How Can I Stop A Manager Making Fun Of Me?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about manager talking about an employee:

About a year ago, one of the managers at the company I work for bought a house down the street from me. He is not directly in my chain of command, but he is several grades above me and is a manager for another group for which I don’t work.

Everything was fine until a couple of days ago when I was out in front of my garage working on my car. I had been doing my laundry, inside and wasn’t wearing a shirt. I briefly went outside in the front of my house in my driveway to replace the windshield wipers on my car while my clothes were washing. I wasn’t wearing a shirt.

As I was replacing the wipers, this manager came walking down the street walking his dog. He said hello, and came into my driveway where I was working. My girlfriend was also out there holding the flashlight as I was replacing the windshield wipers (it was dark out). He asked what I was doing, I told him (replacing the windshield wiper blades), he made a comment about it being cold out, and it was about 50 degrees that evening. He watched for a moment, then said goodbye and continued walking his dog.

The next day, I ran into him and one of his subordinates, at work at our normal “Smoking” area. He proceeded to tell his subordinate that he saw me outside in front of my house with no shirt on… in a joking manner. I laughed it off and proceeded to take my smoking break, and return to my desk.

The next day, I ran into him and another one of his subordinates at work, again at our normal smoking area. He told the story to this employee…. It happened again today, with another employee…I would like for him to stop. It’s embarrassing (even though I feel I have a perfect right to not wear a shirt while working on my car in my driveway in front of my house, that I pay the mortgage on if I want to). What course of action should I take? I’ve thought about getting him alone and mentioning this to him.

Signed, Shirtless

Dear Shirtless:

You have to choose whether to forget it or to confront him. Surely, repeating such an incident cannot continue endlessly. So if you can get over allowing him get under your skin–I expect his repeating this story will wear thin and cease. However, if it does not end, you can confront this neighboring manager, hopefully maintaining your cool, to ask him to not repeat this again. If and when you do, you might also mention some of the projects on which you work and tell him they are going well or ask about activity in his area.

If you could chance meeting him, you might talk shop first and then say, “By the way, I hope you have had your fun telling others about me working on my car shirtless. There really are more important topics that should come to mind when we meet. Right?” And you could add, “What’s your dog’s name? Had him/her long? What breed is she/he?” Does this make sense to you? Talking shop elevates small talk to what matters to your company. Ego is less important when we think and talk WEGO.

William Gorden