The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

April 11, 2014

Watercooler: 'Jokes' on men? Still not funny

Some responses to a recent column on inappropriate workplace comments.

Reader 1: The points raised in your column are serious, but it is also important to acknowledge the constant (often incorrect) negativity directed at men. My other male friends and I (in my early 30s) regularly hear female colleagues talking about how "all" men are "evil" and "sexist pigs." This is often in workplaces where preference points are awarded to non-male employees, which may increase the sense of entitlement of non-male employees. How would you recommend men handle discriminatory and sexist language?

A: It's tempting to just copy and paste my suggested response from the earlier column, when the demeaning comments were from men about women: "Wow" or "Really?" — followed by a complaint to HR if it continues.

But what if you were to follow up with: "Where did that come from? Did something happen?" Maybe there's a work situation that needs to be examined. Or maybe it's unrelated to work, in which case a good-natured "Oh, thank goodness — I thought it was something I'd done" might encourage them to vent their spleen off the clock.

Why the follow-up? Because the power dynamic in your case is more nuanced than in the previous reader's. Where you hear entitlement, I hear frustration (maybe something to do with being assumed to be diversity trophies?). Where you see all the power tilted in "non-males' " favor, I see two sexes balanced over a rolling fulcrum where each thinks the other's in control. In this scenario, it takes only a subtle shift to establish balance — or demolish it.

Reader 2: Some years ago, a female colleague at our private organization passed around a sex-toy catalog. She and some other women found it funny when we men weren't amused. Our boss just rolled her eyes and said, "Typical of her!"

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