Dealing with workplace harassment, bullying and discrimination to create a respectful workplace

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Here's a FREE selection of articles that address many different problems and situations in your workplace.

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#7

CUSTOMER MAKES DEROGATORY JOKES

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When inappropriate jokes are made in-house, from a colleague or a boss you can address the situation head on. But sometimes the source of the problem doesn’t lie in your own company. You may have a customer or client who makes jokes that are derogatory or negative towards certain people, but you don't want to say anything in case you lose the business or work relationship.

 

However, when you don’t say anything, or react with only a smile to the person’s derogatory or negative jokes, you’re condoning it. Without a response, the customer thinks everything is fine.

 

It may not be easy, but you need to convey a sense of appreciation for their business and your business relationship. Stay calm and don’t try to shame anyone, but be prepared for the person to be somewhat embarrassed and/or defensive. You can follow up with a genuinely supportive comment or an appreciation statement to ease the customer’s ego but don't rush, don't apologize for your comments and don’t gush all over the customer.

 

TRY THIS:

 

Ensure you talk with the person by himself. Any negative comments in front of the client’s co-workers may be embarrassing and may lead to gossip back at their workplace. Sometimes it’s easier to draw attention to someone else’s behaviour by saying you used to do the same thing, but if that’s not the case, just be honest.

 

HOW ABOUT:

 

“A little earlier in the meeting you made a joke about (joke topic). I know I should have brought it up before, but I don’t feel comfortable with jokes that make nasty fun of others. While you might see it as harmless, I don’t want to take a chance that others overhearing will think everyone’s ok with it, and more importantly, that I condone it. I appreciate you letting me bring this up.”

 

“I want you to know that I value your business as a client of ours. It’s been great working with you. However, I do feel I need to bring up one issue that’s been bothering me, and I hope we can clear the air. You occasionally make jokes that are negative towards (people, culture, gender). I used to make jokes like that myself, but I realized that they’re not appropriate in today’s world, so I’ve stopped making them. I hope you realize that this is no comment on you as a person, but I’d appreciate if you didn’t make those types of jokes at work.”

 

(in response to “everyone does it” or “I didn’t mean anything by it”)  "I understand, and there are differences in culture or gender that are funny. But when a joke sets up someone in a negative way or relies on ridiculing someone to be funny, I think it’s best left outside of work.”

 

(in response to being accused of overreacting) “Well, I hope not.  We need to model acceptance of others to our kids and our employees. I just don’t want to take the risk that someone may feel that you or I condone negative stereotypes.”

 

 

Stephen Hammond, B.A., LL.B., CSP

 

If you have any questions, please contact Stephen.

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© STEPHEN HAMMOND - HARASSMENT SOLUTIONS INC.    
 
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Here's a FREE selection of articles that address many different problems and situations in your workplace.

Here's a FREE selection of articles that address many different problems and situations in your workplace.

© STEPHEN HAMMOND HARASSMENT SOLUTIONS INC.
 
  
 
CONTACT