Today something happened which included two inappropriate behavior from one of my managers.

I work in a small startup company as a software developer where I have two (very close to each other) managers, CEO Mrs X and CTO Mr X. Mrs X is the lead and everyone else reports to her include Mr X. We all work very closely during the day.

Today weather was crazy so we arrived a little late. And there is a protocol that you can arrive anytime, but will have to stay late if you arrive late. Today I sat with Mr X to knockout a feature that needs both of us (backend/frontend) for around 4 hours (~2 -> 6 p.m). Sometime during that, this dialog happened:

Mr X: Till what time are you planning to stay today?

Me: Till around 6 or 7.

Mr X: Ok cool because I will have to leave for a meeting before 6:30.

Me: No problem. I will then go have something to eat since I did not have my lunch yet.

At around 6:10, Mrs X knocks on the door and informs us that she has to leave soon and asked us if we need anything from here before she takes off. Mr X and Mrs X get into a small dialog, but then she asks:

Mrs X: Till what time are you planning to stay?

Mr X: Well since this idiot did not have lunch yet we have to leave soon hahaha

Now here I was shocked but did not show it, I replied right away:

Me: Well I can come back but you said you have to be somewhere else at 6:30

Mr X: (Stopped laughing) Well yeah I am just teasing you.

Mrs X said nothing and left. He asked me if he offended me in anyway, I said "no, it is cool" but it was obvious that I got annoyed by his words. Then we left the room, everyone sorted his stuff and left for the day.

I want that not to happen again. Should I stop him and address it or speak with the CEO? What would a proper way be?


  • Probably not relevant - but are Mr X and Mrs X related? – HorusKol Jul 11 '17 at 1:21
  • The first thing you need to do, is to change your question "title"... – comxyz Jul 11 '17 at 1:58
  • @JoeStrazzere Responding "yes" to such a question can be hard, even harder than an unsolicited "that's not appropriate" or approaching him later and saying it offended you or made you uncomfortable. This is made worse by the fact that such a question is often asked in a public or semi-public setting or in passing, where you may not want to or be able to have a discussion about it or be vulnerable in that way. Mostly I'd consider that question to serve no purpose other than to make the person asking it feel better. "No, but it's not appropriate for the workplace" is a decent response. – Dukeling Jul 11 '17 at 7:55
  • What a total idiot. Mr. X I mean. You should just leave the company, and make it clear that the reason was his idiotic remark. – Fattie Jul 11 '17 at 11:50
  • @gnat Why is I want that not to happen again. not a clear goal? – BSMP Jul 11 '17 at 15:59

This sounds like the following happened

  1. Mr. X is trying to make a dumb joke
  2. He noticed that it didn't go well and probably was over the line,
  3. He checked in with you to do repairs, if necessary

You should have addressed it right then and there. If he asks, it means he knows it was wrong and wants to fix it. A simple "Sorry, but that felt a little over the line and not really that funny" would have been perfectly okay. Mr. X could have said "sorry, I didn't mean to offend, won't happen again" and that would be that.

You said you were cool and now you are not? What exactly do you try to achieve? Do you want an apology? Mr. X publicly chastised ?

I would let it go. Mr. X knew it was wrong and it's unlikely to happen again. If it does: say something right away. Polite but firm.

  • 1
    The "tease" was not very smart, but frankly, the atmosphere in the group looks really relaxed, and maybe the concentration of Mr. X was faltering and he didn't pay too much attention to his words (plus he noticed he went overboard!). It would be a great mistake to blow up the event out of proportion. If OP is offended by this (including the whole context), they have not seen really rude and unprofessional behaviour (the worst of which can pretend to be polite and educated). I strongly suggest to let it go and if it repeats, they could say, with a sideways nod, "That was not exactly funny." – Captain Emacs Jul 11 '17 at 0:53

Should I stop him and address it...

If he weren't a higher up I'd say that you could. Since he's the CTO, I'm not sure it's worth it at this point.

Not feeling comfortable complaining about something in the moment does not mean you're obligated to pretend to be OK with it forever after the fact. With a regular co-worker you could say something like, I didn't want to make it a big thing at the time but I wanted to make sure the idiot comment didn't happen again. A reasonable co-worker will be OK with that. An unreasonable co-worker won't be but they don't have power over you in the company.

The CTO is above you in the hierarchy so, if he decides to get upset at you bringing it back up again, he could make things unpleasant. (I don't know whether the CTO is reasonable but aside from calling you an idiot, he felt the need to blame you for the fact that you were both leaving work soon. That seems off to me but then I wasn't there.)

In this case it's better to wait until it happens again. At that point if asking the CTO to stop doesn't work you can go to the CEO with a pattern of behavior, not a one time incident that can get shrugged off as a "joke".

...speak with the CEO?

Definitely do not the CEO. The CTO currently thinks everything is OK or at least OK enough that you didn't complain to him. Generally for this sort of thing you would address this with the person who offended you before escalating to someone with more authority. You definitely have to do so when you've explicitly given the impression that things are OK.

As an aside, eat lunch at lunch time. If you're going to get grief for working through lunch then don't bother skipping it.

  • Sorry did not get the part where you say "they felt the need to blame you for the fact that you were both leaving work soon". Thanks – Sandra K Jul 11 '17 at 3:36
  • @SandraK - The CTO could have just told the CEO, "We have to leave soon" or even, "I have a meeting at 6:30". Instead they said, "We have to leave soon, because of [Sandra K]." They claimed it was your fault you were both leaving soon even though that wasn't true. It just seems a bit odd he would do that. (Or was it that I say 'they' instead of 'he'? That's just force of habit, I'll fix that.) – BSMP Jul 11 '17 at 3:42

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