I am a male working for a small company in the USA. Today I heard my colleagues saying "suck 2 d**ks in a conversation. The other day I went to lunch with a male colleague and someone asked who was paying. Its very common to speak of nutsacks and gays and stuff here. I am not local here and am not sure if it is the culture here.

I am international and not very comfortable with any such behaviour. What do you guys suggest?

When my coworker asked us who's paying it means we men are on a date... it's an obvious gay comment.

I'm an engineer working with other engineers and sales reps.

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    Could you explain why asking who was paying is inappropriate? Jan 7, 2015 at 17:26
  • 1
    Could you please clarify your question? "What do we suggest?" is pretty broad.
    – KatieK
    Jan 7, 2015 at 17:50
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    It's not appropriate at all. It's not uncommon, but not appropriate.
    – DA.
    Jan 7, 2015 at 20:30
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    "When my coworker asked us who's paying it means we men are on a date... it's an obvious gay comment." - I think this says more about you than about your co-workers; as I have never heard the two (sexual orientation, and paying for dinner) correlated together; or for that matter asking who is paying being equal to being on a romantic date. Jan 8, 2015 at 4:47
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    @BurhanKhalid - I think a lot is lacking by not being able to hear the tone of voice. I'm guess the coworker sounded more like "Oooo, so which one of you two is paying??? wink wink nudge nudge", which to me would obviously imply a date.
    – David K
    Jan 8, 2015 at 13:17

5 Answers 5


Its very common to speak of nutsacks and gays and stuff here.

That would not be at all common any place I have ever worked in my professional career. On the other hand, I held a few non-professional jobs very early in my work history where such comments were routine.

How appropriate is this in workplace?

This is extremely industry-, locale- and company-specific.

Some jobs seem to tolerate language that could easily get you fired elsewhere.

  • I would say not at all appropriate for any workplace other than one mentioned in JB King's answer.
    – Brian
    Jan 7, 2015 at 17:42
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    @JoeStrazzere That is quite true. In a previous job as an IT trainer I spent a lot of time "re-educating" a trainee who had come from being a roughneck on the oil fields. I spent years in the military and was still impressed with the color of his language...
    – phoebus
    Jan 7, 2015 at 19:17
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    @phoebus I actually got lots of good manners from my military service time (ok - it was a general staff position). The language in my current IT position is on the other hand more like what the OP describes - I guess you just can't put this into any simple set of rules. YMMV. ;-)
    – s1lv3r
    Jan 7, 2015 at 23:02

As others said: the rough language is inappropriate. ' But asking who's paying is probably either a local culture of taking turns rather than making the wait staff deal with splitting every check, or "who's going to put this on expense account" or something else harmless. To find out which, ASK.

Personally, I would find the language made it an uncomfortable place to work, and would re-start my job search. You have the perfect answer to why you want to leave your current job: hostile working environment. Pity you weren't able to detect that during interviewing, but it sounds like that's their fault for not letting you see what the team was really like.

One thought before you do start planning to leave: ask your management if this is typical or if they are just hazing the new kid. Not that hazing makes it more acceptable, but that would suggest they'll become slightly less obnoxious in a week or two.

Or management may tell you that they're about to fire the loudmouths anyway, which might also mean the tone will improve somewhat.

Or this may in fact be how these folks normally speak. In which case you either find a way to tolerate it or leave.

So --again, my own reaction,not necessarily the best reaction -- I'd start planning an exit strategy. You may need one.


Generally this would be a huge no-no as this could lead to sexual harassment suits in some cases though there are some exceptions as I'd imagine in the adult film industry such topics may be about business. I'd likely consider asking if the colorful language is common or not as there is a chance it could be that within the specific industry you work these lines get used. I could imagine jokes being made about who has who by the balls or other slang that may be a common response. There can be something to be said for how graphic are things on one level.

  • Talking about sex doesn't necessarily lead to sexual harassment suits. It depends entirely on the nature of the conversation, the phrasing, who it was to etc... I've known many places where neutral but sexual language is used without any hint of a problem
    – Jon Story
    Jan 8, 2015 at 15:17

By most professional definitions, this is not appropriate behavior, but you've found yourself in a situation where it is common and probably tolerated if not encouraged.

Initially, I would try and ignore it. Don't laugh at these jokes, join in or give any indication you think this is appropriate. After you work there for a while and observe how management behaves, you can start to adjust your reactions.

The more the management encourages this, you have to be careful how strongly you voice how much this offends you. Some people will respect your views and try to control themselves around you. They won't be perfect all the time, so try to excuse the rare infraction.

You may find yourself being the target of further bullying or they may just see you as not fitting into the corporate culture. That would be a shame especially if you do your job well. You may have to eventually make a formal complaint to cover yourself. Hopefully, this situation won't escalate.


In my experience, inappropriate references are usually tolerated in small, startup companies. A few of my colleagues in start up companies also have had similar experiences. It is just how the culture usually is since there very few to none female employees. There is also no in house HR department, or very small one.

For larger and more established companies, it is definitely not tolerated, as there is a bigger HR department, and probably more female employees.

However! If it is harassment, then it should definitely be stopped. A few jokes at no one's expense is alright. But if it's bothering someone, then it qualifies as sexual harassment and should be reported to HR, management, or an appropriate government agency.

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