The Boss’s Inappropriate Behavior


What do you do when you’re dealing with a boss who behaves inappropriately? Maybe he (she) uses language that’s offensive, tells inappropriate jokes, or just says things that makes you feel uncomfortable. What should you do?

If the inappropriate behavior is an isolated incident or is clearly out of character for your boss, you have two options:

1. You can let is slide and hope that it’s just an isolated incident.

2. You can bring it to his attention and say something like, “When you said (x) or did (x), that really made me feel uncomfortable”. Your don’t have to make a big deal out of it, but if your boss genuinely cares about you, you will receive a genuine heartfelt apology and it will never happen again. He will also very much appreciate you sharing that information with him.

If, however, the inappropriate behavior is chronic, your approach needs to be somewhat different. Begin as in a previous example (2) by telling your boss what is making you uncomfortable. Try to be specific so the boss understands and there’s no doubt as to what the issue is. If the boss doesn’t change his behavior (or, as can sometimes happen, it gets worse), you have two options:

1. Take it to your HR manager or if there’s no such person in your organization, to your local labour board.

2. Leave and go as far away as possible from this person. Chances are you’re not going to change him, and his behavior will just continue to make your life at work progressively more miserable.

Before you take any action, however, it’s important that you are aware of, and take into account your own personal predispositions. We all have our unique hot buttons and pet peeves, and it may not be fair to take a hard stance based on a set of values that aren’t shared by those around you.

If his behavior doesn’t appear to be bothering anybody else in the office, you need to ask yourself which is less appropriate: His behaviour, or your response to the behaviour. Just as it is unreasonable for your boss to expect people to tolerate inappropriate behavior, it is equally unreasonable for you to demand that others bow to your unique ideologies.

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