Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Boss attacks employee's weight

Rachel writes:

I recently received two personal attacks at my workplace. First my boss, who is female, told me I was putting on weight in front of my co-worker. Then five days later she said it again only this time in front of my peers, other managers and her boss. I'm quite sure I'm not overweight, but with age my belly is kind of rounder than before. I do not work in the modeling industry where slimness is important. It's really demoralizing to be humiliated in front of everyone. Any ideas how I can deal this?

Your boss’s comments were rude, inappropriate and unprofessional. I am actually surprised the other managers or your boss’s boss did not say something to her at the time of the attack. Perhaps they were so taken aback they didn’t know what to say.

Here are some ideas to deal with this:

- Was this common behavior? Has your boss personally attacked you or made inappropriate comments about you in the past? If this has been the norm write down every incident you can think of and take your case to your company’s HR department.

- What about your co-workers, does she attack them or make inappropriate comments about them as well. Put your stories together and go to HR as a group. If your company does not have an HR department, schedule a meeting with your boss’s boss.

- If this incident was a rare occurrence, schedule a meeting with your boss. Tell her you were humiliated and embarrassed by her references to your weight. Ask that she not mention your weight to you or anyone else again. If she starts making excuses like I was just trying to help or something ridiculous like that tell her you do not want to discuss it further, but would appreciate an apology.

- Ignore the incident or make a joke of it. If this is a one or in this case two time occurrence and you are not comfortable talking to your boss or going to HR you could write this one off as she is being a “Queen Bee” and her day will come. If she makes another comment you could make a joke about it. Say something like, “You know what they say - Thin may be in, but fat is where it’s at.”* Her comments say more about her than it does about you. I bet she has insecurities about her own weight and puts a lot of emphasis on appearance.

Speaking of belly fat, I want to mention I have the same problem. Once I entered my mid-forties I began noticing my belly protrudes a bit yet I hadn't gained weight. I even asked my doctor if there was something I could do about it. She told me my “belly fat” question was the most common question she receives from woman aged 45-55. Unfortunately she blames the problem on gravity and didn’t offer any solutions.

*This was one of my mother-in-law’s favorite jokes. I told my husband I was including it in this post and he thinks it is terrible advice. He prefers you talk to your manager one-on-one and demand an apology.

What do others think?  Do you have any advice for Rachel?


  1. This is one of those darn lose-lose situations. If she brings it up to the boss there is a 50/50 chance that the boss will turn it around on her being "too sensitive".

    If she doesn't meet with the boss now, however, I think she should be prepared that if it happens a third time she will say right then and there - regardless of who's around - something like, "You know this is the third time that you have made that comment and I feel it is totally unprofessional and inappropriate at work. Please apologize and don't do it again."

    I would practice multiple times in front of the mirror and get a dear friend to say "weight things" to me at odd moments to help me be prepared to pull it out without getting thrown by the comment itself.

    This is inexcusable, but way too many women as as guilty as men.

  2. Excellent, excellent advice – she is letting her know it is unacceptable at time of occurrence. I struggled with this one. I know I would have difficulty approaching my manager, which is why I suggested making a joke about it if she mentions it again. I forgot to suggest practicing in the mirror and with a friend again excellent advice.

    Good luck Rachel – you don’t deserve this crap!

  3. Rachel9:31 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and very practical advice with me. The support given is priceless and I'm comforted to know I'm not alone. I will deal with it and I have been practising in front of the mirror. Thank you again and hope you have a great Easter weekend!

  4. You always have such good information to share. I have to tell you, I know I subscribed to your blog some time ago. I remember because I had trouble trying to figure it out and you helped me, I'm pretty sure. But then, I never got notices. So I signed up again, and I'm hoping this time it takes! Wish me luck!

  5. Monica,
    Thanks for your kind words and as always for stopping in.

  6. That is unbelievable that comments like that are made - doesn't she realized she could be sued? Or in a big company HR would handle it for you. Maybe if you ignore them they will go away? Good luck.

  7. Lisa,
    I continue to be astonished by the thing people say and do. Don't they have a filter?

  8. That is truly awful. Even if the writer was gaining wait it is not her supervisor's business. You give great advice her. I think she should talk to or even email her boss saying how she feels. Then if it happens again go to HR. If it continues to happen after that get a lawyer.

    Thanks for linking up for #FlashbackFriday.

  9. Chasing Joy,
    The more I blog and learn, the more I realize employees have to stand up for themselves. I agree she needs to talk to or email her boss. She could email her boss and copy HR. I bet that would get a little bit of attention.