I'm from india and my workplace consists of people across india, meaning that people of different mother languages come to work in the same workplace.

Recently when I and my team mates were travelling on a car to a party outside for a team building activity, I inadvertently told the others that "don't play hindi songs since none of us can understand them" (None of the guys on the car has hindi as their mother language fyi). I would not have told the same if there was a guy in the car who can understand that language.

After a week, one of guys told in front of a small group that "This guy hates hindi" as if it was a joke. This really pissed me off. The people from other team might misinterpret that I am language-biased. They might even think that I will hate (not help) anyone who do not speak my own language.

I explained to him immediately harshly that I dont listen to chinese,japanese songs either and it doesnot mean that I hate them all. So stop all this non sense. And, he belives that it was just a joke.

The irritating thing is that nobody from the team told him that what he said about me is not fair.

I don't know how to handle this. I learned that I should keep my mouth shut whenever this guy is around.

Another incident: We all have a personal whatsapp group and we chat nasty things. This same guy told something that we discussed among the group to someone who is not part of the group, in front of me as if it was a joke. Again, that is something that belittles me.

I'm not worried about this guy but really worried about the team members who are in line with him, believing that all his non sense talks are just jokes.

Am i overreacting?

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    Your teammates are avoiding the bully. This is self preservation for them. If they speak up for you they know they will be the next target for his immature actions. And yes, you are a bit overreacting. Bullies fuel their actions by their targets' reactions. If you ignore him enough, he will find himself a new target. – MelBurslan Mar 25 '16 at 16:03
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    I'm not the one that downvoted you, but I will tell you this. Your reaction shows me that you are more than a bit defensive. If you don't change that, you will be a target for bullies your entire life. Bullies love the reaction. – Old_Lamplighter Mar 25 '16 at 16:17
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    @jane This bullying behavior is oddly accepted in your group. I never found ignoring the bully useful. Bullies are insecure and attention-seeking. I usually will make some funnier comment back (just be careful some bullies will come back with a vengeance). – jcmack Mar 25 '16 at 17:13
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    But what's wrong with songs in a language you don't understand? I enjoy Irish music though I don't speak Gaelic, German & Italian choral works, Gregorian chants in Latin (probably better than I would if I understood them, as I'm not a follower of the religion). – jamesqf Mar 25 '16 at 18:06
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    You created this situation and gave a bully a target. Do not say anything in chat or person that can be used against you. You just give people ammo if there is a falling out. Coworkers are not best friends for life. But now that it's done, just tell the person to stop. "Come on mate, leave me me alone, I haven't done anything to you. Go pick on someone else." – Kilisi Mar 25 '16 at 18:19

Most probably you are overreacting. If he said it in a joking tone, others may wonder how he gets to that idea, but no one will think less of you. Your colleagues said nothing about the incident because they didn't find it important enough to make a fuss about it.

If this guy continues to have a loose tongue around other people, don't say anything what could be interpreted as problematic when he is around. Aside from that: Even if you have a good relationship with your colleagues and joke around a lot, it is still a workplace! Try to keep the topics casual. No sexist/racist/whatever jokes (even if they are clearly jokes and everyone finds them funny). This can fire back at you.

If you AND your peers (do not do that alone!) feel that the loose tongue of you colleague is a problem, you may choose to have a small friendly talk with him. Tell him that you are concerned if he spreads your jokes around to managers or people outside your team. This however could come across as belittlement to him, so I would not recommend it. The better solution clearly is watch what you say in the workplace.

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    It is understandable to be irritated with someone telling the wrong story as a joke for people who weren't there. It never sounds like the story is not true. It sounds like the story is true and but person telling the story doesn't find it offensive. The problem is that others might. – Pablo Mar 25 '16 at 18:00
  • I totally agree with @Pablo comments. – jane Mar 25 '16 at 18:25

First you need to look to your own behavior. Why are you chatting nasty things with your coworkers in a private group? Nothing said in such a group will remain private, so stopping shooting yourself in the foot. And depending on how you asked them to not play Hindi songs, you may have actually insulted someone and they felt like you deserved to be put down for it. It is fairly easy to inadvertently insult people.

So first and foremost, your co-workers are not your friends and you can't say the things you would say in private to friends that you don't work with.

Learn to watch what you say. Make sure that you are not the cause of the problem first. If people were agreeing with whatever you said, then it would have been less likely they would bring this stuff up later to embarrass you or they would have been more likely to come to your defense.

