Dear Miss Manners:
I was recently having a discussion with a colleague (a rival, really) on a number of issues affecting our office. I was generously sharing my vision of where we should take the company--separate pay and benefit scales for male and female workers, dissolving our pension program, dedicating half of our resources to unwinnable fights with rival companies.
Repeatedly during our discussion, my colleague laughed at my proposals. In fact, he wouldn't stop smiling the whole time. It was perfectly clear to all who were there that he was dismissing my ideas, but still kept calling me his "friend."
I feel his behavior during our discussion was rude and unprofessional, and many of my colleagues agree. We have demanded that he apologize and even taken our complaints to our top bosses, but so far nothing has been done.
What can we do to make him admit his laughing and smiling were inappropriate and that he should apologize?
The Wonko Kid
Laughter is not only the best medicine, but it is also a versatile tool in the etiquette box, useful for putting strangers at ease, inviting comradery and, at times, politely standing in for the less gentle suggestion of mental aberration.
While your ideas certainly sound innovative and creative, they are well outside the accepted norms for successful business strategy and could possibly be seen by others as radical and dangerous to your company's future.
The laughter that you see as an affront was merely your colleague's attempt to color your unrealistic and dangerous ideas as attempts at humor. Rather than getting angry, you should have taken the hint and laughed along, in hopes that the other people watching would have assumed you were actually joking, and not hell-bent on destroying the company they all depend on to make a living.
You complain that he was being rude to you, when the exact opposite is the case. Your efforts to involve your bosses in your complaint was a more serious error, one which, rather than leading to advancement, may jeopardize your current position with the company.
You would be wise to immediately withdraw your complaint to your higher-ups and make a public gesture to your colleague, suggesting that you were indeed joking and praising his sense of humor in getting the joke.
Privately, you may wish to thank him for his well-mannered instinct to treat your ideas as comedy. It sounds as if he was trying to do you a favor.