How to Deal With a Sexist Coworker at Your Job

How to Deal With a Sexist Coworker at Your Job
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The workplace is supposed to be where everyone gets along and treats each other fairly. Unfortunately, some people don’t respect boundaries and act inappropriately around women.

If you’ve ever had to deal with a coworker who makes inappropriate comments or behaves unprofessionally, then you know how uncomfortable and awkward these situations can get.

Consider confronting your coworker directly instead of ignoring their actions. This way, you’ll let them know that you won’t tolerate such behavior.

This article will discuss various tactics for dealing with a sexist coworker. Some strategies for confronting a harasser will also be addressed.

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1. Do not like the joke.

When someone tells a sexist joke in front of you, it’s easy to feel like they’re being rude or insensitive. However, you may have no business telling them off if you find yourself laughing at the joke.

Instead of letting their jokes go unanswered, try saying something like: “I really don’t think that was funny.”

This approach lets the person know you didn’t appreciate the joke and don’t see anything humorous about it. You could even add an explanation as to why you found the joke offensive.

This tactic works well if you need to decide whether or not you should say something. For example, if you’re unsure whether or not you agree with the joke, you could ask the person what he meant by the joke.

However, if you despise the joke, you shouldn’t hesitate to tell the person.

2. Turn the tables.

Ask the offender if they would have behaved the same way toward a man in the same situation if they had said or done something sexist. This can serve as an example of the harm caused by and the perpetuation of inequality by gender stereotypes.

For example: “Would you have said that to me if I were a guy?” “Do you comment on my clothing?” “Do you call the guys in the office’sweetheart?'” “Do you use terms like ‘babe’ and ‘honey’ to describe women?” By asking these questions in a non-threatening way, it can help bring awareness about sexism and gender equality.

3. Educate them.

If you come across a sexist remark from a coworker, there are plenty of ways to educate them without making things worse.

One option is to ignore the comment. If the person doesn’t apologize or retract the comment, you can explain why it wasn’t appropriate.

Alternatively, you could confront the person directly. Try explaining to them why the comment made you uncomfortable.

It’s important to remember that you don’t need to take the conversation to the point of arguing with the person. Instead, you can state your opinion and leave it at that.

If you choose to argue with the person, remember that you’re speaking to a human being. Expect the person to understand only some of what you say. Instead, focus on getting your point across clearly.

Try using simple language when educating your coworker. Use words like “you,” “your,” and “yourself.” Avoid using phrases such as “he/she did,” “they did,” or “it happened.”

The more specific you are, the easier it will be to understand what you mean. Also, avoid using generalizations like “everyone” or “most people.”

Finally, try not to get too emotional. Stay calm and rational. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and that you wouldn’t want to work for someone who never made a mistake.

4. Discuss the matter with the individual in confidence.

If someone makes a comment that makes you uncomfortable, it’s important to address it directly rather than letting it fester inside.

There are several ways to handle such situations. One option is to let the remark pass and avoid bringing up the subject again.

Another is to ask the person what he meant and explain why his comment bothers you. A third approach is to take a step back and assess whether something deeper is behind the remark.

For example, maybe the person is trying to put you down because he feels threatened by your success. Or perhaps he thinks women shouldn’t work outside the home and therefore doesn’t respect your career choice. Whatever the reason, having a frank conversation about it can help both parties understand each other better.

5. Request a repeat when someone uses sexist language.

When someone makes a sexist remark, try responding by innocuously asking them to repeat what they said. This tactic might sound like you are trying to embarrass the person into admitting their mistake, but research suggests otherwise.

In one study, researchers asked participants to read a short story about a man accused of sexual harassment.

Half of the group was told that the woman who accused him of harassment was upset because he didn’t apologize, while the other half was told that she was upset because he hadn’t apologized.

After reading the story, people who heard that the accuser wanted an apology reported feeling less negatively toward the accused man than those who said the accuser was upset with his lack of remorse.

In another experiment, researchers found that people who were allowed to respond to a sexist statement were more likely to report that they felt better about themselves afterward.

The researchers suggested that repeating the comment helped people “rehearse” the incident in their minds, allowing them to distance themselves emotionally from it.

6. Just say, “No.”

Sometimes the best way to deal with a sexist comment is to refuse to engage.

You don’t have to agree with everything a colleague says or does, but if you find yourself in a situation where you disagree with a sexist comment, ignore it.

This may seem passive, but it works well in most cases. Studies suggest that when people hear sexist comments directed at others, they tend to be more accepting of similar remarks aimed at themselves.

So, instead of getting angry and defensive, keep quiet and wait until the person stops making offensive statements. If they continue, walk away.

7. Keep a log.

If you want to eliminate sexist behavior, you must confront it head-on. It’s not enough to tell the person that their behavior isn’t acceptable. You also need to document it to hold them accountable later on.

Start keeping a journal of incidents where you encounter sexism. Keep track of when the sexist comments occur, how often they happen, and the context (for instance, whether the person is talking in front of colleagues).

It may take some time to build up a comprehensive record of what has happened, but once you do, you’ll have a much easier time holding the person accountable for their actions.

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8. Do not add to the flames.

As tempting as it may be to retaliate against a sexist coworker, doing so won’t help your cause.

Research shows that people who call out sexist behaviors tend to become targets of even worse treatment. So, if you decide to talk back to a sexist coworker, you could be labeled the same way.

Instead, focus on improving your workplace culture. Changing the environment around you will make it clear that such attitudes are unacceptable.

For example, consider creating an anti-sexism policy on which all employees must sign off. Or, encourage your team to participate in diversity training together.

By taking these steps, your message is that everyone should feel safe and respected regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, or any other personal characteristic.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your work environment, check out our guide to creating a happier office.


Dealing with a sexist coworker can be done in a variety of ways. Some methods include openly challenging the person, while others are more subtle.

The best course of action is the one you choose for yourself. Keep in mind that there are many techniques to deal with this situation.

You are not alone if you have difficulty dealing with a sexist coworker. These suggestions will equip you to take charge of the situation and lessen the influence of this individual in your professional life.

And if you’re still stuck or need help putting together a winning resume, our team of experts is here for you. Contact us today, and let us show you how we can help you get the job of your dreams.

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