What's your problem?

I drive to work, smoke and enjoy a couple of drinks every night. My health and well-being are my own business, and no-one else's. Tell that to my colleagues, though.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

There's a particular team member who cycles to work and teases me for being a bit on the large side. Their constant jibes are starting to really annoy me, but my manager just thinks it's funny. I'm afraid that if this carries on, I might just lose my temper and say something I'll regret. What is your advice?

A: This is real schoolboy stuff, isn't it? Here are the nobs of the First Eleven poking fun at Billy Bunter - and here's the form beak chuckling indulgently behind the staffroom door. Unfortunately, silly, cruel schoolboy stuff does quite often creep into office life. It's no fun at all for the luckless victim and, once established, it's a devil to eradicate.

I sympathise with your growing anger and your urge to bring it to a head, but please resist. It's almost impossible to retain control and dignity under these circumstances. Because you've been bottling it up, it will all tumble out with much greater resentment and self-pity than it warrants.

And your tormentors will be entitled to look at each other with expressions of innocent bewilderment and suggest you're suffering from a serious sense-of-humour bypass. You'll have made a tricky situation irrevocably worse.

That's what not to do. What you should do is more difficult to prescribe, but I suspect aiming for the opposite is as good a guide as any. Start by realising this: the jibes you're enduring loom a great deal larger in your life than in the lives of the jibers. I bet they'd be genuinely astonished if they realised how it was getting to you.

So learn to take those jibes with good humour. (Extremely difficult, I know, but try.) Roll your eyes a bit if you want to suggest that it's all a bit old hat and unoriginal. Teasing someone who resolutely refuses to rise to the bait is an unrewarding pastime. It may take a week or two, but they should soon get bored.

A final disrespectful thought: might your sensitivity about all this be at least in part due to that niggling feeling of yours that you really ought to lose an ounce or two?

Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of both the Guardian Media Group and WPP.

Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

A leadership thought: Treat your colleagues like customers

One minute briefing: Create a platform where others can see their success, says AVEVA CEO...

The ignominious death of Gordon Gekko

Profit at all costs is a defunct philosophy, and purpose a corporate superpower, argues this...

Gender bias is kept alive by those who think it is dead

Research: Greater representation of women does not automatically lead to equal treatment.

What I learned leading a Syrian bank through a civil war

Louai Al Roumani was CFO of Syria's largest private retail bank when the conflict broke...

Martin Sorrell: “There’s something about the unfairness of it that drives me”

EXCLUSIVE: The agency juggernaut on bouncing back, what he would do with WPP and why...

The 10 values that will matter most after COVID-19

According to a survey of Management Today readers.