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I work in a big team of 50+ people. The working culture of my company is very open and employees do not sit quietly, they make noise all day. People are mostly under 30 years old. Even my managers don't mind it. I am a very soft spoken and sensitive person.

I have noticed that many of my colleagues play funny pranks on each other. They have targeted me now and try to make fun of me most of the time. They don't try to insult me but take me lightly and divert any conversation towards me in the end. They keep on teasing me for no reason and I know they do this as I never answer them back badly or never make fool out of them.

Now many people have started to give me advice that I should tell these fellows to stop their jokes and focus on their work/task. It makes me look like a child and a stupid person, whereas I'm a true professional. They take advantage of my good nature and try to take pleasure by fooling me. Now, this issue is definitely not a big one and I don't want to talk with manager/HR etc. I want to handle this fully on my own, so what should I do?

  1. Ignore the jokes and the laughing people do using my name and quietly keep doing my work.
  2. Answer them back rudely and insult them, fight with them and create a scene.
  3. Stop talking with everyone and just do my work and go home.
  • 4
    Tell them you don't want to join in any reindeer games. Seriously you should tell them "I have work to do. Please stop with the antics." Don't fight them or insult them. Just tell them to stop. – paparazzo Dec 23 '15 at 17:26
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    Judging by the way you wrote your post, and your username, this might not be a real option.. but you could always try teasing them back. I'm sorry to say it, but the world is not a bubblegum, rainbow world. People are going to tease you inside and outside of the work place. My suggestion here would be to thicken your skin. From what you said it's hard to say if it's personal or not, or what the context of the teasing is, so it might be harder to "roll with the punches" depending on how personal it is. – ballBreaker Dec 23 '15 at 17:40
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    I don't understand how you have answers. There is no way to answer your question with the info you gave. You need to give some clear examples of what they are saying or doing. Not just jibes and pranks. It could very well be they are just trying to include you in their group or they could think you are a total ass clown - so if the gap is that big you should give examples and shouldn't have answers yet. – blankip Dec 23 '15 at 19:04
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    Country of origin? I would expect that what's normal in Japan isn't normal in the USA. Are you new to the area and/or culture? If everyone is poking fun at each other... and they then include you in it... doesn't it make sense that you are now part of the group to the point that they can be themselves around you - which is a good thing? – WernerCD Dec 24 '15 at 1:59
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    "many of my Colleagues play funny pranks on each other" means this is a bonding ritual and they would like to include you. If you want to be work friends with them, laugh at yourself when they make fun of you and learn how to make fun of them in the same style they use. If you just want to get your work done, calmly and politely tell them you don't like pranks or teasing. – Todd Wilcox Dec 24 '15 at 4:29
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Seriously, the action you should have taken the first time was to laugh. keep this in mind for the future. You really need to expand your definition of professional beyond never say or do anything except work. It is harming your career. Thinking of them as behaving unprofessionally is counterproductive and wrong. Most of the best workplaces have a lot of informal teasing and joking going on. It actually generally helps productivity not harms it.

Now you are in a mess that is harder to get out of than if you had acted appropriately when it first happened.

First, none of your proposed actions are appropriate. Do not do any of them.

Not knowing exactly the nature of the teasing, it is hard to say exactly what to do. Is this good-natured teasing just trying to get you to loosen up and become part of the organization or has this gone beyond that into actual harassment because you come across as "holier than thou" and they intensely dislike you and are trying to run you off. People can get very nasty when their first harmless gestures of friendship are ignored or turned away. It is hard to say if your current co-workers are at this point from our perspective out here in Internetland.

Since you clearly don't understand ordinary teasing, it will be hard for you to make this determination as to how harmless this is at this point in time. If there is anyone whose judgement you trust at this place (or if you have a mentor), it is time to have a conversation in private with them about the teasing and what you should do in the context of this particular organization's culture.

If there is someone whose judgement you trust outside the workplace, you could explain the details of what is happening and ask whether they think it is good natured teasing that you should positively respond to or harassment which is handled differently.

If you have no one else to ask, talk to your boss about it and how it is affecting you and how you don't know how to get it to stop.

Ignoring the problem will most likely make it worse as they try to get any kind of a reaction from you.

