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I am a TeamLeader/Manager, the company is medium, I manage about 12 people along with coding my own stuff.

This morning subordinate X, walked into the middle of our offices (Open space) and asked for everybody's attention, proceeded to talked for 30 minutes about how he's never felt right in his body, and how change is always good.

After which everyone stayed silent due to the sheer amount of unprofessional stuff he said, (Inappropriate sexual details) and most were really not interested in his personal life.

Then he proceeds to lecture everyone on how bigoted they are and how trans-hostile the environment was due to not a single person cheering him on. I called him to talk to, and he insisted no one was supporting his choice and was extremely upset, so much so I had to send him home for the rest of the day. Other managers that work closely with me talked to me about keeping him on a "leash" to prevent future forced reunions.

My higher ups want me to consider whether this was enough to fire him or not, since he created the problem, and is the problem, and the solution would be to get rid of him. If I don't fire and this happens again, my neck is on the line (but I badly want to keep him).

Alternatively, I need to guarantee that anything related to this incident, or the hormone treatment and possible surgeries would be on his own time (he wouldn't be paid while home recovering, or during hours of treatment) and that he was not to mention it ever again.

He also demanded a gender-neutral bathroom, my country has no rule to force 3 bathrooms, and It isn't strong enough to make him quit on his own. My country has a policy that after 3 consecutive weeks of failure to show up (with or without justification), the company can lay you off without even telling you about it.

So my question is, how can I talk to him in order to make sure he keeps his private life private and not talk about it while at work, and to have all the medical procedures he wants as long as it doesn't affect work or his work hours/ability to output code? This has been a massive lost of morale due to ongoing Chit-Chat of the personal life he dumped on us.


Edit for clarification

In Portugal any time that you are out of the company you are not paid, even regular surgery, so the part where everything he does is on his time is completely normal here. Be it Gender Affirmation or a removing a kidney stone. You are paid by the government after 3 days of being unable to work. It's the norm here, we are a socialist country.

Since I already have a bias, I need other people's insight on how to handle it as not to be insensitive. I DO NOT mix my personal opinions and work, nor do I look to enforce my personal opinions on this person.

The revelation and lecture were all in the period of 1 Hour, he explained they were having surgery, no one reacted, we got lectured.

I also know the way he acted is not in any way shape or form a reflection of his community, and it's an exception.

Update for the interested X is now officially He, he has been reprimanded severely and will have to walk on eggshells for some time (with the big guys not me), I ended up explaining the whole ordeal, he explained that the internet made it look like everyone would cheer and be super interested (his words not mine) and that he would be sure to leave his personal life at home from now on. I got a slap on the wrist, since the Big Man understood that I was too flabbergasted to do anything. He ended up dropping the whole gender-neutral bathroom thing, and will be using the man's bathroom as soon as he has male genitalia. Big Man even agreed in private conversation not to fire him while he was recovering from surgery.

We got the Good Ending, thanks everyone for your help

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    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on The Workplace Meta, or in The Workplace Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 20, 2023 at 23:55
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    I'm glad things were sorted out and there weren't negative or sad outcomes. Now that you know this person's preferred gender (Male/Him/His), you can drop the X's from your post and use the correct pronoun, as well as remove the disclaimer once you do that.
    – DarkCygnus
    Nov 22, 2023 at 5:17
  • @DarkCygnus Done
    – Or4ng3h4t
    Nov 22, 2023 at 14:13
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    @Or4ng3h4t thanks, I still see some changes missing, ill take an edit
    – DarkCygnus
    Nov 22, 2023 at 15:06
  • "he explained that the internet made it look like" - you may want to add details about why he is so unable to read the room because this may make it easier to understand why this happened in the first place. Nov 23, 2023 at 9:12

11 Answers 11

33

Once upon a time, I used to think that transition required so-called "bottom surgery" and that you could change things like passports and employment records and the like when that was done. But I now feel that transition happens when the person says it does, and that's when you change the paperwork and whatever else (names, pronouns when talking about them, etc.) This is probably pleasant for the transitioning person, but more importantly for you means that details of whether or not someone has had a particular surgery go back into the category of "stuff I don't want to know about". This is surely what you prefer at work.

Here's how I would handle this. Call your employee in for a one on one. Apologize for the upset the employee felt. (This in no way suggests you are taking it on yourself and the coworkers exclusively, rather it acknowledges that the whole thing didn't go as planned and that this was upsetting.) You might mention that people were probably too surprised to think of congratulations or the like. Then set all that behind you and suggest a do-over.

