This question - Coworker is easily and often offended and doesn't want us to mention offensive topics like facial hair - Is getting a lot of attention. And Kate's answer, is rather controversial judging from the voting record and from how many comments have been deleted from it.

I tend to think Kate is a great contributor, however, here I think she's wildly off-base and I flagged her post as such. My flag was declined and I was told if I wanted more info to bring it to meta, so here I am.

Here is the message I sent when flagging:

Want to flag as Not an answer, but give an explanation. This doesn't actually contain any advice for what the OP should do. It also assumes bad faith on the part of the OP based on the writers personal experiences, despite information in the OP that makes it clear the statement in question was in fact harmless. To finish, it also attacks the other answers on this page which is something we generally don't encourage on SE. – ryan 21 hours ago

And here was the mod response:

declined - Looks like an answer to me, including advice on what to say instead. For broader review, bring up on meta.

But I fail to see the evidence for the counter claims when I examine the post.

First claim: This doesn't actually contain any advice for what the OP should do.

I'm assuming when the mod says that there is advice on what to say instead in the post they are referring to the line "Wow, new look! How are you liking it?". However, the question wasn't "what should I have said here instead of Jeff, where did you go?." The question was "Many innocuous statements, the latest being about a beard, are being taken as offensive by a third uninvolved party and reported to HR, what should we do?" So that line is entirely inadequate to address the whole of the question and problem faced by the OP.

As for my other two points they were not even addressed by the mod but I want to look at them as they are even more worrying considering the general policies of StackExchange.

Claim Two: It also assumes bad faith on the part of the OP.
Claim Three: it also attacks the other answers on this page

It's not clear whose beard you were discussing.... It's clear you can't see why anyone would be upset or offended ... in a work context. The other answers at the moment support this view, that of course it's terrific to sit around at work chatting about what people look like, ...

You don't seem to be aware of this at all. You seem to feel that in order to make software or sell insurance or plan construction projects, it's your right to talk about how everyone around you looks, even when one of the people around you has told you they find that upsetting and hurtful. Without hearing what you said, lots of people are willing to pat you on the back and say that absolutely, you have that right, don't let anyone take it from you.

These seem like some awfully negative, harsh, and big assumptions to be making about the OP when it's admitted up front that it's not even clear what's being talked about!

And while other answers on the page read the comments on the OP or his update (actually the update by Joe) and wrote their responses in light of how neutral the comment made actually was. This answer hasn't been updated, and continues to attack them for their support and advice which actually addresses the whole of the problem faced by the OP.

So how exactly is this an answer that we are OK leaving on this site in it's current form?

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    Sometimes the community can do what mods won't single-handedly do, so bringing your concerns to mets is the right thing to do. (BTW, custom mod replies to flags are very limited in length.) – Monica Cellio Sep 9 '16 at 22:53

I've got the top answer to that one, and mine was rather passionate as well. While I agree that it was a bad answer, it does not deserve deletion and IMO, a counter argument is useful to have around. I've got ten downvotes and often express unpopular opinions myself, I'd hate to think my next unpopular opinion would be deleted.

It should be left in place, IMO. While IMO, it is not a good answer, it is still an answer, and has gotten over 30 downvotes at this posting. We do not want to become an echo chamber. I've said this when I think people who agree with me have IMO, been treated unfairly, and I think Kate deserves the same deference.

