Awkward situation with co-workers

Yesterday I got into the most horrifying situation at work. One of my coworkers came up to me and started talking to me about my recent slight weight loss. That was no big deal, weight is one of the things we have talked about in the past. The horrifying part is that me and this woman are both very small, and sitting out of sight (but not out of earshot) in the cubicle behind me, was another woman, who is large. My small co-worker said some really tactless things, such as jokingly reminding me what a “porker” I was when I weighed 120. She also chirped, “I guess we’re just lucky, not like…” and she mouthed the big woman’s name as she jerked her head in that direction.

I tried to discourage the conversation by not really responding (my usual tactic, though it never works), and also by trying to convey through body language the fact that the other lady was hearing her.

During the whole thing, I could hear the other lady moving stuff around on her desk, and when the first coworker was done talking to me, she moved on and talked to her too! The big lady (a much classier act) gave no sign that she had heard anything, but I know she did.

I don’t think the small co-worker meant to hurt her, but she’s one of those people who never has a thought that doesn’t spill right out of her mouth. (The salt of the earth. The common clay of the new West. You know…a moron.) Maybe she didn’t know the big lady was sitting there at first. However, first thing this morning she got right back on the same topic, albeit briefly, as she had a meeting to go to, thank Heavens.

Now I’m feeling really awkward with this other lady, but I can’t just go up and say anything to her about it. I’m trying to show her in other ways that I like her just fine, but what damage control can I really do?

If the woman heard the conversation, she knows you didn’t say anything wrong, so no apology necessary- act as if it never happened.

Yeah, but since the other lady couldn’t see Dung Beetle, she could assume her non-verbal response represents agreement with what Tiny Moron said.

I would say something to her. What, though? I’m not sure.


“I’m sorry about what Tiny Moron said yesterday. It was rude.” Smile, squeeze her arm and walk out. Maybe?

Agree- good point.

Yeah, that’s a bit of a pickle. Be extra nice to BBW. If you say anything at all, maybe make it an apology on behalf of LBW’s tactlessness.

Whatever you do, don’t try to make it up by buying her a bag of donuts.

I could maybe pull this off if something similar happens again. I’d want to do it right away, though. As for what happened yesterday, I’m afraid BBW might pretend she doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

As a “big lady” myself, this would just make me cry. Seriously. Just don’t go there. The last thing she needs is patronizing pity. (And I know you didn’t mean it like that, but that’s how I would hear it.)

I wouldn’t say a thing. She knows she’s fat, she doesn’t need it brought up today when it (may have) already hurt her yesterday. If you (Dung Beetle) want to say something nice to her, find an honestly attractive feature and go with that: “Maureen, your eyes look fabulous when you wear that color!” or “Those shoes are just lovely!”

If your co-worker is pretending she didn’t overhear the conversation, then I would go along with that. She probably knows Tiny Moron as well as you do. And I’d talk to Tiny Moron privately to let her know that she’s being offensive. If she started up again within earshot of your co-worker, I would loudly change the the topic of conversation.

I totally agree with WhyNot and Eleanor - don’t say anything. And I’d also tell coworker that she’s acting like a tool - and to please not talk that way anymore.

Tell the petite lady to keep her mouth shut about other people’s weight, unless they choose to discuss it. You won’t tolerate her talking about others being fat, and next time she talks like that interrupt her. Tell her we discussed this before and your being rude and abnoxious. That will show your intent better than anything else.

I do intend to talk with Tiny Moron privately, but I expect my words will bounce right through her curly little head and leave no footprints at all. Then I’ll have to go with Harmonious’s idea, which seems tantamount to saying, “Hey, stop saying things about fat people! Don’t you see there’s a fat lady right there?” :o

Or maybe, if you’re good at this sort of thing, “Yes, you know, we really ARE lucky we’re so tiny! I know lots of people who work at it and just can’t lose an inch - that’s got to be really rough in our thin oobsessed culture. How is that TNR Report coming along, by the way?”

Whether or not your big lady co-worker is pleased with her size or not, whether she’s got an endocrine disorder or just gorges on junk food, whether she tries to lose weight or has given up (or never tried), you’ve offered a politic “out” so her feelings don’t need to be hurt, and there’s no need to single her out. If her size isn’t an issue for her or she doesn’t work at losing weight - well, someone out there is and does, and this comment applies to them (me) instead.

Thank you, WhyNot. I’m going to go harass BBW now, to see if she’s finished Harry Potter yet…

I would do what Eleanor suggested.

This large woman knows she’s fat. I’d be humiliated to have someone, even a well-meaning someone, apologize for what happened. This is a situation whereby since she is pretending she didn’t hear, that means she did not hear.

And if Tiny Moron starts up again, cut her off loudly with, “Hey, you know, I’m really not comfortable with those kinds of remarks. Sorry, I’m just not.” Then say nothing more until Tiny Moron becomes flustered. Should she try to brush you off or laugh, keep repeating over and over, “Well I’m not comfortable with those kinds of remarks. They’re not nice.”

She’ll get the hint. And anyone who overhears will silently thank you for being a kind person.

If she doesn’t take the hint, as frequently happens with morons, you could always report her to HR for creating a hostile environment.

"We need to stop having this conversation.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t choose my metabolism. And I really can’t get behind the idea that my metabolism makes me any more virtuous or evolved than someone unlucky enough to have a slow one.

I got stuff to do…

The bolding is mine. You might want to leave out the “unlucky” part, as it constitutes a negative judgment against the person whose feelings **Dung Beetle ** is trying to protect.

This is way over the top. There is absolutely no good reason why HR should be involved this. I’m sure Dung Beetle can handle this admittedly awkward situation with far more subtlety and grace than human freakin resources, for crying out loud.

ETA: Or was I just whooshed?

Not at all. If the braindead coworker keeps that up, it creates a nasty environment in the workplace. And if braindead coworker’s job involves contact with the public, management needs to know they have a tactless moron on their hands in case she decides to mouth off in front of customers. I once managed an employee like that, and it took writing her up to force her to think about what she was saying.

Human resources is such a blunt tool, though (as is coworker, but that’s another matter). “Hostile work environment” is a term meant for way more than just a clueless ninny spouting off; it’s meant for actual nastiness, which I don’t see this as. If Dung Beetle is simply clear and firm in her refusal to have conversations like this again, that should solve the problem without having to go all medieval.