Recently someone new was hired where I have worked for almost 15 years. I find that they don’t understand my fandom and just plain geekiness. I feel that they are looking down their nose at me and don’t understand humorous remarks that I make daily.
What is the best way to approach this person and let them know that they are hurting my feelings just a little with some of the comments they make?
A Fan in the Workplace
Dear Fan in the Workplace:
It can definitely be hard when you have made a niche for yourself at work, you get along with your other co-workers, you know what to expect, and all of a sudden a new person comes along and changes it all. I’m sorry that you are feeling misunderstood and hurt by this new coworker, and I hope that things have improved since you sent in this question.
Since your question is about how to best approach your coworker, let’s start with that. I think that honesty is always the best way to handle any situation, although I understand that this can be easier said than done. It may help to let your coworker know that you are proud of who you are, but that it still hurts your feelings when they insult you. It’s possible that your coworker just thinks he/she is being funny and has no idea that you are hurt by these comments. In this case, it would definitely be helpful to pull them aside some time to let them know. If you don’t feel comfortable confronting them in person, then you can always send an e-mail. In either case, when calling attention to someone’s hurtful behavior, it can be helpful to do so immediately following the behavior. Responding to their hurtful comment with “Hey, that’s not cool,” would alert them to the fact that you don’t like it. Telling them how you feel in a calm and matter-of-fact manner may also help them take you more seriously.
If you have tried honesty with this person, and it has not worked, then it may be best to find ways to stay confident and sure of yourself despite their comments. In my own experience, it has helped me to take others’ hurtful comments less personally when I can think of reasons why the other person might have said what they said. A new person at work is probably trying to figure out how to fit in with coworkers. Unfortunately, many people try to fit in with others by making jokes at someone else’s expense. This, of course, is a form of bullying, and it is wrong. Hopefully this new coworker will learn that there are better ways to make friends and to fit in than to hurt someone’s feelings. Nevertheless, thinking about this co-worker’s own insecurities as he/she adjusts to a new workplace might help the comments sting a little less.
If your coworker does not stop making hurtful comments, despite your efforts, then it is possible that they are simply a jerk. If this is the case, then I hope you can get to a place where you stay sure of yourself, knowing that they are not someone you want to be friends with. Perhaps you can spend more time with the coworkers who do support you, knowing that these are the coworkers who truly matter. Speaking of these other coworkers, it sounds like you feel accepted by them. Was it always this way, or did any of them misunderstand or insult your geekiness in the past? If so, then it may help to remember what you did to feel more comfortable with these other coworkers. Perhaps it simply took time for everyone to warm up to each other. At any rate, I hope that being honest with your co-worker helps, and I hope that you again feel comfortable in your workplace very soon.
Wishing you all the best,
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