Made a Stupid Joke, Now Your Manager Taking You to HR

Hey OB peeps
Long story short, I work in a team of 5. We used to joke around in a private group chat and laughed it off with no harm intention. We got our work done, that's the main thing. Our ex-manager was always cool with it, no problems. Few months ago, a new manager started. He was added into this private group chat. He seemed cool too and we would say stuff
However problems arose when I had a bit of work related disagreement with this new manager and he since then hold a grudge against me. Outside, he was still act like normal, that caught me off-guard.

Few weeks back, I made a lame joke in this private group chat, during work hours, but you can say its during my lunch break. This manager screenshot it and reported it to his superior and now they are taking me to HR.

My question is, if a employee say or do something inappropriate out of joke, should his manager remind them or give warning before taking this any further? And if they are taking me to HR, what are their intention? Give me official warning or trying to sack me? What are your thoughts on this?
Appreciate any insight.


closed Comments

  • +83

    What was the joke?

    • -42

      without putting it out in writing here which might get to a wrong eye, let's just say it sounds offensive to a group of people, but I swear no ill intention.

      • +81

        Your intent means little if the action/speech is (potentially) damaging to someone - it's simple negligence.

        A good rule of thumb when deciding if something is worth joking about is to imagine it being said to a broader and unknown audience. If not then it's probably best not joked about and possibly an indictment of your own attitude on the subject.

        • +41

          Completely agree. I have told jokes I've regretted and have apologised completely and with a proper apology, not one of those - "If I've offended someone" pieces of BS. I say "I'm sorry, it was offensive and I shouldn't have said it". We all need to engage our brains, before opening mouths or typing.

        • +11

          Bit of an aside but that's the thing about jokes and life in general. Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so - Shakespeare.

          If the person making the joke genuinely has no poor intentions and was trying to make people laugh then there is nothing wrong. If people take it the wrong way then that's their perception of it and their own 'problem'.

          Of course there is a place and time for everything and a work group chat is not one of them.

          This world is now so politically correct and everyone is always ready to feel offended.

      • +15

        It's just a prank bro!

        Oh please. If your manager found it bad enough to warrant a visit to HR then your joke was obviously offensive and unprofessional. If you say your joke is offensive to a group of people then it has no place at work.

        • -8

          He could just say "please dont do that again, this is a warning" if I was my team leader. It's his job to look out for his team.
          I don't deny my wrong doing, I'm happy for him to give me warning before taking this to the cloud.

        • +3

          @mcp2kpro: Yes I agree with you there. I guess you'll have to tread lightly with your new manager :|

        • +7

          @mcp2kpro: Its also HIS job to follow HR policies and ensure that the fair work act is followed.

        • +2

          @Yakuza85: I understand, there are different ways to deal with things. But what said was said and now meeting is over.

      • +13

        If you can't tell us what you said, then it was probably pretty inappropriate.

      • +2

        It doesn't matter what was your intention, it is what happened.

    • +3

      If the joke was on the line of Race, Religion or Sexuality, then it could be problematic. But given that its a private chat, I think you will get away with a warning.

      • +7

        What if it poked fun at race, religion and sexuality? 🤔

      • +4

        In one country, you can be jailed for allegedly insulting a religion:

        • +5

          Thankfully not this country

        • +16

          @brokeunistudent: yeap, but in this country you'll get reported to HR :)

        • +5

          In another country, you'll get slaughtered for eating a cow

        • +4

          @zaidoun: not just eating, even transporting them gets you in trouble.

        • +1

          @kz: Another guy in this post said his conversation about dinosaurs offended his work colleague they they reported to HR.

        • @brokeunistudent: will happen eventually

    • +3

      The Joke!! Must be NSFW.

  • +40

    Depends on the joke - not enough info is provided.

    my advice - never put anything in writing that you don't want read in court at a later date.

    • -3

      Lesson learned. Like I said, we were in a no-judge non-work related private chat group. I have since withdraw from these chats.

      • +33

        Private chats are dangerous, because ultimately, they are NOT private.

        • yeah, so it happened. It's just that you didn't see a warning.

        • @mcp2kpro:

          My advice - cover your arse from now on. Do an amazing job all the time. Stick it to your manager by always being right and never under performing.

          Discontinue any extra unnecessary communication with your manager.

          If you believe they are holding a grudge and have the capacity to behave this way - everyone else will soon catch on.

          Once this happens - they will be cast out from the "group" naturally by way of never being invited to any external group events let alone "private chats"

          However they might be one of those loners that don't mind coming in to work and being miserable and then unfortunately if management also back them up - you're all screwed.

        • @Michegianni: Thanks. I have since withdrew from any private group chats. I've alerted some of my work colleagues about it but one of them (long time good mate) refused & turned his back on me. Very disappointing :S

        • @mcp2kpro:

          Refused what?

        • @Michegianni: well we always talked shit in that group but now suddenly i'm the one who f&*# up.

        • @mcp2kpro: TN is that you?

        • @jnguyen1988: Nah its Steve.

      • +55

        Good tip: never invite your manager to a group chat

      • +2

        Or just have separate chats and exclude your manager.

      • It also depends if you have signed a social media policy at your work as well. Its all relevant to what your company policies are and ultimatley the legislation around bullying / harrasment at work and how people interpret the jokes / conversations you have.

    • +3

      my advice - never put anything in writing that you don't want read in court at a later date.

      It's not just writing you should be concerned about, we live in a surveillance world!

      • +4

        Yes. For all we know you could be NSA from inside the duck costume ;)

    • +1

      lol, I don't wanna get into trouble as he might be watching. Joke was, you're required to have working with children check because "someone" keeps touching the kids

        • +10

          Maybe you touched a raw nerve. Perhaps he's a closet creeper.

        • @sparkles: Apparently I did, and someone finally came out from the closet. Funny thing is he still pretending he didn't do it and came to me offering some support if I need a chat.

        • +6

          this is in very poor taste! reported to relevant authorities.

        • +13


          Funny thing is he still pretending he didn't do it and came to me offering some support if I need a chat.

          Well, there's only one thing for this:

          You'll have to crack more jokes to weed out the mole!!

        • +18

          @Scrooge McDuck: Yep send each of the private chat members a slightly different but equally offensive message and see which one gets reported.

      • +2


        • When you have a creep behind your back, its best avoid everything unfortunately.

        • +2

          Agree totally- you can add race, climate change and environmental to that ( I work in environmental)

      • +3

        Lame joke? yes. Funny? No. Bad taste? Yes

        But, it doesn't strike me as bad enough to get the sack over it. Unless you were implying a specific person (ie. an accusation) was this "someone". Accusing a colleague publicly of something like that without evidence is pretty nasty.

      • do you know the number 1 cause of pedophilia???

        its hot kids!

      • +1

        If you work in a place where this is required you should know how serious it is. Any suggestion like that joke could destroy someone's career (no evidence needed) or life.
        And it is your responsibility as the person making the joke to make sure it is received in the way it was intended (eg you call someone a nickname they don't like, it's your fault)

      • +1

        A lot of people with WWC's are also mandatory reporters and even if not, your manager had no choice but to report that to HR. Imagine if he didn't and got caught out later! You don't need us to tell you that's not at all funny.

  • +9

    It depends on what the lame joke was about and whether it was the manager that is the one with the issue. There could be someone in the group who felt unsupported by the old manager but felt they could raise it with the new manager. The other thing to keep in mind is that if you are using the company IM for group chats they are not private - they are monitored, and stored, by the company. It could've been someone in HR that came to the manager, rather than the other way around. It doesn't matter how lame the joke was it is how offensive it was. If I was you I would be very grovelling to HR and the manager and promise you won't do it again - and make sure you don't. You are most likely to get a warning unless what you said was particularly vile. Maybe you need to have a chat with your manager to understand the world from his point of view, he is the one who writes up your reviews - you really don't want your manager holding a grudge and then give them ammunition.

    • +2

      It was WhatsApp, not company IM
      regardless, he did screenshot this and reported.
      I would apologize. But I felt their intention was not simply here me say sorry as we've been dispute about my pay. FYI I been performing a extra role at work for years without pay and they keep delaying this process with different excuses.

      • +2

        I might be wrong but I don't think a company can penalise an employee based on a whatsapp conversation.

        • I need an insight at the next meeting, any further info you can provide?

        • +1

          People have been "pinged" for Facebook pages mentioning the company, etc. I think as long as other people can see it then you can be held responsible; but I would be interested to see what a company lawyer would say on this. (Generally the best outcome is compensation; but you don't get the job back.) I still think the most sensible thing is to apologise and then try to move on. If you feel the company is taking advantage of you, and they are doing it within the rules, then you many have to consider finding another job. Trying to use this sort of thing to indicate you are being victimised is "difficult". Were you were using WhatsApp on your company computer, or your own device? Again, it depends on how offensive the joke was. They are unlikely to ping if it was only "lame" unless it had some element of racism, sexism, offensive language etc. I would also suggest you setup another private group and don't invite your boss.

        • It's a guy talking to his manager.. The medium doesn't really matter based on policies at places I've worked in the past.

        • People have been sacked from personal facebook or twitter posts…

          I don't think a watsapp convo with the manager inside can be any different

        • Unfortunately, relations between employees outside of work context can still be considered work related for the purposes of HR interactions.