Keep control of the conversation. Ask the employee what name they would like to answer to in personal conversations starting now. Ask if they want to change the name that HR uses or under which they are paid and taxed (they may not, that's fine, make a note either way.) Ask the employee, if we are talking about you, should we say "he" or "she"? If the initial disclosure included sex life details, then you actually know what the new pronouns are likely to be, so it would be just slightly nicer to say "should we say X" where X is the pronoun you believe the employee is transitioning to. You can also ask if there is a schedule for medical transition including possible surgeries, so that you can schedule the time off. If, as you say, it's normal for companies not to pay people at such times, then you really don't need to mention that since that's the case for broken ankles or whatever, and everybody knows it. Pointing it out might be seen as a little bit mean.

Once you have all the information you need, you still have two things to fix: how your valued employee feels, and how the rest of the staff feel. Using the new name, say something like "Name, we value you here and want you to continue working here as you go through this transition privately. Let us know what support and help you need to do so. I'm going to fill the rest of the team in on names and pronouns, but not your medical plan because that's your private concern, not theirs." The transitioning employee may mention bathrooms, working from home, extra medical time off or whatever. You can respond to each of these one at a time.

For my company, I would not want a trans person using a third bathroom. They should be welcome in the bathroom of their new gender, without having to wait until enough surgeries or enough time on hormones have been completed. [If you live in a place with "bathroom laws" making this impossible, you can tell the employee that regretfully, they will have to keep using the bathroom for the gender they were assigned at birth.] Your other staff should not object to whichever bathroom you confirm the transitioning employee should be using. However, if you think this will be a source of friction with other staff, if there is a one-person private bathroom you could offer, that might make the transitioning employee feel supported while not challenging the other employees by making them accept someone they're not quite ready to accept. A "disabled" or "family" bathroom might work for this, or a small "executive" bathroom somewhere away from the others. Investigate this before the meeting, and if the transitioning person brings up bathrooms, either offer them the private one -- not as a third gender but simply as a way to just pee in private without worrying what others think -- or tell them "since you are now a [man/woman] you will be using the [men's/women's] bathroom going forward and the rest of the staff will be told you are authorized to do so" or, if the law forces you, "since you are still legally a woman/man I have to ask you to keep using the women's/men's bathroom and the rest of the staff will be told to accept you using it even with a gender presentation that doesn't match the other users."

Finally, wrap up the meeting by thanking the employee for the trust and openness that led to coming out at work. Then, gently and with warmth and caring, point out that it was a surprise to a lot of people and perhaps a bit of "too much information." Emphasize "your coworkers do not need to know your medical details. From now on you are [new name] and they will address you appropriately." Communicate to this employee "we value you", "we want to keep you" and so on, while offering "the support you need" going through this.

Then send an email to everyone (including the transitioning employee) that says something like:

A reminder to all that [pretty unique job description eg "our longtime Python wrangler and head tester"] is now going by NewName. If you need to talk about [new pronoun eg him] please be sure to use [he/him/his] as appropriate. NewName will be using the [men's/women's] bathroom from now on. (If you're going with the private bathroom option, do not mention that.) We all wish NewName the best on [his] transition and are happy to have [him] on our team!" [If the email address, slack ID or whatever aren't changed yet, you may need to add a sentence about that but with the inclusion that the person is to be addressed by their new name starting now.]

Close the email with something like "if you have questions relevant to the work environment, please bring them to me privately." This is a strong signal to everyone, including the transitioning employee, that open office-wide conversations about this topic are not a good idea. You can handle those as they break out, just reminding people that medical and sex lives are not gossip fodder.

