How to deal with a bigot in the workplace and Remain Professional
Most of us spend more time at work that we do with our love ones. So, having happy stress free relationships with people at your place of employment is important. We encounter many people with different personalities, opinions, and upbringings and that can make for a dynamic team and a great place to work.
Needless to say, No matter where I work there is always at least one difficult person. The one guy who’s never satisfied, the office gossip, or the guy who doesn’t carry his load. And because these types are common, most of us have figured out how to deal with them.
But, how do you deal with a bigot?
He’s the office bully who cracks inappropriate jokes about Women, Race, LGBT, disabled, handicapped, etc. You name it and he’s on it, inappropriately on it. Whether it’s jokes, forced opinions, or snide remarks, it seems like it’s his goal to make you feel uncomfortable and unwanted. He’s in your place of employment which you would enjoy more if it weren’t for this unbearable guy.
So, what do you do about it? How do you handle it?
Here are a few tips on how to deal with a bigot in the work place.
He’s your boss
Let’s start with when the office bigot is your superior/boss. This is really awkward and of course kind of scary. I mean, the guy’s your boss. What about retaliation?
In this case you need to have a paper trail. For example, you’ve notice that you’ve been passed up for a promotion that should have been yours. But, you also noticed that your boss consistently makes remarks about women in the office. Things like women can’t be leaders because of maternity leave. Or, maybe he’s been so bold as to make a “joke” about the kitchen and the bedroom.
He’s made you uncomfortable many times about being the only women there and you’ve dealt with it quietly. Well, now’s the time to act. First, build a portfolio of all of your accomplishments. Everything you’ve work on and performed exceedingly on.
He may be a bigot, but he can not deny what’s right in front of him. Then, let him know that you didn’t get the pass promotion, but you are looking forward to the next one. Tell him that you will be keeping up with your performance and checking in with him from time to time to go over performance.
Now, continue to perform exceedingly and get that promotion! Look, there is nothing like proof and once he knows that you are very aware that you were looked over he will think twice before doing it again. Especially now that he knows you are documenting.
He’s your coworker
Ok, we’ve dealt with your boss now let’s look at what to do when the bigot is your coworker. This is someone in the same position as you with the same authority as you. But, he is also someone you encounter more frequently which means he has the potential to make your life miserable.
I have dealt with this many times over and have been able to maintain professionalism. Here’s how?
Call him out?
For example, if he’s making inappropriate comments about women don’t engage his comments, instead call him out by saying “I hope you’re not being sexiest because human resources wouldn’t like that and I don’t either.” Or how about, “this is an inappropriate conversation and I don’t care for it.”
You have to let him know how you feel. Don’t turn away and don’t cower. Look him directly in the eyes with a stern face which lets him know that you are serious.
Guess what? HE will feel uncomfortable and he will know not to have this type of conversation when he is in your presence. Don’t wait to call him out, do it immediately! It sets boundaries and ends this type of behavior in future encounters.
He’s a client
In business the client is always right. Right? So, how do you deal with a client who is a bigot? Thank goodness that you only have to see this person ever so often and for only a small period of time. But, when you do it’s always hair raising because he’s the bigot who feels he can do and say anything because he’s a client.
First, I want to say this is the toughest situation to be in because you must remain professional and represent your company well and that should be your main focus. Now that I’ve said that, let’s look at how to deal with this type of bigot.
Here’s a scenario, you walk in and he’s waiting for you with a racist joke, as usual. It’s makes you uncomfortable and it’s inappropriate. What should you do?
Change the subject! But, don’t change the subject by asking how was his weekend or what are his hobbies. Get back to why you’re there which is business. You don’t want to ask him about anything personal because it won’t make him feel that you were offended. But, by getting back to the business you’re sending the message that your here for business and that you are a professional.
Now this brings me to tip number two which is do not smile or give him an awkward laugh to seem pleasant. Give him about 3 seconds of silence and change the subject back to business. DO NOT LAUGH. This only encourages more of this type of behavior and makes your client feel like it’s ok. It’s not ok if you are uncomfortable.Do Not smile or laugh with a bigot for the sake of keeping the Peace…..
Now, because this is a client, you need to speak up. Talk to your superior about this situation and how uncomfortable you are. He needs to know. Perhaps you can discuss switching clients. Or if you feel confident enough to continue, someone needs to be aware just in case this bigot decides he is going to cause problems for you back at the office for not laughing at his tasteless jokes.
A Step Further
Whether you’re dealing with a boss, coworker, or client, these tips should help you navigate in a professional manner. But, If you have never dealt with bigots before I must tell you that sometimes these tips just don’t cut it. In those cases you may have to take it a step further.
And that means, documenting times, dates, places, statements, and the people who where present at the time statements were made. Do this only after trying the above tips with no results. Then, going through the proper channels which is reporting to a supervisor and then your manager. If no action is taken, the next stop is human resources with a copy of your documentation.
And remember, the only way to stop a bigot is head on.
For more tips on adapting to new challenges check out How to make friends in a new city.