You don’t need to bare your soul if you don’t want to – certainly not to begin with.
This might still be an awkward discussion, however. And, yes, there’s a danger that as part of this conversation you may find yourself talking directly about the part of your appearance your colleagues seem fixated on. But that may be preferable to saying nothing and letting the matter hang in the air indefinitely like some foul, invisible but non-dispersible stench.
See how the discussion goes and, if it’s clear this person was ambivalent about – or even disliked – the gift, perhaps then disclose how insulting you found it. From there, you might try to find out how the decision was made, and who else might have had reservations. I’m not suggesting you create an us-versus-them battle – in fact just the opposite. By finding and working with a group of allies, you can more easily avoid the dramatic, all-in confrontation that I know you’re extremely eager to avoid.
I’m hoping what you discover is just a case of a bad decision and the breakdown of a usually thoughtful gift-buying routine. It would also be wonderful if, as part of your discussions, you helped make sure something like this never happens again.
If you find that there was a malicious motive behind the gift, I’d question whether this is a work environment you want to remain a part of. And if its objective was to ridicule your appearance, please remember that such an act may constitute bullying, especially if you find it begins to happen more frequently. And that can be grounds for a formal complaint.
Let us know how you go.
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