In general when you are harassed (If you determine that what is happening is beyond the ordinary give and take of the office), the first step is to POLITELY ask them to stop. Under no circumstances get angry or yell. If you over react, you will be the person who will lose in the exchange. If they are decent people and they find out that this upsets you then they will stop. However, at this point it may not be likely, but asking politely and explaining that it upsets you is really the only choice. And you will need to move to the next step.

The next step if they do not stop is to ask your boss for help in getting them to stop. If he is not helpful or downplays the seriousness, then you can either go to HR about it (which will make you a pariah at most work places, so think really carefully before you do this). Or you can move on to an organization that is less full of people who like to play pranks. And next job, ease up a little and laugh at them the first time.

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    Very well said, even with the sparce amount of information given in the first place. +1 – ballBreaker Dec 23 '15 at 20:00
  • As Ron Burgundy would say, "When in Rome..." – corsiKa Dec 24 '15 at 3:05
14

In your list of options, you have omitted the most obvious one: Speak to them directly. While their behavior of pranks and jokes may suggest that they are also not "true professionals", this is not necessarily the case. Do they behave this way among themselves directed at each other as well? In many office cultures this is a sign of camaraderie so long as it doesn't breach any socially taboo barriers (abuse, violence, vulgarity, etc).

It's possible this behavior is a poor attempt to include you rather than exclude you, and it is having the opposite effect. Rather than being passive aggressive (or even aggressive aggressive) try the direct and honest approach. Speak to them individually or collectively and just politely tell them it bothers you. Something as simple as "I'm sure the pranks and jokes are meant with no bad intentions, but they're making me a little uncomfortable. I'd appreciate it if you would stop."

If they're "true professionals" they'll understand your feelings on the matter and they'll stop. There won't be any ill feelings or resentment towards you, it will simply stop. If it doesn't stop, then your other 3 options listed in your question will only make the work environment more hostile than it is. At that point your only recourse will be to seek assistance from management.

If you treat them as professionals, they're more likely to treat you as one.

  • 1
    OP stated they do this to each other all the time. Seems like they feel it's time to bring the OP "into the group", and this very well may be a compliment to the OP. OP didn't specify what they do, only that they play pranks. It's feeling like this workplace is less formal and more "buddy-buddy" than the OP is used to. It's unlikely the teasing is with malice, and OP should adjust a bit to this company's culture if OP intends to work there long term. Asking them to stop may indeed have them stop, but they'll push the OP to the "outside" of the group and include the OP less often. – SnakeDoc Dec 23 '15 at 23:39
  • @snakedoc: I agree but I see the same ambiguity in the question others see. It would seem to me tho that OP is already on the outside of that group and is ok with it aside from the pranks and teasing. It is a choice for him/her to make ultimately and any resolution needs to begin by talking to them. – Joel Etherton Dec 23 '15 at 23:50
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    Agreed on the ambiguity here, causing us all to speculate. It does seem the OP's cultural background just hasn't exposed the OP to this very common and normal type of office banter. It won't be good for the OP to just ignore them and "just do work and go home", as OP suggested, and it won't be good to get into a confrontation with OP's co-workers over perceived malice when everyone else just feels it's being friendly and inclusive. Both situations will alienate the OP and ultimately harm their career at this workplace. @OP, please provide more details so we can better assist! – SnakeDoc Dec 23 '15 at 23:59
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Doesn't sound like you are a fit for this culture, since you say the managers seem OK with the situation as it is.

If you continue on the path you describe, eventually you will snap and lash out at the people you don't like, which will create problems for you. Because you sound angry, and rightfully so.

You should either look for a new job, or find some way to reduce the effect that the teasing has on you. One way might be to grit your teeth, smile at these people, and compliment them on their cleverness at having successfully pranked you. Perhaps find some small ways to prank them back.

It may be this is their way of trying to bring you into the fold. Or they see you as a challenge. If you give in, superficially, they may consider you "conquered" and will move on.

Sometimes being a "good sport," however inane that might seem, helps you out in the long run. If the thought of this turns your stomach, however, it's probably time to look elsewhere for work.

