Ask Shuli: Office Bully

megaphoneDear Shuli:
This week a rather loud coworker embarrassed me in public, and I’m not sure how to deal with it. A male, married coworker and I were stepping out of a mundane, closed-door meeting, and the loudmouth happened to pass by. She remarked (loudly) on our meeting, wondering what we were doing in that private space. I was mortified … how should I handle it?
— Humiliated Cubicle Gal
Dear Cubicle Gal:
Your loudmouth coworker sounds like a bully to me. I’m not sure if you’re Jewish or anyone else involved is, but in Judaism, there’s a saying that embarrassing someone is as serious as physically injuring that person—perhaps even akin to killing them. The shame from a damaged reputation or name can certainly be as harmful as physical violence.
You and your male coworker were minding your own business, getting your work done, and the loudmouth had no reason to bother you—especially not with embarrassing remarks in public. Oy! Teasing about adultery is really no laughing matter—especially in the office!
Just like on the school playground, you can’t let a bully ruin your day or keep up her taunting ways. She’ll just go on to hurt someone else and could cause a major faux pas around a client, too. I’d recommend pulling her aside soon and letting her know that her remarks really offended you. Ask her not to make those kind of comments to you ever again, and to please show more restraint with her words in the office in general.
You don’t have to take it!