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  • Great answer, do you have some legal background or training that makes you comfortable wading into possibly problematic legal issues such as what bathroom to use (where the legal stance depends on how far along with the paperwork they are I imagine)? Because that's definitely something I as a team leader would want to hand off to legal and HR due to all the possible ramifications
    – Voo
    Nov 21, 2023 at 10:50
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    Where I live, transition is defined by the person going through it and you use the bathroom for your new gender. I understand it may be different elsewhere. Nov 21, 2023 at 12:04
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    Ah Canada being ahead of much of the rest of the world once again. Makes sense if there's a clear jurisprudence that you wouldn't be worried about it.
    – Voo
    Nov 21, 2023 at 12:20
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    So I appreciate the intent behind this course of action. But also I would be much more direct with an employee. Transitioning? Not a problem. Making a public announcement? I'd rather they told me first so we could do it properly but also not a problem in itself. 30 minute speech? Details of their sex life? Calling their coworkers bigots? All extremely unprofessional and need to immediately stop and never happen again. They get a pass once because it was an extremely emotional event, but this is their one and only warning. Then you can move on to sorting out the rest of it.
    – Kaz
    Nov 21, 2023 at 20:29
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    @Kaz I agree. That's why it says more than once that the medical stuff is private and not for discussing with the coworkers. Nov 21, 2023 at 22:15
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Going to dodge the politics altogether and just go with an answer based on office professionalism here, because I recommend you do the same with your response to this incident (especially since your true opinions on everything here aren't exactly well-disguised, and that could be an image issue for your company...).

I see the following as pretty universal workplace fouls:

  • Forcing the office to sit through a presentation without prior approval
  • Announcing personal, intimate relationship details
  • Calling other employees bigots (depending on the exact wording of the "lecture" after)
  • Taking off unapproved time, if that actually ends up happening (if the employee wants to go for surgeries or needs time off from hormones)

I would not include any of your issues with requests for bathrooms, perceived reception by other employees, other employees gossiping or losing morale, or that you think what they said was "blah blah blah (usual LGBTQIA+ stuff)".

The severity of your response is up to you. If you value this employee, and I think this would also be best for the image of the company, then a strict but compassionate talking-to would be the best place to start. Explain that while you support their transition and hope the best for them, they need to limit some of the tangentially related topics, such as intimate details of their relationship, and make sure that they are following company policy relating to time off. If, after this, they continue to do things that make other employees uncomfortable, talk about inappropriate topics for the office, take unapproved time off, or anything else that is unacceptable, then you can start escalating things.

If your superiors really push you to fire them right off the bat here, make sure you have a paper trail for everything. Get the requests in writing or email, and save them somewhere you can access them even if you lose your job. I'm not familiar with Portugese law, but I assume you have a legal department you can consult with to make sure that you're not doing any sort of improper termination. If you have to write the reasons for termination, try to stick to the reasons I listed above and anything else that can't be construed as discrimination.

Oh, and find out the employee's correct pronouns. It makes you sound ignorant and uncaring to not know your employee's pronouns and to just keep using "he/she"

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I would like to take a slightly different perspective here. You (and a lot of the answers) care a lot about X. Maybe rightly so.

But right now, nobody was harmed or threatened. X felt there was not enough support (sadly probably not the first time), the office probably felt like they witnessed something they would rather have avoided (probably not the first time either, remember the last business powerpoint corporate wanted you to sit through?) and the company lost money probably a little under the amount of money they had lost if there had been a world cup game on TV yesterday and the office were talking about it.

So all in all, a bunch of bruised and bored egos, and some lost pocket change, but nothing really happened. Nobody lost a limb or their livelyhood, nobody was threatened with either. Right?

Wait... nobody but you. You apparently were threatened to let go if it happened again. Something you have zero control over. There is no way you could have anticipated this, no way you could possibly prevent this the next time, other than preemptively firing X to make sure there is no next time. And firing X is something you don't want, and is highly politically charged.

You need a lawyer. Not for any transgender things, or how to handle X's transition, but to make sure you don't get under the bus here. You were threatened to lose your job.

You need to talk to a lawyer. And then to HR. Find out whether you can fire X. Find out whether you bosses can fire you for not doing so. If you have all this information, take it to your bosses and make sure you see eye to eye on what is going on there.

If you want to stick up for X, that's great. If you don't, that's okay, too, I'm sure X broke plenty of rules and policies to warrant that, regardless of the actual issue.

But make no mistake, you need to cover your behind first and foremost. Because if you don't want to help, it would be pointless to get sucked into this and made the scapegoat by all sides. And if you do want to help, remember that the first step in responding to a dangerous situation is always to protect yourself. You cannot help other people from a position of vulnerability. You need to be safe to be able help others.


One practical advice about the bathroom issue: you don't need three bathrooms. That is almost impossible to do, how do you magically create an additional room with plumbing? The cost for that would probably not be worth employing the person at all. So don't. You have a right to privacy in the bathroom, you don't have the right to have your own bathroom reserved for you or your gender at all times. That goes for all genders.

