How to deal with co-workers expressing opinions that I find offensive?

This is question likely about to close. I get that people find the OPs stance unpleasant however the root of the question seems to be solidly on topic for this site IMO.

"Coworkers say thing that I find offensive. How do can handle it?"

Is it okay to strip out all of the objectionable content to try and pre-empt a hate close? It seems that most of the answers would be invalidated.

A question on this theme has been asked before but the only answer was inconclusive. Heavily edit question that is about to be closed?

  • 4
    "Coworkers say thing that I find offensive. How do can handle it?" - that question has already been asked and answered. – Joe Strazzere Feb 10 '16 at 0:46
  • 3
    I edited a lot of the commentary out of it, which was unrelated at best. I think now it's ok but it's nearly an exact duplicate of the question @JoeStrazzere linked. – enderland Feb 10 '16 at 15:32
  • In the existing question it is implied that the offensive remarks would be about a protected group and the answers focus on that fact. I'd say they are close but fundamentally different. – Myles Feb 10 '16 at 16:09
  • related: Aggressive Edits – gnat Feb 10 '16 at 20:39

I think it all started going downhill when the OP

  1. Mentioned calling Child Services


  1. Brought religious beliefs into it

The fact that the original post was pretty rant-ish didn't do the OP any favors either.

I, for one, tried to stay on message and answer the question objectively, however the OP's comments definitely seemed to me like the OP was not really looking for an answer so much as validation for his/her views.

And so, is it okay to strip out all of the objectionable content?

I would say yes, except that the OP didn't seem inclined to want to allow the issue to regress to a more neutral position.

At that point it's unrealistic to expect that people's answers are not going to be influenced by the comment conversation taking place. I personally think that that particular question is better off closed simply due to the fact that the OP did not allow the issue to be generalized.

You can't fight the OP on this sort of thing and end up in an edit war. Either the OP accepts that their claims are contentious and have to be toned down, or you simply close the question.


General answer:

It is possible to constructively ask questions that demonstrate an unpopular view. We've had them before. We usually struggle with them first, as people focus on the unpopular view (e.g. opposite-gender handshakes) instead of the workplace question (how to adjust one's work practices to dodge the issue). So, in a case where there's a reasonable question hiding inside of a post with distractions, it's ok to edit to focus the question. In the best case we get an answerable question (without the argument) and the OP gets an answer. When a question has already been put on hold, we should edit to allow reopening even if the edits are aggressive.

The OP might object to the edits, of course. If the question should be closed without the edit and the OP rolls back the edit, then we should reclose. With luck, the edit was accompanied by a polite explanatory comment and the OP wants an answer more than the distractions, but it doesn't always work out.

About this question:

The constructive parts of this question are very similar to this question (h/t Joe Strazzere for finding it). They're not identical; the OP here just doesn't like what her coworkers are saying, while on the other question a group is being targeted. The answers are going to be similar, but we should evaluate duplicates on the questions, not the answers.

The existing answers on the current question (on hold at this writing) would, in my estimation, survive an edit to remove the reasons for the objection. At its core this question is: my coworkers are expressing opinions with which I strongly disagree; I have to work with these people; how can I make it better? An edit to reduce it to that, and cross-referencing the question found by Joe, could reasonably be considered for reopening.

  • +1: Very well said. – Jim G. Feb 10 '16 at 14:04
  • 3
    It seems here that the OP wants to be told they can sue their employer... I do not think they have any interest in how to actually solve the problem. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 10 '16 at 18:38

I'd like to note that this particular OP has a history of questions about controversial topics and either has an extremely erratic workplace or is making it all up. If it wasn't such an old account I'd have thought her a troll by now. If we consider the incredibly entitled attitude, the extraordinarily offended tone she brings to her posts and the story-like way in which she reproduces entire conversations (very evident here), I grow more and more convinced that these questions are made up or that she's blowing things way out of proportion.

That said, SE's model is not about judging users but their posts. The problems with this latest post are many:

  • it's asking for generic advice and OP doesn't specify what she wants to accomplish: a moratorium on freedom of expression? shutting down inappropriate jokes? outlawing workplace chatter?
  • very poor choice of tone and language
  • dragging religion into the question
  • bordering on asking for legal advice with the mention of a hostile work environment and child protective services
  • potentially a duplicate of any number of older questions like How to deal with insensitive humor in the office? and it's linked questions

By now this question is too controversial and fragmented to be of use as a generic "How do I deal with offensive remarks?" question. All 5 of the currently posted answers are basically attacks on the OP and most should probably have been comments. Given the OP's past and present behaviour and the remarks AndreiROM raised I agree with his conclusion that this question is likely impossible to salvage.

For your broader question:

Is it okay to strip out all of the objectionable content to try and pre-empt a hate close? It seems that most of the answers would be invalidated.

Fluff can always be cut, but it's tricky when an objectionable attitude or opinion lies at the root of a question. Stripping a question completely to boil it down to a general question is almost always going to lead to edit wars. Those edits always change the author's intent which makes them automatic candidates for a roll-back leading to a whole lot of drama. Once a question is submitted the author opens it up for edits. Strictly speaking our Q&A format favours the "death of the author" but in practice this site in particular prefers to make sure that the question remains useful to the OP.

SOP in this cases like this should be to downvote if the question isn't useful, close vote if it matches the criteria for a close, attempt to improve the question alongside the OP and finally decide to reopen or leave it closed. If you think of a useful generic question, post it yourself.

For what it's worth, I rarely see "hate close votes" on this site. Keep in mind that questions that hit the 5 close votes aren't immediately closed but put on hold and this should not be considered a punishment but a signal that the question needs to be improved. Once it's improved and a scope and core question is established it can be reopened so that useful answers can be submitted. If anything, our community is too reluctant to close vote at times when both the OP and people looking to answer would be better served by first defining a clear scope for the question.


Also focusing on

Is it okay to strip out all of the objectionable content to try and pre-empt a hate close? It seems that most of the answers would be invalidated.

Speaking as an answerer: While it's annoying to spend time crafting an answer and have it become obsolete, keeping obsolete answer doesn't serve the site's longterm goals well. I'd like to see a mechanism that informed answerers when questions change substantially and encouraged us to reconsider our responses for possible editing or removal.

It might also be appropriate for SE to visually flag answers that predate a substantial edit, so readers are aware that the answer may be a less than perfect fit for the question as it now appears and should be considered in that light.

The other approach that occurs to me would be for substantial edits to automatically hide existing answers and ask authors to check for applicability and before making them visible again.

Of course these require changes to SE itself.

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