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I'm trying to figure out the best way to navigate a career issue. Do I address this problem directly, or just bite my tongue?

BLUF: My manager made an insulting comment about my receding hairline at an all-staff. How should I respond?

Details:

I'm currently working as an individual contributor on a workgroup of 15. There's one director (newly hired, starting in a few weeks), two managers, and various worker bees and support staff. There are four male employees in the group (myself included). I'm a high C/D, and my manager is a female high I. None of the managers follow the trinity in any way (I've gently raised it as an idea here and there, but it hasn't gained traction).

Here's the scenario where the comment occurred:

We had a staff meeting to introduce the new director and to introduce each employee. Each employee had a chance to introduce themselves and their background. One of the other male employees joked during his intro that the job had caused him to gain weight and lose his hair (he shaves his head). There was laughter, and it was a good-natured self-deprecating joke.

After his intro, my manager pipes in and addresses the two other male employees by name, joking with them that this is what they have to look forward to (they have full heads of hair). She then turns to me, says that she didn't include me in that group because I was already losing my hair.

I'm 38, and sure, my hairline is heading backwards like many men my age. But I didn't feel it was an appropriate comment to make, particularly in front of all my colleagues. I was initially mortified and speechless. When it was my turn to introduce myself I couldn't think of much, because I was still in shock.

So, what do I do? Ignore it? Respond to the manager directly and say how I felt about it?

Any guidance from forum members would be appreciated. Thanks.

dtiller's picture

Hi there,

I say ignore the comment.  You cannot control what others say but you can control your behaviour and I think you just ignore, gather your composure and move on.  I don't see how anything can be gained by addressing unles it is repeatedly made and could be viewed as harassment but it seems to me this was a one off comment that perhaps even the manager regrets and ignoring others one-off mistakes is a professional response.

Appears to be just an unfortunate comment.

Dawne

williamelledgepe's picture

This is one of those things that you shouldn't let bother you.  There are many more important things in life worth worrrying about (like how to pay for a child's tuition).  If this is a common refrain I might change my recommendation, but as a one-off, I would join in with some self-deprication - something like, "I'm losing the hair on top and the hair on the side is turning gray."  Since your coming up on 40, you could add "and my eyes are losing their edge too."

Believe it or not - There's a cast for that.  Kind of.  The umbrella story is one of the great hidden gems within multiple casts.  https://www.manager-tools.com/forums/umbrella-story-hidden-gem  

I agree it was an inappropriate comment, but life is to short to take this serious.  There are better things to spend your time on.  

itsysadmin's picture

There is a saying about pointing out errors in social graces that Mark has mentioned in the casts, I forget how it goes exactly but doing so is a no-no and on the same level as the initial disgrace made. I wouldn't ever retort in defense or anger (you're past that, but for others reading this maybe it will help them avoid making the mistake).

How you respond at this point depends on your relationship with the person and how you might come across to them and what you feel about that, right? I mean, is it worth giving them feedback that it offended you if they start avoiding you from that moment on for fear of offending you too easily? What if they start chiding you more because they see it makes you "squirm" and they think it's funny when really it truly is offensive? You might just be drawing unwanted attention to yourself and the situation. Fair? No. Reality? Yea...

If it continues to happen that's a different case, you'd want to address that but tread carefully...It could backfire easily.

What will you accomplish if you give them feedback other then getting it off your (possibly hairy, possibly not ;o) chest? Is THAT worth the risks? IMO, no. Were it me I'd let it go (ok, were it me and my boss I would have retorted a quick jab back, we'd all have a laugh and life goes on but that doesn't help you in the "after the fact" situation. I'd just let it go, move on. If it happens again and there is a pattern, then maybe pursue *something*...?