Hints to defuse the boss’ irksome jokes

Marie G. McIntyre
Tribune News Service

Q. My boss keeps cracking jokes that make me sound like a terrorist. A couple of years ago, a friend and I got into trouble for setting off fireworks inappropriately. I had to go to court and pay a fine and the whole thing was very embarrassing.

When my current manager learned about this incident, he began to make wisecracks about my being a bomber. Any time a terrorist event is on the news, he asks me where I was that day. To make it worse, he often does this in front of other people.

This is a family business, and all the managers are related, so complaining about him would only make things worse. Do you have any suggestions?

A. Since your boss is obviously an idiot, the only remaining question is whether he’s malicious or simply clueless. If these inane comments are delivered as good-natured ribbing, they may just be an example of the teasing insults which seem to be an inherent part of “guy culture.” In that case, you could explain your concerns and request a cease-fire.

For example: “Bob, I know you’re kidding when you joke about my being some sort of bomber, but I’m concerned that people might actually believe I have violent tendencies. That’s definitely not the impression I want to create, so I would appreciate it if we could end the bomb jokes. Is that OK with you?”

On the other hand, if his goal is to upset you, you should meet his lame remarks with a practiced neutral response. Upon hearing the word “bomb,” for example, you might roll your eyes and calmly state “It was fireworks, Bob,” then drop the subject. Once his “jokes” fail to produce a reaction, provoking you will no longer be any fun.

Q. At lunchtime, I often go to a nearby gym for a quick workout. Since my lunch break is only half an hour, I don’t have time to shower, so I wash up when I get back to the office. This usually takes about 15 minutes.

Yesterday, I left for the gym at 1 p.m., returned at 1:30 p.m. and went to the bathroom to wash up. After a few minutes, my boss began banging on the door, loudly stating that this was my last warning about long lunches. In her opinion, I should be back at my desk after 30 minutes. Can she really keep me from using the restroom?

A. Pounding on the bathroom door was a childish move, so your boss has some growing up to do. However, the game you’re playing with your lunch break seems equally juvenile. Since you obviously understand your manager’s expectations, this ongoing tardiness seems intentionally provocative.

While some bosses are flexible about schedules, others expect them to be followed closely. Your manager’s claim that a half-hour lunch should last precisely 30 minutes may be strict, but it’s not inappropriate. So instead of continuing to antagonize your boss, select luncheon activities which fit into the allotted time frame.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”


Twitter: @officecoach