Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => All In A Day's Work => Topic started by: lellah on June 02, 2013, 03:38:04 PM

Title: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: lellah on June 02, 2013, 03:38:04 PM
I work in a cubical farm.  My coworkers and I spend a lot of time on the phone.  One girl, who I do not know beyond a hallway hello, bangs down her phone several times a day after speaking to clients with accents.  She says things like "I wish people who just learn to speak English if they're going to live in this country.  And if they can't they should go back wherever the heck they came from."  Due to the nature of our work, it's extremely uncommon for any of us to speak to someone whose English is anything but fluent.  Sometimes people originally are from other countries, but often those are English-speaking countries anyway.  Basically, this girl hates accents.  The irony is, she's got a gigantic regional US accent and slips up in grammar a lot.

And her voice is piercing and loud.  It's not uncommon for my clients to hear her voice in the background.

I'm brand new at this job.  But her attitude is driving me and my clients nuts. 
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: NyaChan on June 02, 2013, 03:42:09 PM
If your clients can hear it, bring it up to a supervisor as a customer complaint.  "Supervisor, I've been receiving complaints from some of my customers who can hear a coworker making a lot of noise and banging things in their office.  I think some of their upset is because the noise is about the coworker's irritation with ethnic accents.  How should I handle this?"
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: camlan on June 02, 2013, 03:42:35 PM
Unpleasant though it might be to work with someone spouting these thoughts at regular intervals, if you are in the US, she's allowed to have these thoughts and allowed to express them. If your company does not have a policy in place about speech in the workplace, she has every right to say what she thinks.

On the other hand, her loud, piercing tone of voice affects your phone calls with your clients. That is something that you can report up the chain of command and ask for help in deal with.

Make it not about what she's saying, but how she's saying it--loudly enough to be heard by someone on the phone with you.



Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: lellah on June 02, 2013, 03:55:17 PM
Unpleasant though it might be to work with someone spouting these thoughts at regular intervals, if you are in the US, she's allowed to have these thoughts and allowed to express them. If your company does not have a policy in place about speech in the workplace, she has every right to say what she thinks.


I disagree with this somewhat.  It's inevitable that conversations will get overheard by people on the other end of phone calls.  I feel like she's welcome to say things about her problems with clients in the breakroom, the cafeteria, the hallways, the parking structure.  Whatever.  But what she's doing seems no different to me than discussing her sex life or bowel habits where clients can hear her: it's unprofessional and makes the whole company look bad.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: MrTango on June 02, 2013, 04:02:51 PM
Unpleasant though it might be to work with someone spouting these thoughts at regular intervals, if you are in the US, she's allowed to have these thoughts and allowed to express them. If your company does not have a policy in place about speech in the workplace, she has every right to say what she thinks.

On the other hand, her loud, piercing tone of voice affects your phone calls with your clients. That is something that you can report up the chain of command and ask for help in deal with.

Make it not about what she's saying, but how she's saying it--loudly enough to be heard by someone on the phone with you.

On her own time, she does have every right to say what she thinks and to express bigoted thoughts.  On her employer's time, and in her employer's workplace, she needs to conform to her employer's standards of conduct.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: TootsNYC on June 02, 2013, 05:31:03 PM
Unpleasant though it might be to work with someone spouting these thoughts at regular intervals, if you are in the US, she's allowed to have these thoughts and allowed to express them. If your company does not have a policy in place about speech in the workplace, she has every right to say what she thinks.

A legal right is not the same as a moral right; it's not the same as etiquette.

And, a legal right OUTSIDE of the workplace isn't the same as a legal right INSIDE the workplace. Even if the company doesn't have a policy, I wouldn't be surprised if they could make this a job issue and still be within US labor law.

But that's LEGAL, so other than saying, "please don't assume that EITHER camlan OR TootsNYC really know what they're talking about," let's not go there.

Quote
On the other hand, her loud, piercing tone of voice affects your phone calls with your clients. That is something that you can report up the chain of command and ask for help in deal with.

Make it not about what she's saying, but how she's saying it--loudly enough to be heard by someone on the phone with you.

I agree with this. If your clients can hear the *words* that she says, and if one of them *ever* comments to you about it, take it to a supervisor. You are delegated to watch over the image your company projects to its customers. Do your job.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: camlan on June 02, 2013, 05:38:54 PM
Unpleasant though it might be to work with someone spouting these thoughts at regular intervals, if you are in the US, she's allowed to have these thoughts and allowed to express them. If your company does not have a policy in place about speech in the workplace, she has every right to say what she thinks.

On the other hand, her loud, piercing tone of voice affects your phone calls with your clients. That is something that you can report up the chain of command and ask for help in deal with.

Make it not about what she's saying, but how she's saying it--loudly enough to be heard by someone on the phone with you.

On her own time, she does have every right to say what she thinks and to express bigoted thoughts.  On her employer's time, and in her employer's workplace, she needs to conform to her employer's standards of conduct.

Which is why I suggested the OP check to see if her workplace has a policy on this. If there is one, then that is the route to take. If there isn't, it will be harder to complain about the content of her speech, but it is still possible to bring up that her voice is heard on phone calls and something needs to be done about that.

I wouldn't want to get into a situation where I appeared to be censoring a colleague's speech unless that speech specifically was against company policy or was illegal.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: *inviteseller on June 02, 2013, 06:14:38 PM
I have never worked anywhere that allowed spouting off of somewhat racist comments.  I have worked with people I could guess had certain views on certain groups, but knew better than to make those views known on the clock.  I agree with the others who say go to your manager and say your customers can hear co workers tirades (use that word), how should this be handled?  The person you may be speaking to the next time she goes off may be someone who has an accent.  That kind of stuff makes a company look bad when customers hear employees making comments of that nature.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: AnnaJ on June 02, 2013, 08:10:10 PM
A few things to consider:

Has your supervisor ever been in the room when this woman - and if she's out of high school she's a woman not a girl - has made these comments?  If so, how does s/he react to your coworker?  If your supervisor doesn't care, are you prepared to take your complaint up to the next level?

