February 23, 2020
I work in a male-dominated field. Long story short, I was away from my normal assignment for the past 12 months so I hadn’t seen a lot of my coworkers in a while. A male coworker recently decided to point out that I’ve gained weight since the last time he saw me. Then a few days later, he said I should really get new pants before they split. I know you had some trouble with internet trolls saying bad stuff about your body (which btw you look awesome). How do you recommend I talk to this person?
I normally get all kinds of bad comments from the public because of my field (law enforcement) but it never gets to me. The only reason this is getting to me is because it’s coming from a middle aged guy that I’m cordial with but not friends with and don’t normally joke around with.
Dear Trolled IRL,
First of all – thank you for your service.
Secondly, UGH. This makes me SO ANGRY!!!! I’m sorry this happened. It is SO WRONG on SO MANY LEVELS.
I remember the very first time someone called me fat. I was in elementary school. I never thought there was anything wrong with my body until that exact moment when a girl pointed at me while I was eating and asked me “Why are you so fat?” I ran into the bathroom and cried so hard. That moment shaped the rest of my life.
Now, back to your colleague. He is being so rude, so inappropriate, and so unprofessional. Just from hearing your story, I know exactly the type of person he is, and honestly, I’d try to get as far away from him as possible. He seems like a horrible human with no manners and no regard for other’s feelings. I wonder how he was raised.
In my opinion, negatively commenting on anyone’s body (especially your co-workers’) is never appropriate, EVER!!!! Is it possible for you to contact HR and/or your boss and tell them about this? Especially since it has happened twice?
I however, totally understand that there are 2 different social consequences for dealing with this via upper management versus dealing with this directly.
If you don’t feel comfortable going to HR right away, or think they won’t do anything about it anyway, here’s what I would do if I had to deal with him – adult to adult.
I’d ask to take him aside and talk to him. Say “Hey, mind if we chat about something that’s been on my mind?” Remind him about those 2 incidents that happened and tell him how uncomfortable and harassed it made you feel. Then ask him why he felt like he needed to tell you that.
After he gives you whatever B.S. answer he decides to make up, tell him that your body is none of his business and that the way your pants fit has nothing to do with the work that both of you do. Tell him that you wanted to give him an opportunity to explain himself so that you two could deal with this privately, before it was going to get out of hand, potentially requiring you to involve other people. (Maybe that will scare him.)
If he’s a logical person who genuinely wasn’t aware of his rudeness, then he should apologize and say he won’t do it again.
If he’s a total a-hole (which it sounds like he might be), he might respond by making you feel bad for standing up for yourself. Be prepared. He might say that you’re too sensitive, that you’re insecure, that you’re making a big deal out of nothing, that you actually do need new pants, or maybe he’ll even give you a fake apology, roll his eyes, and then gossip about you with fellow co-workers about this private matter.
If this happens – you need to tell your boss or HR. If his presence makes you uncomfortable and it negatively affects the quality of your work, that is something your manager needs to deal with immediately! I don’t know how the Law Enforcement field works, but maybe he can get transferred or maybe you can request to never have the same shift as him. Whatever happens, I want to see this male colleague out of your life. He seems like a total jerk who is degrading the quality of your work experience.
Good luck Trolled IRL! You’ve got this.
PS – If you have a burning question you want to ask me, I’m taking questions via text at 510-692-4556. Currently this only works for US and Canada. If you’re outside of those countries, you can leave a question below.