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Ask Ash

14 October 13

Advice column: a colleague is poking fun because I'm overweight

Dear Ash

I have recently put on some excess weight, mainly as a consequence of the long hours at work, leaving me with little time for exercise and an increased temptation for ordering quick and easy takeaways. I am beginning to feel increasingly self conscious about my appearance and this has started to affect my confidence at work. The situation is made worse by the constant jibes made by a particular colleague about my weight. Although he has a tendency to make sarcastic comments about others in the department too, he has been increasingly poking fun at me in particular. I often eat my lunch at my desk and he will frequently be critical about what I am eating in front of others. He has also taken to making grunting pig noises when he sees me in the kitchen. I tend to just smile back as I am too embarrassed to respond but the whole situation is getting me down.

Ash replies

Despite our increasingly politically correct society frowning upon overt comments about race, religion etc, we still seemingly think it acceptable to make judgment about someone’s weight. Your colleague’s behaviour effectively amounts to a form of bullying and is reminiscent of the type of behaviour you may find in a school playground.

You need to confront your colleague in order to make it clear that his behaviour is unacceptable. Whether someone is overweight or underweight should have no bearing on their right to be respected and valued at work.

It may be that your colleague is unaware that his behaviour has been causing you distress; unfortunately not everyone is sensitive to the feelings of others around them.

Separately, I suggest for your own confidence and self esteem that you try to include some exercise into your daily routine, whether it be a brisk 15-minute walk at lunchtime to allow you a break from the pressures of work, or a change in routine in the morning, e.g. walking more to work where possible. Exercise tends to boost certain feel-good hormones and assist in lifting your mood.

However, in order to also deal with the root cause of your unhappiness I would also suggest that you review your workload with your line manager in order to see if you can come to a better work-life balance. Start to take some control back and try to regain some all-important “me” time.

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS.

Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, Manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or 


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