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I work in a large multinational company. My colleague uses a particular word for a greeting that is very offensive. It is not appropriate language at work and is against company policy.

My colleague used this racist language once with me before and I told them to stop. The offensive word was used while we were joking so they may not know I was serious.

I want to have a conversation with them about their choice of language. I've had conversations like this with close friends, but I'm not really sure what to say to a colleague. Any advice on how I can get them to understand this is a serious issue?

Note: we work in the same team, I do not report to them or have to work closely with them. They are generally an easy person to share an office with. I expect they will listen and be reasonable. I think it will be most effective if I have a conversation with them than escalate immediately to HR/management etc.

marked as duplicate by David K, Retired Codger, jimm101, Chris E, paparazzo Oct 19 '16 at 14:09

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    My colleague uses a particular word for a greeting that is very offensive. It is not appropriate language at work and is against company policy. according to ... you ? – Walfrat Oct 19 '16 at 10:12
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    @Walfrat: "is against company policy" - if it is written, and valid for this situation, then it is according to the company policy. – Sonic Oct 19 '16 at 10:30
  • @SJX It would help a lot to know where (in the world) you work and what the word is and what leads you to believe that company policy prohibits it. – Kaz Oct 19 '16 at 10:35
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    @SJX: I think it is very important to the discussion to know what that word is? Maybe it is implied in your question, but I am not able to guess it. What is the word? – Bjarke Freund-Hansen Oct 19 '16 at 11:09
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    You don't have a conversation with someone. You tell you don't want to hear this. Maybe you add 'because I consider it ....', but these things are not worth a debate. – Jan Doggen Oct 19 '16 at 11:15
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Try the informal approach first:

"Hey, you keep saying the word 'XXX', it's kind of offensive and I'd rather you didn't say it."

If that doesn't work, flag it to your boss.

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Just a gentle heads up just in case he doesn't realise how offensive you find it.

'You need to watch your mouth mate. It's not funny any more, it's just rude.'

Either that or grow thicker skin, it's only a word and you don't think it's meant maliciously.

But you don't have a dialogue or argument over it, just tell him you won't tolerate it.

Personally I just let people use whatever mannerisms they want to cultivate and only get upset by bigger things. Some people are showoffs, some people are rough around the edges or want to appear that way, others have strange hairstyles, others wear weird clothes, but so what?

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It's simple. You are having a "failure to communicate" problem due to the fact that his joking around is giving him a bubble to live in. You have to pierce that bubble by whatever it takes. Strip the make believe, strip the illusion.

  1. Tell him again: "Look, I am dead serious. Your greeting is very offensive and against policy. I want you to stop. Immediately. You might think that what you're doing is joking around but I am not laughing."

  2. Pause and await his reaction.

  3. If he still not taking you seriously: "And if you continue, HR won't think you're laughing either. I am telling you this because this is our last chance to keep this between us".

  4. And then, you follow through depending on what he decides to do.

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    This seems a bit "aggressive" to someone who might have no clue he was doing something wrong. I think talking to the person first and telling him it is offensive should suffice (Maybe even explain why it is). If that does not work, then you answer seems to be a good second conversation. – Jeroen Oct 19 '16 at 10:36
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    @Jeroen - You already told him that his greeting is very offensive. And you're still saying that he might have no clue what he is doing wrong? If that's the case, his next stop is HR where he can explain himself and where HR can use anything he says against him - I wouldn't waste any more time on this. It might be aggressive to you, but he is in a bubble and if you want to get your message through him, you're going to pierce a hole through that bubble. Quite a few who act like jerks don't see themselves as jerks. Until they are called out in a way that they can't ignore, downplay or dismiss. – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 19 '16 at 10:49
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    @Jeroen - If I told you what I just wrote and you STILL don't think I am serious, your next stop is HR. You sort it out with them. Period. And if you want to be dismissed for cause, it's all up to you. I am not going to give myself a headache wondering what they'll do to you. – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 19 '16 at 11:06
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    @Joe Strazzere - It's a threat only if he chooses to continue. – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 19 '16 at 11:12
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    Blatant threats like that can backfire in a big way. – Retired Codger Oct 19 '16 at 13:22

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