I made a small joke which offended my manager. It wasn't racist, sexist or anything of the sort.

Here's what it was. My manager is the head of an extracurricular club at work. Since it's the start of the year, he asked his team (us) to sign up for the club and to help him out. We willingly supported him and signed up for it. After thanking us, he said he hoped to see us participate in the activities. I made a slight joke saying, "We didn't expect it to be a lifetime commitment!" And that's when he walked out of the room, saying that he felt we were forced into signing up.

I've already apologized via email. My co-workers said that I had to adjust to his personality type: being a "feeler." I'm a thinker first, a feeler second and a controller third.

But I would also like to talk to him because this isn't the first time he's reacted this way over a small thing. How do I approach him?

  • 1
    Just my opinion, but one shouldn't judge a situation before hearing both parties. You never know what the other guy was thinking about.
    – Long
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 23:30
  • 1
    Sigh, I wish my boss did stuff like this Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 3:17
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    Were you forced into signing up? Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:36
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    Your boss is a sensitive twat. Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 11:44
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    I wouldn't apologize. Your joke was quite appropriate and seems like obviously a joke and not cynicism. If he got offended, he was thin skinned and we shouldn't encourage the tyranny of hypersensitivity by apologizing and giving legitimacy to such reactions.
    – amphibient
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 23:04

4 Answers 4


But I would also like to talk to him because this isn't the first time he's reacted this way over a small thing. How do I approach him?

How about walking into his office and saying "Boss, do you have a minute to chat?"

Then, you sincerely apologize for offending him, and discuss the situation so you reach an understanding about why he was offended, and how you can avoid such a situation in the future.

Many times, just talking with the party involved is the first step to understanding. This is one of those times.

Additionally, apologies should almost always be delivered personally, rather than via email, whenever it's practical to do so. We convey a lot in our tone, attitude, body language, etc - all of that is lost when using emails. You may have delivered a written text, but not actually conveyed a real apology.


I think this is a problem with your manager who's taking things a bit too personally. I don't think you need to continue apologizing or trying to make amends - you apologized in an email and that is enough.

What I would do is note for future reference that he does not take this kind of humor as you do, and avoid these sorts of jokes in future.

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    An apology by email is never good. If you think you need to apologise for something do it in person. Anything less will seem insincere. If you think something doesn't warrant a personal apology, then don't apologise at all. The 'offence' was face to face, so the apology should be too. Hence my -1 for this answer.
    – vascowhite
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 3:01
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    @vascowhite never say never. Sometimes email may be an acceptable course, if it is sincere enough. It gives time to the other party to respond after thinking carefully.
    – user13107
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 12:11

Not having the full context, it's hard to provide the best answer for your case. How many times has this happened before? How good is your professional relationship with your manager? But here's the way I'd approach this situation.

I'd personally send him an email mentioning that I'd like to have an opportunity to have a moment with him (lunch, coffee, etc.) to talk about this issue whenever he has time to spare for me. This way you let him know you'd like to clear the air, and he can spend the time he needs to cool down, then schedule some time to meet you when he is ready.

During the discussion, I'd make sure to let him know my comment was meant as a jest, not to be an insult to either himself or his help request to his team. I'd also be very honest about how I feel our different personalities might lead to similar uneasy situations, and try to talk about possible solution.


Pretend nothing has happened for now and business is as usual. However, find a suitable time, usually at an office party or any other occasion where the boss is relaxed (make sure he is alone too,) and apologize that you have been rude and would like a fresh start. Apologizing right away is not the right answer. Let him also ponder over, what has transpired. May be, you were right. However apology should come sooner than later.

I am advising this based upon personal experience. I was the boss and someone did exactly the same to me. If he would have pulled, "can I talk to you for a moment" on me, it would have made no effect on me. However, he finally apologized in the circumstances I described, I had my guards down, so did he. He was genuine (at least seemed that way.)


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