The idea of being prim and proper as a “professional” can be overrated. Given all my interactions with so-called professionals, those who display such prim and proper demeanor have a tendency to be boring. Personally, I have tempered my expectations of professionalism to being able to do one’s duties capably and ethically. The rest (like being “proper” or displaying etiquette) are simply bonuses. They do make one easy to deal with. Still, a dash of feistiness and crass makes for more interesting interactions.
A former colleague and I once had a chat about office humor. She shared how she missed the good old days when we all shared what we could simply label as UP humor (of ten years ago) – which to me is just the right combination of wit and crassness. Apparently, the general outlook of people in her office was more posh where what qualifies as interesting conversation hovered around Japanese makeup and Italian designer shoes which she found boring.
I, on the other hand, enjoy a more close to UP environment. For one, almost all team members from the department come from the same university. Those who aren’t, share the same temperament so a little innuendo and green jokes are fair game. Still, I find myself guarding each and every word I say since I am in a management position and all of my staff members have ovaries.
However, there are our colleagues with a more barako persuasion. Jock/frat culture can still exist in some areas like engineering or software due to plain old statistics. There are just more guys in the field thus diversity of talent that get hired reflect those numbers. The potential problem with these kinds of cliques is the tendency to be less gender sensitive especially to the females and gays and a great deal of fart and dick jokes. Good-natured as they are (and they really mean no offense), their humor and ways of speaking may offend those with fragile demeanor or overly critical.
It has even reached the extent where we factor such questions in interviews albeit in a veiled manner with questions such as “Are you fine with UP humor?” It’s a blessing that no one has gotten to the point where sexual harassment cases have been filed though I wouldn’t be able to tell if anyone has ever been offended to that degree.
Reminders can only do so much and you can’t even chastise people heavily since they really don’t mean it. I’m not saying it’s acceptable but given they were brought up in an intensely patriarchal society, one can easily draw correlations as to why. It also appears that HR has sensitivity training way below its priorities. Do we simply blame the environment or should we force people to know better. Maybe it’s also because we aren’t as litigious a society compared to ‘Murica. Or maybe since I haven’t been victimized that I have absolutely no idea how to approach this situation entirely.
So how do you balance being interesting without being offensive?