I'm currently a project manager. I've been promoted this year, however I've been working as one for the last year.

Usually I try to keep a close relation with the team members. We go for lunch together and spend time doing stuff. I think this keeps the team closer and makes it easier to bond.

The problem I have is that there is a guy in my team who I can't stand. He is a good developer, hard working and a team player. Professionally I have no complaints at all. But from the personal side, he is quite sexist. He always says awkward things that make people uncomfortable and he generally breaks the good rhythm of the conversation.

What am I expected to do? Talking with him about this is rude and unprofessional as it is a personal issue. But not doing anything makes the team socially uncomfortable.


Thanks all for the info and the different points of view. I’ll update some info based on your inputs.

Answering to @Joe Strazzere, I’m his boss. Teams are stable and the project leader is the direct responsible for the members. As you say, if this affected a meeting I’d say it straight away. The problems come more with the social situations we are having (lunch, after work drinks, etc). I’m afraid this may move from a “we are a team of friends” to “we are a team of people working together”.

The point @2rs2ts is doing is quite correct. He is the kind of person that make some commentary that make people uncomfortable generating awkward silences and not realizing that he made it. Actually is a kind of situation I’ve faced in other environments and I’ve never found a way to deal with. The difference is that now it's related to work.

Also about the sexist thing, is more an attitude than anything he say. It’s more about personality than acts. If the offense was clear I would have a clear action to do and I wouldn’t need this post :) .

Answering to @Christopher Estep, I appreciate the input, but I’m not sure that it’s beneficial saying that a junior PM should quit a career path because he is having troubles with a specific social situation in his team. I’m quite sure you were excellent from the beginning in your job, but some of us need some time to get to it ;).

From the way I understand leading, it’s impossible to leave the feelings completely aside. We are humans and I sincerely think that friendship between team members can increase the productivity and results. We were having a great team community and I’m concerned about how this situation may affect it.

Based on all the inputs, what I’ll do is taking a bit of a step back and leaving the team itself lead the social events. I’ve seen quite a lot of managers giving more space to the team members so they can socialize in a more relaxed way. This may help them give clearer indications to the guy about what they like and what they don’t. I’m expecting that the environment will put him in the rest of the teams direction. At the same time, I’ve encouraged him to go with other people from the company as well so he can get a better sense of the company way for interacting.

  • 7
    Take the personal side out of it. If you don't like the individual, then don't socialize with them. You clearly state they are doing their job and are hard working and a team player. Who cares if you don't like them personally?
    – Neo
    Aug 30, 2017 at 11:43
  • 2
    If you can't just manage the project without regard to your personal feeling, I would suggest a different career. I've had PM's like that and they create a toxic environment whether they try to or not. Just because you don't actually say something doesn't mean that people can't tell. And you should consider that your intense dislike of him is contributing to making the team uncomfortable. You says he does his job well, etc. That you can't separate your job from your personal feelings says more about you than him, and not in a good way.
    – Chris E
    Aug 30, 2017 at 13:13
  • 7
    Why don't you just say "I find that sexist"? If you don't you are letting those comments get a pass and in effect allowing sexism in your workplace.
    – camden_kid
    Aug 30, 2017 at 13:28
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    @Walfrat No, the question is what the question is. The OP is very clear that he can't stand the team member and wishes to do something about it. You may see a deeper issue (as do I, but with which you disagree), but the question is plainly stated. As I see there is a deeper issue, I didn't feel it should be in an answer since addressing that deeper issue doesn't answer his plain and clear question.
    – Chris E
    Aug 30, 2017 at 13:28
  • 2
    Do your teammates share the same feeling towards him?
    – xiaomy
    Aug 30, 2017 at 14:48

3 Answers 3


What I'm expected to do? Talking with him about this is rude and unprofessional as it is a personal issue.

Not at all. From your team's perspective your job description in a nutshell is this: Ensuring that the team enjoys a productive and harmonious environment that enables it to thrive and get work done.

