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I work in a big company, where I have one coworker, which always makes me feel really uncomfortable by his constant jokes with sexual connotations. I see this coworker in breaks or when having lunch and sometimes also outside of work, because we are in the same group of acquaintances and friends.

These jokes are mostly not about me and I don't think these jokes are hostile or meant to hurt me. I'll give you some examples:

  • when talking about a new app idea, that has something to do with mattresses: "It could measure the pressure, when she is on top of him or he is on top of her ;)"

  • when we play table football and i say "Yes, yes!" to indicate we are going to get a goal: "You are going to get an orgasm, huh? ;)"

  • when talking about possibilities for someone with sleep problems to fall asleep more easily: "Sex definitely ;)"

I'd say 20% of the time he says these jokes to everybody around and the rest of the time he kinda "winks"(this is the wrong word, but i find no better way describing it) at me to let me know this was directed at me or something.

This makes me extremely uncomfortable - to the point, I'd rather not talk to that person, if he continues. I usually react in a way to try and show that i do not like this non-verbally, e.g. raise my eyebrows or look frustrated, but this obviously does not work.

The thing is, i have had a similar conflict with this person before, where he would tell me really graphic details about his past sexual encounters and i told him to please stop this. He actually did.

Now i could talk to him again, but i have really mixed feelings about this...

Is his behavior really crossing a line?
Is this just "who he is"?
How should i approach him, if i do?
Will it not just make any contact so awkward, that it's just easier to try and not have contact?

marked as duplicate by gnat, Joe Strazzere, Jan Doggen, Chris E, yochannah Dec 2 '14 at 14:23

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • I don't think this is a dupe of the linked question. I also think we need to know the gender of the main characters and the country where this is occurring. – Grimm The Opiner Jul 19 '17 at 11:16
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Is his behavior really crossing a line?

He is making sexual comments while at work. This is pretty much guaranteed to cross the line. It's definitely unprofessional, and it could be perceived as sexual harrassment, depending on how the recipients of his comments take them. Many organizations, especially larger ones, have formal policies in place against this sort of behaviour, so he is likely breaking the rules. This can cause a lot of damage to his career, leading up to termination in the worst case if the management or HR staff at your company find out. It's a good idea to pull him aside and explain this to him before he gets himself in a lot of trouble.

Is this just "who he is"?

It's certainly plausible that this is just how he behaves on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean he can't change his behaviour in a professional environment. Most people behave very differently at work than at home. He shouldn't be an exception.

How should i approach him, if i do?

You should find an opportunity when the two of you are alone - preferably out of earshot of other coworkers, especially your bosses, and ideally outside of the workplace. Calmly explain to him that it's unprofessional to make these kinds of comments at work, that it's making you uncomfortable, and you would like him to stop. Tell him that there are no hard feelings between you but that it would be best to leave these kinds of comments out of the workplace. It's also a good idea to remind him that if the wrong person were to hear what he is saying, he could get in a lot of trouble at the company. Make sure not to come across as if you're threatening to report him to management though, as that may quickly end your friendship. Reporting him may be the "official" solution recommended by your organization, but it's also an easy way to burn bridges and should be left as a last resort if he continues his behaviour and takes it too far.

Will it not just make any contact so awkward, that it's just easier to try and not have contact?

He will remember the encounter, but it's probably a lot more awkward for you to put up with his comments and a lot more risky for him. If you remain friendly with him afterwards he'll get that you were only pointing out something that you were uncomfortable with and it may even be a wake-up call for him that he isn't at a bar and there could be big consequences for this sort of behaviour. In the end he'll probably forget it. If he is really annoyed over it or continues the behaviour, he's probably not a friend worth having.

  • This is a great answer, just one more question... as i would like him to stop even when we are outside of work - how would i transport this? I really do not want to have to talk to him a third time and i could imagine if i stress that this is unprofessional and not appropriate for work, he might just continue outside... ? – trililim Dec 2 '14 at 2:42
  • Good answer but not strong enough. "Like him to stop" is not enough. "This behavior must stop immediately both at and outside the workplace". – paparazzo Dec 2 '14 at 2:58
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    Outside the office, just say "Hey, I'm just not comfortable with that. Save it for folks who will appreciate it." If he can't deal with an honest request to respect your space, he probably isn't worth having as a friend. – keshlam Dec 2 '14 at 3:08
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    +1. You're not making the situation awkward by talking to him - it is already awkward because he is making you uncomfortable and you're wanting to avoid him. By talking to him about it, you are placing the awkwardness on the person to whom it belongs. – Jenny D Dec 2 '14 at 10:04
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    If you talk to him alone, I would make a point of taking my notebook out after the talk and writing down what you just talked about, making sure that he sees you writing it down. So if there are complaints from others, you can't get in trouble. And if he doesn't stop, you tell him that he needs to stop or this will be taken further. – gnasher729 Dec 2 '14 at 11:14
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While @CynicalProgrammer 's answer is not bad, I would recommend a more stringent reaction to your coworkers behaviour.

Is his behavior really crossing a line? Is this just "who he is"?

You said "This makes me extremely uncomfortable". So his behaviour is definitely crossing a line, namely at least the line of your privacy.

I doubt that this may be just "who he is". You said in about 80 percent of cases his jokes are directed at you. So it seems to be especially his behaviour towards you. But even if it was his usual behaviour towards everybody, he has to stop this behaviour towards you.

How should i approach him, if i do? Will it not just make any contact so awkward, that it's just easier to try and not have contact?

As said, this behaviour of your coworker towards you has to stop. He will not change it if you continue to merely raise your eyebrows or look frustrated.

You need to talk to him alone, and make clear to him that his jokes make you uncomfortable, that he has crossed the line and you demand him to stop it. Don't use the word "please". You have to demand him to stop, otherwise he would not get the impression that you are determined and serious.

This conversation should take place at work, because this is where his jokes mostly take place.

I would also not try to explain to him that he could get into trouble if the wrong person would hear what he is saying and so forth (as @CynicalProgrammer has suggested). Your only intention is that he stops this behaviour towards you. He makes you feel uncomfortable. This is reason enough to make him stop his behaviour. To expand this whole thing to the point that maybe he gets himself into trouble with the company or other people only distracts from your personal problem with his behaviour. Don't distract from your personal interests.

  • At some companies, you could point him to the ethics training that every employee has to pass once a year... – gnasher729 Dec 2 '14 at 11:18
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If I were you, I'd tell him tell him casually but firmly to cut out the sexual imagery. He may or may not intend it and I am fairly sure he doesn't, the result is that he is creating an atmosphere where sexual harassment is perceived as tolerated. We had an all-male office but it was always understood that we would get female employees down the line and that dealing with this kind of issues now meant that we were less likely to deal with these issues when they came onboard.

If it continues, then I'll escalate it to the management and HR.

It's not about who he is, I couldn't care less about that and nobody is trying to change him and nobody could care less about changing him. It's about what he has to do.

  • Why are you fairly sure that he doesn't intend the sexual imagery? The question says that his comments are frequently explicit (referencing orgasms can't be anything but sexual) and that he quite often winks at the OP when he does it (meaning it is both intentional and aimed at her personally) – Kevin Wells May 10 '16 at 23:50

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