Since whatever you said was clearly embarrassing if known publicly, then stop saying such things in private. Never assume a group that includes co-workers is private. This includes in-person groups and social media. I have known people who got fired for saying some things they shouldn't have on social media and their co-workers reported them. In one spectacular case I remember from a few years ago, I had co-workers who even got questioned by the company (as part of the investigation) as to why they had not reported what the person said (which was really vile about another co-worker) since they were Facebook friends.

Also, you need to stand up for yourself and not expect that others will do it for you. They weren't the ones who felt uneasy or embarrassed, most of them probably didn't even notice that you were. Or they might have agreed with his interpretation of your comments.

You can deflect a lot of behavior by laughing at the joke. In fact that can work when someone says something that wasn't entirely meant as a joke and you take it as really funny. I used to deflect a lot of unwanted sexual harassment that way. You can also deflect behavior by making a joke about them back that is equally or slightly more embarrassing to them. People don't joke about people who are likely to turn on them.

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  • I repeat "Nobody from the group knew hindi" and I don't deserve to be put down for that comment. Please read it before making comments. He was bullying and (only) you could not see it.. – jane Mar 25 '16 at 18:01
  • I was embarrassed not because of my comments, because he wanted to make fun of me.. You could not understand this simple fact that everyone else here could understand. – jane Mar 25 '16 at 18:10
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    +1 for "So first and foremost, your co-workers are not your friends and you can't say the things you would say in private to friends that you don't work with." – Old_Lamplighter Mar 25 '16 at 18:33
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    @jane if you are part of a group that "chat nasty things" then the other members of the group are, obviously, going to regard you as part of the group and therefore fair game to be drawn into the "sport". There is an element of lie down with dogs, get fleas here in my opinion. When you participate in "nasty talk" with others, I feel your defence against some of the talk coming back at you is rather diminished. – Rob Moir Mar 25 '16 at 18:39
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    @Jane, I did read what you said and took it into account. It is not relevant that nobody knew HIndi. Just because the people who might have been insulted were not physically in the room (or car in this case) doesn't mean it won't get back to them or that you should say it. You said something that other people took to mean you were prejudiced and now you are mad because they made fun of you for it. If you don't want to be made fun of for saying mean things then stop saying them. – HLGEM Mar 26 '16 at 16:57

You inadvertently told them not to play Hindi songs because of your language barrier.

It's just music, and you do not need to understand what they are saying to enjoy it or for it to sound nice.

Be more mindful of what you say, and how it may sound to others. As for now, I would not worry about it, and do what you can to let him know that there are no hard feelings, I think he will appreciate that.

On the other hand, if he started blasting Creed, then It would be totally understandable to act the way you did

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    With Arms Wide Open... ;) (One of Creed's hits for those going, "Huh?" ) – JB King Mar 25 '16 at 17:53

Very difficult problem when you have a troublemaker like that. There are no easy solutions. Usually incisive humor is the right strategy. If you are funnier than he is and more cutting that can disarm him.

I will tell you an interesting story about troublemakers and how to handle them.

Around 1935 Khrushchev (who later became premier of the USSR) was a local party boss in the Ukraine. At this time the terror was raging and people were being arrested with their whole family and executed on a nightly basis. Against this background Khrushchev was holding important committee meetings in his local soviet. These meetings might have 12-16 party officials.

In one of these meetings that Khrushchev chaired, an old woman on the committee who was a party member suddenly pointed at him and said out of the blue: "I can tell by the look in your eye that you are a traitor!"

Now, this was an extremely dangerous situation because in those days merely an accusation like this could be sufficient to result in an arrest and execution. If Khrushchev had tried to deny the accusation, it would have just made him look guilty.

To deal with the situation, what Khrushchev did is he retorted: "And I can tell by the look in YOUR eye, that you are a whore!" and that was the end of the matter.

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  • I love the incident that you brought in. But I am no smarter than he is. – jane Mar 25 '16 at 16:45

I understand your problem. The guy is immature. Probably young in 20s. They do not understand the problem which may be caused by their actions. You have rightly identified him as a problem child. Stay away as much as possible. Don't try to argue.Be mature. Best of all , try to avoid any comments which might be perceived as bias. And if you do pass , be confident . Don't worry. Whatever you say to him bee confident and don't sound angry. Don't give attention to people who try to incite you. The more attention you give, the more they will incite you. Also be your natural self. Do not change because of bunch of bullies.

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