          If your team decides to go to a bar after work on Friday, and you say some unacceptable things to a team member (that might be legal due to freedom of speech but still very inappropriate as work conduct), that team member can certainly take it up with HR at work.

      • You can fake a screenshot.

        • Yep and then it comes down to who's lying, the manager or the employee. ><

    • Also, its already too late. They are taking me to HR with clear intention.
      It makes little differences with the manager's review. FYI, For many years we had good review and our performance is strong. However we only receive minimal CPI pay increase. Its not about to change with a bad review.

      • +6

        @mcp2kpro as @the-mal says in another comment, you are being managed out. Your only course of action is to look for another job, as you are completely boned at your current one.

        BUT, in the meantime…

        1. Make sure you record all interactions with HR and your manager. Be upfront about this - use a voice recorder on your phone and inform them at the start of the meeting that you will be recording everything. Make sure this is on the recording, as is their acknowledgement of you recording them. They can object, at which point, you must end the recording - but make sure you record their objection. Also, end the meeting - they cannot force you into a meeting that you cannot record or have someone else in as a witness.

        2. Inform HR and your manager that they must preserve copies of all communications pertaining to this matter and your employment, so they may be used later by your legal counsel (even if you don't yet have one). If communications take place verbally, then they must preserve a written transcript.

        You most likely won't take any legal action, but it shows them that you're not afraid to cause legal trouble if they push you around, so when you do resign/get fired, they'll be more likely to walk you straight out the door just to get rid of you, so you won't have to serve out any notice period.

        • +2

          actually not advisable

          because playing it big will only mean making OPs life hard.

          Looks like it was a certain racist comment. Does OP really want to make this big so he get known as a racist person all over the company and potentially future employments?

          Recording of what? Recording yourself reading out the racist comment? How is that gonna help his case?

    • -1

      My opinion is that if no one got hurt by the joke, then there's no "infraction".
      If I'm having a laugh in coffee room with blokes, about blondes, I am not hurting anyone. Sure not nice thing to do but ok.
      If A blonde comes in, and she can hear our jokes, then I'm in trouble, as she might feel hurt.

      If you joke could be directed at someone in your group directly or indirectly ( because of partner ), then you're in trouble.

      If others made same jokes, and they are not being called, you are "singled out" and that's bullying from your boss. Use it wisely.

      I once was in a meeting with HR, and they made an additional remark about a certain behaviour of mine, I confronted them saying many other people do the same,
      and they've not being made aware of it, so I was singled out. They quickly had to crawl back.
      For the other thing, which was arguable, I decided to see if Apologizing profusely would do the trick. It did.
      In Australia you can kill, apologize publicly and deeply, and you walk away with a warning.

  • +1

    What was the "work related" disagreement about?

    • A few of us have been performing extra roles at work for years without proper title and pay. We tried to get this resolved and our managers taking their time. I found out my manager "provide extra resources" to my other colleague without giving me access to this. I confronted him. In the end, he had to supply me this info. But hold his grudge.

  • +9

    all I can say is that i [profanity] hate HR

    • +3

      They no pay you for years with extra roles you done, but you made a lame joke and here they are all on the table.

    • +4

      Lets not get personal ;)

      • +4

        they're hired to be fun killer :(

    • +6

      HR = human remains

      • -2

        Hot Rice

        • How'd you come up with hot rice lmao


        • +2

          @Jason Genova: I thought really hard but so disappointed that it offended 3 people.

        • @mcp2kpro: You seem to be a serial offender - so to speak.

    • +3

      I'll never forget a guy from HR about 5 years ago. Mass redundancy (about a 80 or so staff members let go over the day). At one point the HR guy had his tea mug, he was standing against the wall looking out over the staff with a kind of smugness while taking a sip.

      • +1

        Damn, how does this guy sleep at night? So [email protected]%$ up

      • I was expecting a twist in the tale that someone put something bad in their tea. Disappointed.

        • +2

          Hah no twists just a very depressing story with no upside. Just like life.

  • +22

    Dude the only reason he is taking you to HR is he is going to sack you, he's your manager, he could have dealt with it in many other ways. He doesn't like you and you have given him grounds to sack you. Make sure you take a lawyer into the HR meeting with you.

    • +1

      Strong possibility. The company has contracted an external employee assistance program. I will contact them for some advise before reaching out to lawyer.

      • +15

        It's not a possibility, its an inevitability. I would be very careful with an 'employee assistance program' contracted to your company. Their interests are not your interests.

        • +2

          I'm not sure that's the case if it's been set up properly.

          EAPs are usually with registered Psychologists. If they break confidentiality they can lose their registration. Obvious exceptions apply, like serious criminal confessions or if someone is at risk of harm

        • +1

          yeah nah this is FUD. EAP companies are legally required to maintain confidentiality and also rely on this reputation of confidentiality to gain and maintain contracts.

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