My boss’s jokes are thinly disguised abuse. What should I do?

Nine To Five: Special to The Globe and Mail, Published Sunday, Jul. 03, 2016

THE QUESTION

My boss for years has talked down to his employees. For the most part, he’s tolerable. We have an open dialogue between everyone in the office where we say stuff to each other that we probably shouldn’t. But sometimes you can tell he’s not joking and is just really being abusive. What’s the proper course of action?

THE ANSWER

Organizations have personalities. A tone is set by the employees from Day 1. If lewd jokes were told and tolerated in 1972, chances are they are still being told today, though most likely tolerated less.

Diversity and the presence of four generations in the workplace have a lot to do with what is tolerated today and what is not. In Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, there is legislation that guarantees employees a safe and healthy workplace.

The tone in your office will only change when someone voices a complaint through the proper channels, and it only takes one person and one complaint. If your boss has gotten away with his behaviour for this long, it sounds as if it has more to do with his manner and personality than personal attacks. But if no one is willing to call him on his behaviour, he will just carry on.

It is not your place to take him to task, however, unless the attacks are made on you. He could make your life miserable and likely not care what you think. It should be done by his superior or human resources. If they don’t do anything, you can go to your provincial labour board. Start documenting every instance for evidence.

Colleen Clarke
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking How To Build Relationships That Count and How To Get a Job and Keep It