How do I deal with some smart alecs in my office?

Sakal Times
Sunday, 21 October 2018

The #MeToo movement is getting momentum in India too with more and more women coming forward and talking about their own experiences of harassment and abuse at the workplace. I am a 24-year-old girl. I started working in a private sector company a few months ago. I do get attention from people because I am smart-looking and polished, but I have been on my guard all this while. I don’t want undue attention nor do I want any hassles at work due to that.

The #MeToo movement is getting momentum in India too with more and more women coming forward and talking about their own experiences of harassment and abuse at the workplace. I am a 24-year-old girl. I started working in a private sector company a few months ago. I do get attention from people because I am smart-looking and polished, but I have been on my guard all this while. I don’t want undue attention nor do I want any hassles at work due to that. While a few of my male colleagues are easy to understand and deal with, some are cocky and I don't know if I should take their wise cracks with a smile or retort. Once or twice, I did react to a few when I didn’t like what they said but after that, I sense an unease around me, as if I am a monster who can’t take jokes. It is also affecting my work. I don’t want to over-react and create an image of a quarrelsome person but I don’t want to be seen as a meek one either. How do I strike a balance?

Oh my sweet girl, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Everywhere you go, you’ll find some people who are scum. I like to think of it as the ying-yang hypothesis — they’re the rotten ones who are required to maintain the balance with the good ones. In your case, I am too familiar with colleagues who are pompous buffoons. While they are best ignored most times, there are some things that need intervention. You need to strike a balance there by choosing your battles wisely. 

When you’re as old as me, you’ll realise the most important thing about life — how short and unpredictable it can be. So tell people off while you still can. If they deserve it, you’re not being unreasonable. It’s so much better with people thinking that you’re someone not to be messed with than having them walk all over you. 

The world is a tough place, and you need to toughen up Tinkerbell. Your lesson from the #MeToo movement should be not to be afraid to stand up for yourself anymore. If they’re cracking jokes that are offensive, do not apologise for being offended. Women have been taught to be apologetic for being right, for unintentionally hurting a man’s ego by correcting him. Enough of that patriarchal nonsense already. Men now need to be taught how to be civilised, and I’ll say some women too. 

Talk to them about it, explain your concerns, communicate — that’s the best way to avoid misunderstandings and clear the air. Communications can work wonders. If they don’t listen, talk to your HR department or your boss. You don’t have to choose between being a yes-man and a sourpuss, be your own unapologetic self. When you're at peace with yourself, you’ll like yourself more, and at the end of the day darling, that’s what matters the most.

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