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    Alternatively, it could be this is exactly the kind of environment OP needs in to grow as a person. Then sometime down the road, when interfacing with a client or other professional who acts in the same way, OP now knows how to handle it while still getting work done and maintaining self esteem. They don't call it experience for nothin'! – corsiKa Dec 24 '15 at 3:07
3

You have a poor cultural fit. Most of the people there seem "OK" with the banter and teasing. Telling them to stop will probably not help. However, there are probably others in the office that, like you, do not like the behavior. Also, you can politely tell the people teasing you that you do not like it, so it would be appreciated if they had their fun joking with people that do like it.

Your best option is to wait until there is a quiet moment in the office, then approach a colleague that you think does not really like the teasing either and ask them, "A lot of people seem to enjoy teasing other people around here. I don't really enjoy it very much. What do you think?" It will help if you can find other people that feel the same way that you do. Also, it is best to ask about this when nobody is doing it, otherwise it may appear that you are really upset with particular people. Then when teasing starts, you can excuse yourself to go talk to people that you know will not participate - or will reduce the intensity of the situation.

Also, if your colleagues start teasing you about your feelings on this because "word gets around the office" that you don't like it, then you have a valid response. When teased about how you feel, you can say, "No I don't like or appreciate the teasing or joking. It seems to me that you can find ways to have fun without teasing or mocking other people. And if you continue to do it, it would be better to do it with people that enjoy it like you do. But please do not expect me to do it or enjoy it also. I would rather have fun other ways."

If they are decent and reasonable people, they will respect your statement. You will probably also find that other people in the office do not like it either. Some may hate it, but are trying to "fit in" to an uncomfortable culture.

If this is too much or they disregard your feelings, then either keep quiet or find another workplace. I am not trying to approve or condone the behavior, but there are many places that do not feel oppressive like this.

1

It sounds like you're new at the work place. Sadly, teasing and pranking seems to be some sort of initiation thing at a lot of places. And it can be distressing.

As for how to deal with these guys. If it was me, I wouldn't fire back at them as they would then see they get a rise out of you. So the best bet is to head down and do your job. If the teasing starts to become personal, at that point I'd have a word with a manager.

You can't control them, but you can control how you respond to them. And they can only get to you if you allow them to.

  • I am not new in the work place...and this is going once since a long time now. These people sometimes get personal and make sarcastic comments on everyone.....i think that they are foolish people and act like little children....but when i dont fire back at them ....they get more courage to make jokes on me. – softsoul22 Dec 23 '15 at 17:23
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    Then they're behaving like idiots. At the end of the day, its not your job to tell them off. Your manager should step in and have a word. Especially if there's more than one complaint... – user3019 Dec 23 '15 at 17:25
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    Sounds like a case for constructive dismissal. They're creating a hostile work environment, and if your (and their managers aren't doing anything about bullying - may as well call it what it is), then you could have a case for kicking up a serious fuss with the HR department. – Tom O'Connor Dec 24 '15 at 13:45
1

I feel that bullying is something that should be handled professionally by bringing it up to your supervisor. I also feel silence or not responding to their insults may keep them from doing it again but honestly I think it's important to talk to a superior about a problem like this.

We're at an age where we're no longer children in school, where bullying usually takes place (even though it shouldn't at all). So, this problem should be handled asap.

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Given the situation you described, in my opinion no matter how you react on the outside (smile, answer them back, ignore them, talk to them, complain with managers, anything), the only thing that can affect their behavior for real is: how you actually feel in the inside. Don't ask me how can they perceive that, I don't know, but they do. I don't know why in certain environments those dynamics get triggered and in other environments they don't, either. But when humans act as a group they can end up behaving not that differently from other animals.

As long as you keep feeling that bad for the pranks they play on you, nothing can change the situation, not even their superiors ordering them to stop (this would actually make the situation worse). By taking their pranks that seriously and feeling that bad you are just signaling to them "it's working", thus calling for more. And this doesn't mean they do it on purpose in order to hurt you; not at all; this is subconscious stuff, probably linked with our animal instincts of domination or something like that.

You say my Colleagues play funny pranks on each other . Do they feel as bad as you do when other colleagues play pranks on them ? It doesn't sound so. Then why would you ? Why do you take it that differently from how they take it when it's done to them ? Consider going with the flow. If you can't, start looking for another job or into changing team. Unless you are in an environment which as a whole is unbelievably unusual for a civilized society, chances are you are just taking it in the wrong way.

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