What are examples of condescending remarks in the workplace?

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What are some examples of condescending remarks in the workplace?

From making comments on someone’s appearance to poorly comparing experience levels, here are nine answers to the question, “What are some examples of condescending remarks you’ve been a part of in the workplace?”

  • Remarking on Someone’s Appearance
  • Calling Out Someone’s Natural Expression
  • Implying Someone Didn’t Prepare Enough
  • Questioning Someone’s Success
  • Publicly Belittling People’s Ideas
  • Using a Pet Name in Particular Situations
  • Suggesting Teachers Are less Capable
  • Asking People Not to Write Small Sentences
  • Comparing Experience Levels

Remarking on Someone’s Appearance

“You look nice, but does having your hair down not impact how seriously your clients take you?”

These types of remarks regarding hairstyles and outfits are usually directed at women, especially women of color. You’re dressed professionally, yet you still get people who question your intelligence, character, and professionalism because of their warped perceptions.

No—having one’s hair down does not decrease one’s legitimacy. In that situation, you can either choose to ignore the person or call them out. I went with, “how do you find the time to think about such moronic questions?” and walked away.

Nicole Ostrowska , Career Expert, Zety

example of inappropriate remark in the workplace

Calling Out Someone’s Natural Expression

Someone once asked me, “why do I always look so serious?”

This comment was offensive to me for several reasons. One, I’m a Black female, and we all know the stereotype and unconscious bias of the “angry black woman.”

Second, what does seriousness look like?

I asked the individual to elaborate on my look, and the response was even worse; the individual said that “it was hard to explain, but I appear extremely focused.” It’s important to be mindful of comments like this in the workplace. We can perceive them as offensive and, for some, a form of microaggression.

Tawanda Johnson , HR & DEI Consultant, Sporting Smiles

Implying Someone Didn’t Prepare Enough

“You really should have known better than that. Don’t you think you should have done more research before you made your decision?”

These types of remarks are condescending because they suggest that the recipient of the comments is not intelligent or capable enough to understand the concept or do the task correctly. This type of language can damage morale and contribute to a toxic workplace environment.

Dealing with condescending remarks in the workplace can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is important to remember to remain professional and stay focused. Acknowledge the remark, but do not dwell on it. Avoid responding in kind, and instead, stay focused on the task at hand.

Take a break and practice some calming techniques to refocus your energy. If the condescension continues, speak up and let the person know their remarks are unacceptable. Talk to a supervisor or HR representative if the behavior continues.

Adam Berry , Founder, AdamBerrySeo

examples of condescending remarks in the workplace

Questioning Someone’s Success

One of my coworkers from a previous job came to me and said, “Congratulations. I’m not sure how your proposal resulted in that account.” after I won over an order.

The remark was particularly condescending as they made that right after HR praised me for my performance. It kind of crushed the excitement and appreciation I was feeling after that achievement. I started questioning my skills for some time after hearing that.

Later, I realized that their comment came from their own insecurity and jealousy. It had little to do with my performance.

Steve Harris , Founder, Daily Dog Stuff

Publicly Belittling People’s Ideas

I was once part of a team where the leader was very passive-aggressive. He would belittle people’s ideas before the entire group and then claim them as his own. Working with him was frustrating because he was always putting other people down. But I guess that’s just what some people do in the workplace. They try to make themselves feel better by making others feel inferior. If you encounter such a phenomenon, it’s best to observe, not absorb, to protect your precious energy.

Mina Elias , Founder & CEO, Trivium

Using a Pet Name in Particular Situations

One of my former managers used to call me by my pet name only while explaining something in a passive-aggressive manner and when he was irritated. It felt wrong.

The contrast between the given situations and a pet form of my name was striking. As we usually reserve pet names for pleasant moments or while addressing little ones; it was definitely a condescending remark for me.

His intentions were obvious. Calling me “Agatka” was an indirect way to suggest that I couldn’t understand basic things, was incompetent, and irritated him.

Agata Szczepanek , Community Manager, LiveCareer

Suggesting Teachers Are Less Capable

“Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach.” This remark was one I’ve heard before, but in my opinion, it’s a pernicious one. It suggests that teachers or professors are somehow incapable of executing the tasks they show others how to do.

Of course, there will be examples where this bears out, but in most cases, those teaching are the most knowledgeable and expert people in the field, and without them, there would be no standard to measure educational and training attainment.

Phil Gregory , MD, Peak District SEO

Asking People Not to Write Small Sentences

“You shouldn’t write smaller sentences.”

I used to write already small sentences in my writing. However, my manager found them too small and told me to reform them in a way to make them a little longer. But, I liked to write in that way and was not easily willing to change my approach.It led me into trouble and one day in a meeting; I had to face somewhat rude remarks over my obsession with too-small sentences from the manager. But I was fortunate enough that he found me some examples of too-small sentences in technical writing.Yeah, it was kind of embarrassing for me because our entire team had to sit in the room and listen to the lecture about being open to grasping new ideas. It is crucial for writers to not have a condescending attitude, but also for other professionals.It drives you away from the team and hinders your learning habits. When you are open to new ideas and approaches, you can come up with innovative results.

Yogesh Kumar , Digital Marketing Manager, Technource

Comparing Experience Levels

I once had a colleague make a comment about my experience level compared to his, implying that I knew less than him because of my inexperience.

It was condescending and made me feel belittled. Fortunately, I was able to stand up for myself and explain why I thought differently about the situation. Soon after, we were able to come to a mutual understanding and move past the incident.

EL Forestal , Founder, Find Black Therapist

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