In case you already have a bathroom that can be locked and used individually (for example all bathrooms build for wheel chair accessibility already are this kind) just send a message around that this is not a bathroom for disabled people only, it can be used by all people, especially if they feel the need for more privacy.

If you don't have that opportunity, just use of of the bathrooms with stalls and install a lock on the outer door that leads into the room with stalls. You have lost the opportunity for parallel "business" in favor of sequential, very private "business". Maybe all people will be a bit happier if they have more than just a stall between them and their colleague with that kind of "business" going on.

Installing a lock on a door should be standard business issue that can be handled by a contractor in half a day. At least in Europe. That is the cheapest part of your problem and suggesting it might give you a good start into "solution finding" mode and away from the blame game that your bosses seem to have in mind.

9

You need your HR and legal departments to come up with a coordinated plan to address this. You've obviously got a serious problem with the unprofessional behavior. No one gets to spontaneously monopolize everyone's attention for a half hour. I would send someone home if they made a 30-minute pitch for Amway or started proselytizing, so this isn't any different.

HOWEVER (and there's always a however in life), since the SUBJECT was about such a politically "hot" topic, it would be very easy to anticipate the employee conflating their bad behavior with their status.

Also, immediately start using "they" for the pronoun in all communications, as you can be almost certain that everything you discuss from this moment forward will end up in front of a court at some point in the future.

I would request that HR gives you the authority to send them on paid leave until they come up with a plan for the company to follow.

Whatever you do, don't "wing it" here. You need HR and legal professionals that know how to navigate this minefield. Even they may not be successful, but you need to pull in every resource you have right now. Not knowing the laws of your country, you may even have personal liability if you misstep.

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    One nit. If OPs coworker hasn't explicitly stated their new pronoun preferences, 'they' is a safer choice than using their old ones. But if new ones were explicitly stated, you need to use them. Nov 20, 2023 at 19:44
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    @DanIsFiddlingByFirelight - Depends on the country you're in. In the US, you can't compel speech (1st Amendment), but company policy can direct how company communication is handled. Again, that's why letting HR and Legal get the response set is so important. Nov 20, 2023 at 20:19
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    @alroc - The comment was made before the OP specified his location. As to the private company, I specifically addressed that. I was pointing out that you can't be personally liable in court for using "wrong" pronouns in US. CA tried, but their law was struck down. Nov 20, 2023 at 21:58
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    Regardless of legal details, "they" may not be a thing if all of this happens in a language other than English. Nov 20, 2023 at 22:27
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    @WesleyLong What do you mean it was before I stated my location ? I created this post with the Tag Portugal exactly for that reason.
    – Or4ng3h4t
    Nov 21, 2023 at 10:02
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In addition to the other answers given here, keep in mind that you said:

My higher ups want me to consider whether this was enough to fire her/him or not, since she created the problem, and is the problem, and the solution would be to get rid of her.

If anything goes wrong with this, and you have tried to handle it on your own. You will have created the problem, will be the problem, and the solution would be to get rid of you.

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If you listen closely, you can hear the package ticking

So, I'm very much on the Anti-Woke side. I'm an individualist, not a collectivist. I disagree with almost all the philosophical traditions that trace their roots back to Marx/Gramscii et al. (Post Modernism, Critical theory, Gender Theory, CRT etc. etc.) - not a fan.

For the mods and everyone reading - the above statement is to show explicitly where my Bias(es) is not/are not.

My first thought is - Do not fire this person - I will elaborate why, but the TL;DR is that doing so is that I think this is a trap: Come out as Trans, announce it, get fired, create a cause célèbre, Sue, Win or settle out of court for $$$$$.

Now, to address the workplace side of things - the answer by Jack Gifford has a wonderful breakdown of Faux Pas, which I'm going to borrow and give a counter-view to:

  • Forcing the office to sit through a presentation without prior approval

Although from the length and subject matter, this could be considered 'A Presentation' - I don't think it is. Consider the following announcements that can and do happen in the workplace which might have a 30 minute disruption to work:

  • Announcing an Engagement.
  • Buying a first home.
  • Announcing a First Pregnancy or any pregnancy.
  • Finalization of a Divorce.
  • Child accomplishments.

Now - this is not to say that the announcement was appropriate or the manner in which it was delivered was appropriate (we will get to that in a minute) - but in terms of an insta-fire offense? I think you could make an argument that announcing such a life-changing event as coming out as Trans is in the same realm as the above and so whilst not workplace related per-se, is similar to other 'accepted' announcements.

  • Announcing personal, intimate relationship details

This is a really tough one - on the one hand, I'm very much a proponent that Sex has no business in the workplace, unless you work in the Sex industry. The problem is that firstly - unless you have a recording of them saying it, it's going to be a He said/She said situation (pun not intended) - and their defense is going to be 'The entire office is bigoted so of course they would embellish what was said' in the afore-mentioned lawsuit.

As a general rule - announcing other people's confidential information is grounds for instant dismissal, but announcing your own isn't - even if it is inappropriate at work.

  • Calling other employees bigots (depending on the exact wording of the "lecture" after)

As above - unless you have a recording of this, you won't have the ammunition you need.

This is the one area though where, if you had the above iron-clad recordings, you could claim that they were bullying and harassing other staff members and fire them on that basis.

But I want to play the Devils advocate for a moment - regardless of my views on Alphabet politics - On the individual front - if you made a major life changing decision and you felt no one cared (even if the ultimate goal is to have no one care - ironic, really) - you might be pretty upset about it, especially from people you considered acquaintances - that upset might lead one to saying a few words that were harsher than intended - especially considering the incendiary nature of the issue.

  • Taking off unapproved time, if that actually ends up happening (if the employee wants to go for surgeries or needs time off from hormones)

Pretty sure Portugal is in the EU and pretty sure the EU has laws about workplace discrimination protecting Gender re-assignment treatments.

How to proceed

So - as above, I don't think Firing is wise, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, from a legal standpoint and from an ethical standpoint - I don't think the justification is there, I can almost bet the evidence isn't there and I think the counter-arguments would be far too easy to make.

What needs to happen is you need to reset the Inter-personal boundaries of the office. Firstly, in private with Employee X - focus on the things that were wrong - e.g. sharing details about their Sex life. Also you need to talk to them that they cannot dictate how people react - the best argument I've heard is to ask 'Do you want people to care how you identify? Because either no one cares or if everybody cares, some might not care in the way you want them to' - re-word as needed. Let them know that attacking people because you didn't get what you wanted is never acceptable and if it continues, would constitute bullying.

Then at a team meeting - have a quick word that personal announcements in the office are a fact of life, but to try and keep them brief.

Talk to your Management - outline the risk of lawsuit above and say that it would not be wise to proceed with any action as it would be too tempting a target for a lawsuit.

You need to let the dust blow-over a little bit, let people adapt and then let everyone's work do the talking.

It may be also an idea to discuss Working From Home options for this employee whilst they go through their process of Transitioning if they want to - If the work is being done, then it's being done. This also might help the Office re-adjust. Case in point - a Dev I worked with once went to Thailand and came back after having all their surgeries done, whilst a touch jarring, it was more like having a new employee (who just so happened to know all about the company) - which made accepting it easier for other people to deal with.

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Workplace and personal space collide.

This was a highly emotional situation for them (I would use him or her as appropriate but cannot quite figure out which one is correct from your post). That happens once in a while. And I suppose they had mapped out in their mind how good everything would be, and how everyone would be happy with them, which didn't happen. So there is frustration which I can understand. One hour of frustration in years of employment, that can happen. I'd say to take note, and otherwise ignore it. They didn't approach the whole situation in the best possible way, but that is a lot easier to say for an outsider.

So what you need to do is talk to them and make clear how things will work. They will have an operation probably, and be gone for a while, and then return to work. An apology for their outburst would be appreciated, but as a co-worker I could live without it. I'd expect anyone to behave in a decent way, work with them the same as they would work with any other colleague. As far as toilets are concerned, I suppose the employee isn't gender neutral. Well, I expect that I can use a toilet in peace, and so can they.

So don't do anything rash that could seriously damage someone's life. You're lucky it is their situation and not yours.

