Sexist comments. Theyre those seemingly harmless statements or points of views that undoubtedly make you go, Oh? and raise those eyebrows. Whats worse is, youre often left questioning how you really feel about them. But, the question is legitimately complex, yet essential; the struggle is all too realhow do you deal with a sexist co-worker? According to Deepti Lad*, a deputy general manager HR with a leading real estate developer in Mumbai, Sexism in the workplace is unfortunately more of a grey zone where situations tend to be less unacceptable and lean more towards uncool. With regard to HR protocol, its harder to navigate those grey areas.Now, before we get into how you can tackle sexism at your work place, lets first understand the type of sexism that exists. Theres something called overt sexismgender pay disparity, unwanted sexual advances, and acts that tend to threaten your well-being at the workplace. The next is causal sexismharmless sexist jokes, mansplaining, or preferential treatment in favour of male colleagues. The casual sexism is usually what falls in the grey area, and gets hard to navigate. Whats worse, its assumed that overt sexism is more harmful but when you really think about it, its the casual sexism and the lack of solutions or explicit guidelines to tackle it that has a more damaging effect. A large number of the female workforce tend to resign because of the unfair and biased treatment that is doled out in favour of their male peers, explains Lad.Fortunately, there are some perfectly polite, but direct ways to shut down the sexism to help make your workplace comfortable and less toxic. Here are some exercises to try:Speak up against double standards: If you have noticed that your male boss speaks to your male co-workers with some amount of respect, addressing them by their first or last names, but chooses to nickname you and call you only by that name, speak up. Ask him why he chooses to do so, and state that youre uncomfortable with the nickname and would prefer to be treated like the rest of your team. It is advisable to first speak to your boss if you are capable of remaining objective while having the conversation. Ask if hed have done the same thing if you were a man. However, if this unfairness continues, you must take up the issue with HR, advises Lad.Have an ally in your workplace: If youve chosen to fight this battle, its best to have allies. Speak to other women in the workplace about their experiences. They might not want to be forthcoming, but the more women you speak to, and the more they start to share, the easier itll become to build your case. Nothing helps better than having support, and when one or more people speak up or share similar experiences from around the office, it becomes easier to call out such behaviours and put a stop to them, explains Lad.Have a comeback for those predictable sexist remarks: When dealing with a sexist co-worker, it pays to think on your feet. For example, when in a meeting you begin to address the room about a certain topic, and you know youre about to be met with a comment like, theres not need to get emotional, simply turn that around with Im passionate about what I do. Better yet, a pre-emptive strike shows that you can read a room and youre in control. Its usually your word against his in the battle of the sexes, but if you speak politely and with a certain resolve, you will be taken seriously, and will have the backing of witnesses who know you were nothing but respectful, offers Lad.Make them explain that sexist remark: Having a comeback for a sexist comment is one thing; pretending to not understand that harmless sexist joke/comment is another. Another blow comes by way of you taking notes so you can learn or understand quicker. Subtle sarcasm can go a long way. For example, if a male co-worker makes a joke about women being bad drivers, simple reply with, Oh, Ive never heard that one or maintain a neutral expression stance and say, Im waiting for the punchline. You can always follow it up with great examples of women race car drivers. Says Lad, Tackling a casual sexist remark means fighting double standards by merely asking for it to be repeated. If its a politically incorrect statement, the co-worker will most likely walk away a little red in the face.Remember, tackling any uncomfortable situation in your place of business is a tricky path to navigate. Speaking up, even casually about any friction can get you unwanted attention and make you feel uncomfortable. However, if you are respectful, and maintain a no-nonsense attitude, youll most likely come out of it feeling like youve made a difference. Alerting HR about untowardly behaviour, even in an exit interview, can go a long way to improve the workplace environment, Lad signs off.