People & Human Resources

Why does one of my staff members say such shockingly offensive things?

Aunty B /

Dear Aunty B,

Happy new year to you. Here is my problem.

I have a young staff member who I thought was obnoxious but now I think might have some kind of mental disorder. He cannot empathise with anyone and, as a result, he says really inappropriate things.

He is in a highly technical role which he is very good at, and, fortunately, doesn’t call for much communication with other people. But when we are socialising he can say some really dumb things.

I thought it was deliberate and pulled him aside after our end of financial year party where, after a few drinks, he rubbished a staff member who believes in stupid internet conspiracy theories, asked one of our sales managers who has put on weight whether she is “just” fatter or pregnant, and told a devout Catholic if he knew what percentage of Catholics had been interfered with.

But when I pointed out how obnoxious he was, he was quite hurt and I realised he has no idea of the impact he has. How do I go about helping this person to think before he speaks when he obviously has no idea what comes out of his mouth?

Dani,

South Melbourne

 

Dear Dani,

 

Ha. Do you think his parents haven’t spent most of his life trying to drum into him social niceties? It sounds like he has a mild form of Asperger’s.

Look, all workplaces have a few people like that. The first thing to do is get their colleagues to understand that’s just the way they are and not to ostracise them. Tell your staff to be a bit thick-skinned if they get easily offended.

Second, just keep chipping away, pointing it out when he behaves inappropriately. While he may have learnt how to deal with other situations, the office may still be a new social setting for him and it can take a while to drive the message home.

Remember, your office colleagues come in all shapes and personalities.

Be smart,

Your Aunty B

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Aunty B

I’m SmartCompany’s resident Agony Aunt. Have a problem to solve? Just ask. @IamAuntyB #AuntyB

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