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    I wouldn't ignore it. I'd make it very clear how unprofessional it was. That you can forgive it once because it was a highly charged emotional event for them and these things happen. But also, it cannot happen again.
    – Kaz
    Nov 21, 2023 at 20:33
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I see a few issues here:

  • an interpersonal issue: Even if I would accept that such a conversation would be allowed to happen during the work-time in the middle off the office, doing it like this is a clear invasion of the personal space of other employees and - without an response from them indicating that they are ready to have such a conversation. Different cultures may have different tolerance levels to such transgressions of personal boundaries or concepts of personal space, but should the company decide to keep the employee in questions it needs to be made clear that such invasions of the personal space will not be tolerated in the future. To be 100% clear: Reactions this may range from a discomfort in the others to them being triggered and/or overwhelmed. It should be made clear to the employee that such a lapse in judgement about an uninvited communication reflects badly on the assessment of their communication skills.

  • an misunderstanding of what "support" by the other employees and the company means. Support does not mean that everybody needs to cheer for something. Support means that the company and the others constructively try to accommodate for the personal situation of co-workers

  • In order to give a good recommendation to the employee, please think about they would communicate the situation ideally. I would in similar situations (e.g. health) state the facts, express understanding for potential irritation (in this case e.g. potential mood changed by hormone therapy), express that i am sorry for troubles caused by my absence, and say that i am open to questions.

  • I think the solution to hope that the issue resolves itself is not a good approach

  • Verify (e.g. by an doctor assigned by the company - not sure if that exists in portugal) whether the outburst of X was already caused by a medical problem (mood swing related to the treatment). In that case they are not fit to work.

  • Address the team and ask them to ignore the incident and not discuss the issue further inform them that they are free to discuss with X, but that they don't have to take a position here.

  • make it clear that personal opinion on X behaviour are not the company policy and that the company has no opinion on what an employee does and decides with respect to this

  • As for potential additional requests from X (e.g. third bathroom): forward them to HR or your manager and don't make any statements of your opinion about it beyond "i addressed it to the appropriate responsible person" - this is not your fight.

  • one of the solution could be that X takes some time off to do that they need to do and after that they may come back to a different team. My feeling would be that they burned some bridges.

In general, your problem is to get your team back to working without friction. don't put other conflicts on your table and don't take a side in the conflicts beyond the communication in your team.

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  • Great Answer +1
    – Neil Meyer
    Nov 23, 2023 at 9:21
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Unless it's normal in Portugal to allow employees to talk about sexually explicit stuff in the middle of the office and make everyone listen, then that's your due cause for firing them right there.

It makes no difference what gender or anything else as it's offensive and extremely unprofessional in and of itself to be explicit about your genitals and sex toy use in an office context. Let alone berating everyone.

I would make the recommendation to get rid of them based on that and leave the details to the hierarchy and HR to deal with. An alternative solution is to recommend disciplinary action without explicitly recommending termination. Leaving this with no repercussions would be a mistake and failure to protect the rest of your team.

Obviously if your team pick on your trans worker, then you discipline them as well. No one should be allowed to cross lines in either direction. But that's another matter. But this would probably be because the person faced no repercussions for hassling them for 1/2 an hour which they would deem unfair at best.

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A few points that may not have been articulated in Answers:

  1. On the one hand, it isn't uncommon for people to make congratulatory noises upon hearing of a marriage, or birth, or many other life transitions, and some may ask for details.

So ideally folks should say "congrats", even if at the level of "well, I hate infants, but since it's something you did want I'll congratulate you surviving another major life event."

But you can't demand congratulations. And shoving your wedding pictures under people's noses is rude; wait to be asked.

  1. I do think it's worth considering that hormonal shifts may indeed cause poor judgement. Friends who were in the process of transitioning said the experience is very much "remedial puberty", with the same kinds of mood swings and impulsivity teenagers are subject to. (I have no idea whether any of the neutral rewiring that goes on at puberty reoccurs.) So some bad judgement might be transient side-effects. I don't claim any medical knowledge but it might be reason to cut the individual a bit of slack.

I suspect the truth is a mix of these. Idealistic expectations that co-workers would treat the news as just another personal milestone among many and excess enthusiasm/bad judgement about how to present it.

So my reaction would be a manager chat basically along the lines of "we don't call meetings for births, marriages, and deaths; we quietly inform friends who we think would care, and give them the level of detail they show interest in. And you can't_demand_ enthusiasm. I understand that this is a major life event and you're excited, and I offer my congrats, and I agree it would be nice if rebirth got the same level of semi-obligatory social support as birth ... But it doesn't yet, and even if it did this would not have been the way to approach it. I don't think you intended to impose, I don't think others intended to disparage -- there just wasn't as much interest as you hoped for. Or comfort, in some cases. Keep the personal at the level of the personal, and focus on work at work, ok? Enthuse one-on-one to those whom you think will enthuse back, and give details when asked if so inclined; don't overshare. I'd say the same to anyone interrupting people to ask them to coo over baby pictures; some folks don't especially like babies and won't appreciate the interruption even if they wish you well."

