The problem: A work colleague recently went on a roll with homophobic banter. I said to him, “You do know I’m gay, right?” He shut down, but now things are awkward. How do I deal with him and head off similar comments in the future?
Low road: Hide some stinky cheese in his drawer just before a long weekend.
High road: The fact that things between you are awkward isn’t your fault. That’s on him. If he has any sense, he’ll apologize and do some soul-searching. If people around you who heard the comments have any sense, they, too, will apologize for saying nothing and will react more boldly in the future, making clear that any hateful rhetoric (homophobic, sexist, racist) is unwelcome.
If you think this was an isolated incident, you don’t have to do anything but continue to be your charming self. If, on the other hand, he seems to be chronically offensive, talk with your supervisor, who should assure you that this will be taken seriously. You also can contact your human resources department, but know that HR folks might be obligated to take disciplinary action, which might be going further than you intend.
One more idea: Invite him to sit down for a cup of coffee. In my book, such generosity of spirit builds bridges and opens minds better than any disciplinary action.
Send questions about life’s little quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad.