Insensitive Coworkers: When to Involve Your Supervisor?


Troublesome coworkers come in all shapes and sizes; some make sexually inappropriate remarks, others’ use humor that may not be funny to all, and some are just outright rude.  The balance lies within determining when the issue can be solved with just yourself and the coworker, or when your supervisor may need to get involved. Here are a few starting points to consider before and after involving your superior.


Think First


If an insensitive coworker makes an offensive remark, rather than immediately entering an explosive quarrel, take a moment to compose yourself and articulate what you really want to say. This momentary pause may allow you to gather your thoughts in a way that can resolve the issue at hand.


Confront the Conflict


If you have an issue with the way a coworker is treating you or others around you, do not turn a blind eye or immediately run to your supervisor.  You need to be prepared to first confront the insensitive coworker on your own in a calm manner that allows both sides to be heard.  It is crucial that your coworker is aware of what he or she is doing before you involve a supervisor.


Quiet Conversation


If you believe a coworker is treating you unfairly, it may be beneficial to pull that person aside and have a conversation with him or her.  By privately discussing an issue, your coworker may realize what he or she is doing is not right. They will also be appreciative that you were bold enough to confront them personally about the issue, as well as grateful for not calling them out in front of an entire room of coworkers.


Keep Track


If the issue of an insensitive worker seems too complex for you to address on your own, keep track of what is being said and done to make you feel uncomfortable. That way, if you have to involve your supervisor, you have a clear idea of how you will convey your coworker’s insensitive remarks or actions.  By dating and detailing specific events, you will have solid proof of inappropriate or insensitive behavior in the workplace.


Addressing Your Supervisor


If the issue cannot be resolved through conversation with the coworker, then it is time to resort to involving your supervisor. However, this is not an opportunity for you to file a personal complaint.  In order to maintain a professional attitude, you must present the issue as a business problem. How is the issue affecting yours or your coworker’s work? How is it hurtful to the business operations as a whole? What steps can be taken to ensure complete cohesion in the workplace?  By posing the situation in this way, it demonstrates to your boss that your complaint is not about not getting along with a coworker, but that there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed in order to promote a cohesive work environment.


Be Open


When discussing insensitive behavior with either the coworker or a supervisor, always be open to suggestions.  You should ensure your boss that you are grateful for her managerial expertise in this difficult situation.  It should be known that your goal is to not get a coworker in trouble, but to promote a healthy workplace free of insensitivity.


Written By: O. Greendyk