Jan 15, 2018

Workplace harassment : the one sided jokes

When I found out I was pregnant, I was secretly super thrilled because it meant that I wouldn't have to finish the remainder of my final and fifth year contracted teaching in Japan. By the fifth year, I was exhausted. Not from teaching. I didn't mind that. If anything, teaching my fifth year was the best because I finally felt I was getting a handle on it. I'd made my own curriculum for my elementary school, could easily adapt to whatever my middle school teachers threw at me, and knew enough about what my students were expected to know so that I could adjust my classes to fit.

What I had the most trouble with was interacting with other staff members at my schools. One person in particular. She was a senior staff member and because of her senior status, her word was gold. However, for whatever reason, she did not like me. There were several occasions where it was apparent, such as her snide remarks about my health. She would claim I must be hungover if I'm so tired, or that I was out partying all night and that's why I didn't feel well. Excuse the fact that I had actually come down with whooping cough or that I had an awful biking accident.

The problem I had with this was that each and every time she would demean my character with offhand comments it was across the staff room and others would be there listening.

My first year, when my Japanese wasn't so great, I just hoped I was misunderstanding things and that she really was only chiding, attempting a joke that I wasn't part of. You can see this kind of joke in Japanese stand up comedy. One person plays the smart alec and the other the dumb sidekick. Unfortunately, all it did was make me feel dumb. I wasn't in on the act and I didn't know enough to joke back and put myself on the high ground. Her joking spoiled going to work for me. Then, when another foreigner came in at the beginning of my fourth year, I knew for sure that she wasn't only joking. The way she treated the new girl, who is ironically very similar to me, gave a very clear contrast to the way she treated me. Workplace harassment : the one sided jokes photoShe helped the new girl but point blank refused to offer assistance when it came to me. This woman was only a small part of the five years I experienced working at a Japanese school, and though I didn't interact with her every day, she made every day just that much more stressful.

It's the borderline bullying disguised as humor that can be more detrimental in a workplace than upfront problems that you can confront and face. If you do find yourself left out of one-sided jokes, don't be afraid to bring it up with the person or your boss.



American step mom with beautiful Brazilian babies. Raising them in Japan. I'm a crafter too


  • genkidesu

    on Jan 15

    Ugh, that's horrible! I've encountered people like that in workplaces back home before - and it was always a result of their own insecurities...just like childhood bullies. I'm sorry you had to deal with that, but glad that you don't work there anymore!

  • edthethe

    on Jan 17

    @genkidesu oh she was awful. and she happened to retire 2 weeks before I left. there are so many things I could complain about. But I'm hoping the next place I wind up working doesn't have anyone remotely close to how she was.