Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

British Co-Worker's Humor Goes Too Far

DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my co-workers is from the U.K. “Grant” is well-liked, but he can occasionally go too far with his jokes. Whenever others bristle at his humor, Grant huffs and claims that American humor is just not as developed as his British humor. While this may be true and open to interpretation, there is no denying he offends whoever ends up as the butt of the joke. Should there be more pressure on Grant to apologize, or does he get a pass because we apparently can't understand his sense of humor? -- Cross-Atlantic Comedy, Raleigh, North Carolina

DEAR CROSS-ATLANTIC COMEDY: Americans tend to be enamored with people from other countries, England specifically, as well as much of Europe. The accents along with the general differences and similarities of culture and experience can prove hypnotizing for some -- at least until the love affair takes a wrong turn. This frequently happens when nuances in humor enter the picture.

Your co-worker should not get a pass for what sounds and feels like insulting repartee. If you or your co-workers continue to be uncomfortable because of the ways in which Grant verbally jabs at you, speak up and tell him. Be specific. Let him know that you find his stories about his homeland fascinating and that you do enjoy learning about his culture, but, conversely, make it clear that you do not appreciate some of the indecorous commentary that he targets at you when he gets caught up in his jokes. Ask him to tone it down.