Have you had a co-worker or a supervisor make offensive comments and then, when you called them out on it, claim that they were just joking? This is a very common situation, as people will often use this as an excuse for whatever it was that they said, claiming that you simply didn’t get the joke and you don’t have any reason to be offended.
If this happens to you, you should know that it’s probably just a deflection. They may not have been joking, but acting as if they were is intended to make you feel like you’re in the wrong. It covers up the way that they treated you.
Plus, even if it was a joke, that doesn’t make it right. Offensive jokes can count as harassment and they can create a hostile workplace environment. This could make you feel uncomfortable at work as if you’re always about to be verbally assaulted.
People need to be careful about what they say at work. This doesn’t mean they cannot tell jokes or that humor has no place in the office, but it may mean they need to curate what they say. A joke that a friend told at a party may not be a good one to repeat on the job. They have to consider how everyone else is going to take it and what impact they can have on how safe and content other employees feel.
If you are an employee who is facing sexual harassment, you may not even care if it’s done in a joking manner or not. It’s still harassment, and you need to know what rights you have. Sexual harassment and hostile work environments are never a laughing matter.