  • I don't know that it should necessarily be deleted, but the fact that it hasn't been edited at all despite it's lack of reflection on the situation in the op, and attacks other answers on the page seems like bad president. Leaving unpopular opinion is one thing, attacking others entirely different. – Ryan Sep 13 '16 at 16:11
  • @ryan - What specifically do you see as attacking others in the answer? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 16 '16 at 21:05
  • @Chad, the language in her post is very specific to the op, she consistently uses the word "You" and then declares failure, "You don't realize"... "You can't see", then moves on to mention again specifically "the other posters here all support You". saying not just the op is wrong and insensitive but that everyone who's posted on the page is wrong and insensitive. She even flat out says it in her comment below "And every answer and comment was ... That belief is wrong". That isn't neutral language used for general SE posts. – Ryan Sep 16 '16 at 21:24
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    @ryan - That seems overly sensitive for someone advocating that offending people is ok. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 16 '16 at 21:26
  • @Chad, who's advocating that offending people is ok? I certainty am not, but to declare everyone else on the page to be wrong, and yourself the sole source of truth? That's pretty against what SE is about. – Ryan Sep 16 '16 at 21:29
  • @Ryan that is exactly what SE is about. That is why we have multiple answers and not just one editable wiki type entry. If the only thing that the answer said was "All these other answers suck and are wrong" then you would be right. but the answer is well reasoned and explained. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 16 '16 at 21:31
  • @Chad, multiple correct answers or ways of getting at the answer is why we have multiple answers, not to declare, he's wrong I'm right. That's why you can upvote/downvote everyone on the page, not winner take all. – Ryan Sep 16 '16 at 21:33
  • @ryan - unless all of the other answers are wrong... The whole point is because sometimes people will have conflicting points of view. The SE System allows for that – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 16 '16 at 21:33
  • @Chad, but as the answerer it's not your place to declare who's right or wrong, you give objective advice, then let those that come seeking advice, the community and the OP decide that. – Ryan Sep 16 '16 at 21:36
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    As an answerer you should always believe you are right... if you do not then you should not be answering the question in the first place. Also the question is not saying that those voices should be shouted down, just that just being the loudest voices does not make them right. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 16 '16 at 21:39
  • @Chad, sure, I can agree with that. But that doesn't mean you declare in your post that everyone else is wrong. – Ryan Sep 16 '16 at 21:40
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    @ryan - I do not see that being done overtly. Only through the fact that her answer contradicts the answers already in place. I assume you are not trying to say that you can not have a dissenting opinion in an answer? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 16 '16 at 21:42

I do not read any assumption of bad faith in this answer. It is quite common that people who inadvertently offend other people do not understand why someone else would be offended. And Kate simply reflected how she perceived the OP's attitude based on the question, she did not say that the OP did have this attitude, or attack the OP for having the attitude.


As stated kate in her answer :

I answered to educate the OP and all others who reject any and all limits on appearance discussion. I wanted to show the sort of thoughts their words can evoke in those who hear them.

And i'll had another quote from what i heard my communication classes which was stated as the main rule :

It's not what you say that is important, but what the others understand.

By that Kate definitively has a point. However there is a limit, some people just get offended by such trivial matters because they lack self-confidence in themself or/and in the co-workers. So you connect everything that they can say as a lack of confidence in your skills, social behaviour or whatever.

I can tell you that i got some co-workers which i really didn't had any confidence in them that i wouldn't accept even trivial things like this, which i would accept from pretty much anyone else. However unlike OP's co-workers i'm the kind of the silent ones, i just shut up i play the unsocial geek card "must go back coding".

  • To this, I'll copy a comment that someone posted on Kates answer cause it says it perfectly: "@KateGregory I'm very interested in how the specifics of the offending comment affect this answer. 'I answered to educate the OP and all others who reject any and all limits on appearance discussion.' I'd say that this case specifically falls within reasonable limits of appearance discussion. How should one handle a situation when someone complains about comments that are well within the bounds of social acceptability? – Myles 21 hours ago" – Ryan Sep 13 '16 at 16:07
  • @ryan well I saw that's comment, i'm not Kate, I will refer to what i said : some people just get offended by such trivial matters because they lack self-confidence.... How to handle it ? Well I don't know i just think it may shows the fact that person may lack confidence, i just think she wanted to point out that it's not because most of people think it's in the bounds of social acceptability that it is, surely in some years tons of things were in the bounds of social acceptability, yet they aren't any more. Kate's answer address is more generic that specifics to OP's question – Walfrat Sep 13 '16 at 16:16
  • fixing my last sentence in comments... : some years ago ton of things were in the bounds of social acceptability, yet they aren't any more. – Walfrat Sep 13 '16 at 20:41
  • @Walfrat metric tons or pounds? – Old_Lamplighter Sep 15 '16 at 14:07
  • @RichardU i meant "lot of", i guess my google trad check wasn't good :P – Walfrat Sep 15 '16 at 14:15

I didn't downvote even though it's a terrible answer in my opinion. It has 58 upvotes so it must have some merit, and it gives a viewpoint worth thinking about, because I have been wondering what sort of HR would pander to such a complaint, perhaps one with this viewpoint?

Food for thought in any case.

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