This is off the cuff, but I think you can see the balance I'm aiming for. The actual problem was inappropriate channels and, alas, excessive enthusiasm, with the actual content being an individual rather than company matter.

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  • 1
    Note that the comparison with marriage announcements and other celebrated events is somewhat arbitrary, to the person coming out it might feel that way, to many it might more feel like someone announcing they decided for a stomach reduction procedure cause they feel unhappy with their body size which would probably result in a similar reaction as was the case here - err, alright, your business, but good for you thought and at best a shrug in public unless they already have strong ties to the person and know about their struggle perhaps. i.e. not a clear case of there should have been congrats. Nov 21, 2023 at 18:25
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    It's just as much of a major life event for the person involved. I don't care for marriage as a rite rather than a matter of contract law (I honestly think the law should recognize only civil unions and leave "marriage" to the individuals and their friends and chosen Powers), but that doesn't stop my wishing newlyweds well. I consider some academic degrees a waste of a good mind but I still congratulate the new graduate. (Say that ten times fast.) A friend is determined to go into ministry and I'll applaud ordination despite being an agnostic deist. That's courtesy. Unfortunately..
    – keshlam
    Nov 21, 2023 at 20:23
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    ... folks don't think to offer that courtesy in this case unless they're already comfortable with the concept. That will change over the next few decades. Meanwhile, putting it this way emphasizes that the only thing really done wrong here was the demand for widespread.congratulations; that is and always will be a bit over the top.
    – keshlam
    Nov 21, 2023 at 20:31
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    @DavidR: Reasonable. I'm just thinking of the neurologist who commented on the degree of alteration that occurs in the teenage years by saying something to the effect of "The reason teens sometimes seem to be half out of their minds is that they're half into a new one." Exaggeration, but there's supposedly substantial biological truth to it. I wouldn't be surprised if some part of that happened again, so I think it's worth correcting bad judgement but recognizing that it may have been a transient relearning effect.
    – keshlam
    Nov 22, 2023 at 15:50
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    Also, it sounds like the impression he got from the media may have been idealized and/or based on communities that were more comfortable with the idea. There are places where the reception from at least part of the crowd would have been more sympathetic/patient. Maybe those are the ones reporting their experience.
    – keshlam
    Nov 22, 2023 at 15:57
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I would personally question why employee "X" feels the need to divulge such deeply personal news towards everyone in his work environment? What exactly is his motivation for doing so? This is a place of employment and a business. Not a place to discuss the inner workings of your sex organ. Keep your need for crotch-talk for after working hours.

Calling his colleagues bigots is also a big deal. If you want to make remarks like that you better have some proof. Calling people bigots in such a public space without any proof is opens him up to massive libel litigation. Also whether the company has a duty to save employees from other employees in the companies libel may also be a costly exercise to ascertain.

This may lead to a mass resignation or a class action law-suit, either way you cannot let employees make claims like that without some proof.

This is an extreme over-share. This employee clearly needs a lecture on personal boundaries. Although we have come a long away on acceptance on this issue there is still plenty of people who would be put of by such conversations.

Why does employee X think he has the right to potentially disturb his colleagues like this? A lot of people just are not going to want to hear you discuss it. Especially if it serves no purpose at work other than to antagonize your work environment by declaring your unconventional views on gender.

Now, off course you have the right to have any view on gender regardless of the conventionality of them. Nobody is questioning your right to do with your body as you see fit, but you workplace is not the place to discuss this topic.

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

I have found that with most abrasive social interactions that a cool, calm approach yields the best dividends. Just tell employee X that everyone in the office is happy for him. He just caught everyone a bit off-guard with the announcement and people just did not know how to react.

Also do tell him that everyone in the office would appreciate it if the discourse coming from him may just be a little less personal. This is a work environment. Everyone accepts the fact that we will be working with people from a rich set of backgrounds, but do keep the water-cooler talk to things that promote a healthy work environment and don't detract from it. Use the diplomatic approach.

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