Is my co-founder homophobic?

My co-founder keeps making inappropriate remarks to our gay marketing director. Will I make the problem worse by saying something?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 16 Jun 2016

Q: My co-founder keeps making inappropriate remarks to our gay marketing director. The comments are made in jest and appear to be taken in good humour - but they make me uncomfortable, not least because we could end up at an employment tribunal. I don't want to make things worse by causing a fuss. What's your advice?

JEREMY SAYS: The real problem with your co-founder is not that he's a homophobe but that he's a bore. It would be just as tiresome if he persistently teased your marketing director for being a Millwall supporter.

This is helpful, since suggesting that a colleague is boring is a lot less likely to endanger relationships than accusing him of sexual discrimination; and it's certainly not going to risk an employment tribunal.

Your marketing director appears to be reasonably relaxed about all this - though I bet he finds it tedious. So I suggest you and he agree a strategy. You should each choose a favourite topic: real ale, perhaps, or roses, or Millwall. When you're all three having a drink together one evening, tell your co-founder that you and your marketing director have made a pact. His allusions to the marketing director being gay were once reasonably funny but they've now become so predictable that they're boring. So next time he embarks on one, you'll both simultaneously launch into interminable rambles about real ale or roses or Millwall. (I suspect that the more ludicrous the subjects you choose, the lighter the atmosphere will be.)

Done with a pint in the hand, this shouldn't cause serious offence. But it should certainly work; in fact, I doubt if you'll ever have to put your plan into practice.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems on editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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