, or some manager, etc. They act during our meeting in the same way they act when we have a meeting with these people.

So it is clear for me they are laughing at me, maybe because of my face or something I say, etc. I was the last person entering the group, BTW. How can I let them understand that it is not nice of them? Cause if they are really laughing behind my back, after my confrontation things are only going to get worse...but I can’t handle anymore. I feel really underestimated and humiliated.

  • Have you brought this up with your supervisor? Or is your supervisor in on it as well?
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 14:38
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    The assumption that they are laughing at you sounds questionable. Could be a kitten pic for all you know. They are leaving you out of their private chat, which is not fun, but telling them their social rules are wrong is likely to make your exclusion worse. And if they actually are mocking your appearance, would you want them as your friends? /// If I were running the meeting I would be very annoyed by people playing with their phones, by the way.
    – Pete W
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 15:51
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    Thank you Pete, I agree with you, playing with phone or being distracted in a meeting is terrible. But I don’t feel I am there to tell to stop, as there are 3 supervisors and our Boss in the meetings. To clarify: I don’t want them to like me, they can laugh and send pics and whatever, but I don’t want to see them doing in my face: like they don’t even care if I might realize and get upset. Sure there is a possibility that I misunderstood the reason of their behavior, which would make awkward a conversation about it. Thank you anyway
    – Van
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 17:05
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    If you are the one who is talking, while they play with their phones, you do not need the permission of your supervisors/bosses to friendly ask the colleagues for their attention. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 7:31
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    @PeteW If they're openly mocking HR and management in the general chat, why is it questionable for OP to think they say the same things about them? There's nothing in the question that suggests that the OP's co-workers would view them as off-limits for making fun.
    – BSMP
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 8:23

3 Answers 3


Whether they are laughing at you or at something else - does not matter. What matters is to behave professionally in a professional / work environment.

Next time this happens, i.e., they start looking at their phone / start smiling / start a side-talk, ask them "Hello, is there something I'm missing? Once we are done with the discussion, you all can get back to your phones / discussion. Help me to get it over with quickly and we all can go back to whatever we were doing. Hope that is okay".

Well, based on the situation, you may want to alter the wordings a bit, but without letting them know that they are essentially wasting your time and that of the company's (by getting distracted from the discussion, thereby prolonging the meeting/ requiring re-work), there's no way you are going to make the situation better.

Don't make it personal - to reiterate, the topic of the discussion really does not matter, what matters is they are distracted during a meeting and wasting time (and money) - that is what is not acceptable and needs to be dealt with.

Aside, if they do it behind your back (as long as it does not involve your time), you have nothing to do with it, learn to ignore and move on.

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    @KillianDS "If I'm included in such a meeting I do other stuff ", no, you don't attend the meeting in the first place, if you are not needed. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 9:10

I would suggest this is a very difficult situation, and not every such situation has a decisive and satisfactory solution.

Without knowing what is being said, and by whom, and in what context, it's very difficult to know whether it goes beyond the pale or not. People who are known clowns or showmen can often get away with far more than those who take themselves seriously.

Indeed, you concede that you don't even know if you are the butt of the joke, so that your complaint would amount to an objection that people are enjoying a joke in your presence, and possessing a strong concern that it could be about you.

If the vast majority are participating in mild ridicule amongst themselves then there is, as you recognise, the risk of being seen as fussy for challenging it, or even creating grievance.

It may also be performing a function in passing the time in unnecessary meetings or with unengaging hosts, so that the real lesson would be to have fewer of such meetings, or ensure they are hosted competently and at a brisk pace.

The best solution as a starting point would probably be to approach the colleague you get along with, and ask their opinion. Firstly you're more likely to get an accurate opinion of where they think the fault lays, secondly they may have information about exactly what is being laughed at, and thirdly they may be able to intervene on your behalf with people they are closer to in turn.

  • Please first see a doctor to make sure you don't have a mild/undiscovered case of schizophrenia and misread cues.

  • If not, remind them about being professional in meetings.

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    Well, I dont have that and I also dont like it when people arent paying attention to me when they should, because I 'lost' to some cat meme or something :)
    – Martijn
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 7:38

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