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When grownups bring the playground into the office

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Q: “I am 28 years old and currently serving in the US Army. In the shop where I work, we have a lot of younger guys. They act so childish that it’s embarrassing to call them soldiers. They think everything is a joke and have no clue when to back off.

“Being deployed away from my wife and family is tough enough without having to deal with these immature, smart-mouthed kids. I mentioned this to our sergeant, but he just brushed me off. What can I do?” Grown-up Soldier

A: If your primary concern is their lack of professionalism, then you need to separate actual work problems from personal irritation. Any juvenile behavior which impedes productivity or creates a safety hazard should be brought to the attention of your sergeant.

For example: “I know these guys are young and immature, but I worry that horseplay around the equipment may cause someone to get hurt. It also distracts people from working, so I thought you might want to speak to them about it.”

On the other hand, if you are being personally targeted, the young jokesters may just be trying to provoke a reaction. Any comeback will only encourage them, so the best response is no response. If you simply smile and go about your business, they will eventually get bored and find their fun elsewhere.

If teasing turns into personal insults, however, you may want to explain where you draw that line. For example: “I know you’re only kidding around, but I want you to know that jokes about my family are not at all funny to me.”

If these steps fail to help, just try to ignore your smart-aleck colleagues. They may simply be dealing with the stress of deployment in their own way.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of juvenile people at work. Here's how to handle them: How to Deal with Childish Adults

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