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March 31, 2009

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Your sense of humor is your best weapon for dealing with uncomfortable situations. Sometimes, a humorous remark will diffuse the most awkward or tense moments.

Here are some common situations you may experience and our suggestions for minimizing their effect on you:

Someone is yelling at you

If it is an unexpected crisis that is causing an otherwise rational person to vent in your direction, let the storm blow over and do not take it personally. More often than not, the person will feel bad and apologize once it is out of his system. If a client or a superior verbally abuses you repeatedly, look him straight in the eye and calmly tell the person that you will talk to him when he calms down. If he doesn't calm down, leave the room. If you set the precedent that you will accept personal and recurrent verbal abuse, it will definitely happen again.

Locker room humor

You may work in a very macho environment. This kind of work environment can be uncomfortable for anyone, regardless of gender, marital status, culture, religion or sexual orientation.

Try to draw your own personal boundaries about what you find acceptable and what you absolutely will not tolerate. Don't compromise your boundaries, you will regret it. If it's easier for you, make up excuses for your lack of participation and stick to them. "I can't drink; I'm allergic to alcohol." Whether you are male or female, think of a socially acceptable reason why you can't attend a happy hour or the strip club. "I have to meet my personal trainer," or "I'm going on a date."

Social outcast

All of your peers get together every Friday night to drink and dance at a particular club. You were never invited to go along. Now you are starting to notice that your peers are obviously closer to each other, bonded by their revelry, and you are not part of the crowd. They go to lunch together. They seem to know about each other's personal lives. You start to feel left out. How do you fix the situation?

  • Organize an event you would enjoy and invite others to attend. Preferably pick an activity that you will be able to shine in.
  • Try to befriend one person in the "group" instead of approaching the group as a whole.
  • Just show up at the next trip. People will start including you after they see you out and about.

Culturally ignorant colleagues

At some point, your co-workers may reveal some sort of bias due to their own ignorance or lack of exposure, whether it's sexist, racist, homophobic or anti-religion. Try not to take unintentional offenses personally. And definitely do not take it upon yourself to educate co-workers on your personal politics, culture, or religion. Likewise, be sensitive and avoid potentially ignorant remarks about other cultures, politics, ethnicity, looks or education.

Schoolyard bullies

In some tough work environments, adults can regress into junior high behavior for all the same reasons as schoolyard bullies: insecurities, personal problems, the desire to impress others. Some insecure individuals may single you out for aggressive teasing or unwanted attention, disguised as good-natured ribbing. How should you deal with the bullies?

  • Make friends around the office to widen your support network.
  • Try to "kill him with kindness" and ask about his work or background with avid interest.
  • Most importantly, don't lose focus on your work. The faster you perform well, the faster you will be promoted and move on to bigger and better things.
  • For the completely mature approach, take the guy aside and tell him in a calm voice that you perceive that he has a problem with you, and you would like to know why. It's worth a shot.

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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