If you let a bad apple poison the barrel, your team will gradually lose morale and start sending job applications. You don't want that, because you're going to get evaluated - among other things - on your ability to retain your team's members.

During your next 1:1 with the team member, invite him to tone down his sexist remarks, explaining that it makes other team members and yourself uncomfortable.

  • 2
    I am not sure that other team members and yourself uncomfortable is the good approach. It might backfire as "we're talking in your back". Maybe more insisting that the OP noticed that his kind of akward behaviour break the mood and that he should avoir that stuff.
    – Walfrat
    Aug 30, 2017 at 13:31
  • 6
    How about saying that it is unprofessional to make such remarks and will not be tolerated in this workplace? This is a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen. It should not be tolerated in any workplace. Period. Talk to HR about how to handle the conversation.
    – HLGEM
    Aug 30, 2017 at 14:06
  • @HLGEM saying that cows can fly or that you can eat wood is an awkward remark, but I don't see how it could be a harassment. The OP has written the guy is sexist and makes awkward remarks, but nothing more, that could trigger the suit phobia. Overexagerrating leads to unnecessary conflict escalation, which is no benefit to anyone.
    – user50700
    Aug 30, 2017 at 15:07
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    The way to get rid of sexism is to stop it at its source and that includes language. This is what we had to do when I worked for the Navy in the 1980s (see Taillhook scandal) and it is the written policy of most major corporations and government agencies for good reason. This type of language is harmful, it leads to a hostile work environment. Sexist remarks are unprofessional and do not belong in in any workplace if the workplace wants to lose a suit.
    – HLGEM
    Aug 30, 2017 at 15:48
  • 1
    Sexist remarks = HR should be getting involved. At my company this guy would be one misstep away from termination.
    – 2rs2ts
    Aug 31, 2017 at 19:25

What I'm expected to do? Talking with him about this is rude and unprofessional as it is a personal issue. But not doing anything make's the team socially uncomfortable.

If you are just a project manager and not this individual's boss, then you are expected to manage the project, not deal with social comfort.

Expect professional work and hold everyone on the team accountable. If a project meeting gets disrupted by someone, then correct that.

But leave the personal issues to this individual's boss. That's not your role.

You and your project team members don't have to like each other personally. You do need to all find a way to work together effectively, and you need to lead the way.

  • 2
    I think is that the problem goes launch or do some stuff together and it make them closer, however, as the time pass, probably the behaviour of that guy is becoming more and more troublesome for them. It's basically socials events that help them work together but 1 guy kind of trouble that. Excluding him or stopping those events will have repercussions, continuing will make probably people more and more fed up with that, sooner or later whatever the decision will be taken something will definitively happen that will disrupt the project. Unless having him gracefully moved to another project ?
    – Walfrat
    Aug 30, 2017 at 13:29
  • 1
    I wonder if the OP felt the back hand.
    – Neo
    Aug 30, 2017 at 13:29
  • Managing the project may very well include dealing with social comfort even if the project manager is not the boss. Also, more generally I think it is important to let these kinds of people know how it makes everyone else feel because they don't seem to pick up on the situation, that the awkward silence (or other sign) means everyone disagrees with them. They often think that others are agreeing with them but are afraid to not be politically correct, rather than that they genuinely disagree.
    – ttbek
    Aug 30, 2017 at 14:38
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    +1 - The only thing I would add to this is that the OP should report serious issues and incidents to the antagonists manager. Aug 30, 2017 at 15:14

If he reports to you and his attitude is causing problems within the team, you are well within your rights to raise the issue with him e.g. during a 1:1, as was suggested by Denis.

Don't forget also to refer to his positive professional qualities:

He is a good developer, hard working and team player. Professionally I have no complains at all.

  • This does not seem to be the case. It just seems as the OP doesn't like this person.
    – Neo
    Aug 30, 2017 at 11:45

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