Advice column: being the target of female comments is starting to get to me

Dear Ash

Iwork in a predominantly female environment and find it quite intimidating at times. Being the only male in the office often results in my being the target of office jokes and banter. I don’t normally mind this too much, but sometimes some of my colleagues tend to get quite personal, for example making jokes about my weight or my dress sense. This has started to make me feel more insecure about my appearance and I make more of an effort in getting ready for work in the morning in order to potentially avoid being the butt of jokes. I’m not sure if I should say anything to anyone as I don’t want to come across as being overly sensitive?

Ash replies:

There is a certain expectation in the workplace that there will be a degree of banter and ridicule from time to time. However, there is a fine line between office banter and effectively targeting one individual on a regular basis.

There is also sometimes an unfortunate imbalance between what is perceived as acceptable and unacceptable behaviour towards men in the workplace as opposed towards women in the workplace. If a woman had described the events you have outlined and the perpetrators had been male, then I’m sure such behaviour would be universally deplored. However, I am not sure you would receive much sympathy for your plight.

This is not to say, however, that you should just continue to accept the situation. If it is dragging you down and you do consequently feel more insecure, then I would suggest that you speak to one of the women involved, on a one-to-one basis. Perhaps just mention that although you are happy to be involved in jokes and banter, it does seem that you are always on the receiving end. It may be that your colleagues don’t realise that you are affected by their comments. Therefore by speaking to one colleague, you may be able to get the message across that they should perhaps back off a bit.

If this doesn’t ease the situation then I would say that you are more than entitled to give back as good as you get. Giving your colleagues a taste of their own medicine might just be what is needed… all in jest and with a smile, of course!


Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, Manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or KatieWood@lawscot.org.uk 

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