Leadership

Here’s what to say immediately after your boss makes an inappropriate joke

Steve Carell as Michael Scott in "The Office" is known to be an incompetent manager.
Paul Drinkwater | NBCU Photo Bank
Steve Carell as Michael Scott in "The Office" is known to be an incompetent manager.

Many of us have encountered co-workers who have made inappropriate comments or jokes in the workplace. But what should you do if that person is your boss?

You should immediately tell him or her that you find the joke offensive, says Jody Foster, psychiatrist and co-author of "The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively With Difficult People at Work."

She tells CNBC Make It that you should say, "When you do this, it humiliates me."

"A boss is a person just like anyone else," Foster says. "Your boss deserves to know and needs to know if they are acting in a way that impacts your thoughts in the workplace and your productivity."

Foster has seen a trend in the type of boss who makes lewd or insulting jokes, both in her research and while consulting with companies.

Usually, it's a "guy in his 50s, who's been slightly boundaryless or sexually inappropriate for years and gets away with it," she says. "But now he's older, it's just gross and people don't want to hear that anymore."

However, anyone can be guilty of making inappropriate comments, she notes.

Foster adds that you should not "suck it up" when your boss makes unseemly remarks. After all, most companies have human resources representatives that an employee can speak with to report these sorts of issues.

"Even if it makes you look like a prude, be as direct and clear as possible as to the office rules of engagement," says Foster.

It's also important to immediately address the issue because, more often than not, the person doesn't know how offensive they're being when making inappropriate jokes, she says.

However, Foster notes that a lot of bosses will blatantly ignore your concerns. "But you will at least get it off your chest," says Foster.

"In most cases, even if someone responds defensively, even if they blow you off, they've heard you and will adjust their behavior," she says. "Even by just a little bit."

If that doesn't work and the issue persists? Going to HR, of course, is still an option.

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See also:

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You probably feel more loyal to your co-workers than to your boss or company