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Dealing with a comment that offends you at work

When working in any office environment, it is likely that you will come across a time that you are offended by a comment made; either about you or a general statement about a religion, race, sex or nationality. Going through an experience like this can make you feel deeply offended and troubled by the environment that you work in. At the same time, you might feel worried about making a complaint about such an event, fearing retaliation.

When you are faced with a situation like this, you should first of all consider the situation in context. Was it a statement that revealed a deeper issue such as racial hatred that you think needs to be addressed? You should consider what the cost of not speaking up could be. Perhaps ignoring a troubling situation could be indirectly permitting discriminatory behavior.

At the same time, you might want to consider the potential reaction. Was it that a person was making a harmless joke, or is he or she likely to hold the complaint against you in the future?

It's also crucial that you remember the rights you have as an employee in situations like these. If you make a complaint about office behavior, it is not legal for your employer to retaliate against you, such as firing you. You can also make the argument that the comment was creating a hostile environment in the workplace.

If you have experienced a discriminatory comment in the workplace that you were disturbed by, you should speak up if you feel obliged to. You have every right as an employee to stand up against discrimination.

Source: HBR, "How to Respond to an Offensive Comment at Work," accessed Nov. 10, 2017

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