What do your clients say to you when they overhear her comments?  Are they angry, do they threaten to not to business with your company?  If you choose to talk to your supervisor, having some specific examples of customer complaints would be useful.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: JoieGirl7 on June 02, 2013, 11:48:01 PM
It sounds more like she is just frustrated at not being able to understand people on the phone rather than racist or xenophobic.

She may have trouble hearing.

It seems the problem that needs to be addressed is that she is venting her frustration in the workplace.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: greencat on June 03, 2013, 12:00:17 AM
Actually, I'd say the issue is definitely that she is making racist comments.  If she was just complaining that she can't understand people in general, that would be another thing.  In most places, creating a hostile work environment (by making racist comments) is grounds for action from HR, because often that's something that other employees can sue over, and no company likes getting sued.  Furthermore, the high likelihood that a customer is going to overhear her comments is a great cause for the OP to take action.  Just "HRperson, RacistCubeNeighbor is making loud and offensive comments about our customers, such as (Repeat a few choice comments.)  My callers can hear her saying these things."
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: bansidhe on June 03, 2013, 01:08:00 AM
It sounds more like she is just frustrated at not being able to understand people on the phone rather than racist or xenophobic.

She may have trouble hearing.

It seems the problem that needs to be addressed is that she is venting her frustration in the workplace.

Frustrated at not being able to understand people: "This is soooo annoying! I can't understand half the people who call here!"

Trouble hearing: "I wish these stupid people would speak up!"

Racist or xenophobic: "I wish people would just learn to speak English if they're going to live in this country.  And if they can't they should go back wherever the heck they came from."

None of it should be audible to co-workers who are on calls and certainly none of it should be audible to clients. The difference between them is that scenario number three can get you fired from a whole lot of places. I'd be talking to my supervisor about it for sure.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: JoieGirl7 on June 03, 2013, 02:23:27 AM
It sounds more like she is just frustrated at not being able to understand people on the phone rather than racist or xenophobic.

She may have trouble hearing.

It seems the problem that needs to be addressed is that she is venting her frustration in the workplace.

Frustrated at not being able to understand people: "This is soooo annoying! I can't understand half the people who call here!"

Trouble hearing: "I wish these stupid people would speak up!"

Racist or xenophobic: "I wish people would just learn to speak English if they're going to live in this country.  And if they can't they should go back wherever the heck they came from."

None of it should be audible to co-workers who are on calls and certainly none of it should be audible to clients. The difference between them is that scenario number three can get you fired from a whole lot of places. I'd be talking to my supervisor about it for sure.

I'd talk to my superior about the person banging the handset down and being out of control.

When a person is frustrated, they are not seeking to be "accurate" they are seeking to cause insult.  I don't think that makes this person a racist or xenophobe.  It's really not enough to go on.  Maybe for you, but not for me.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: Margo on June 03, 2013, 07:46:17 AM
If your clients can hear it, bring it up to a supervisor as a customer complaint.  "Supervisor, I've been receiving complaints from some of my customers who can hear a coworker making a lot of noise and banging things in their office.  I think some of their upset is because the noise is about the coworker's irritation with ethnic accents.  How should I handle this?"

This would be my approach. make a note and be as specific as you can
(being able to say "I was speaking with Joe Blogs when Coworker said (quote what she said) and banged her phe down. Joe Blogs said [whatever he did say] / Joe Blogs asked me to repeat what I had been telling me as he had not heard over the noise. He appeared unhappy and I believe that he had heard CoWorker's comments" And if a customer makes a specific comment  about what they have heard, document that.

Have you ever said anything to your co-worker? It may be worth while saying to her at least once "I'm not sure if you realize, but when you bang your phone down / make those comments, they can be heard by my customers when I am on the phone. Could you keep the noise down a little?"

That clues her in that you can hear, and that clients may hear. You can then add that to your query to your supervisor, to say that you have let coworker know that what she says can disrupt your calls and can be heard by your clients.

(Edited as I accidentally set up a quote by using the wrong kind of brackets!)
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: Yvaine on June 03, 2013, 09:15:14 AM
It sounds more like she is just frustrated at not being able to understand people on the phone rather than racist or xenophobic.

She may have trouble hearing.

It seems the problem that needs to be addressed is that she is venting her frustration in the workplace.

Frustrated at not being able to understand people: "This is soooo annoying! I can't understand half the people who call here!"

Trouble hearing: "I wish these stupid people would speak up!"

Racist or xenophobic: "I wish people would just learn to speak English if they're going to live in this country.  And if they can't they should go back wherever the heck they came from."

None of it should be audible to co-workers who are on calls and certainly none of it should be audible to clients. The difference between them is that scenario number three can get you fired from a whole lot of places. I'd be talking to my supervisor about it for sure.

I'd talk to my superior about the person banging the handset down and being out of control.

When a person is frustrated, they are not seeking to be "accurate" they are seeking to cause insult.  I don't think that makes this person a racist or xenophobe.  It's really not enough to go on.  Maybe for you, but not for me.

I've had jobs where I had a lot of trouble understanding people on the phone, and my rants generally consisted of "I wish these dang customers had decent cell phone signal! (ETA: or would quit mumbling, etc.)" If her "default" expression of frustration goes right to how people should "go back to where they're from," I do think it indicates some of her real feelings.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: whiterose on June 03, 2013, 06:33:19 PM
If it had stayed at the level of "I wish people moving to this country would learn to speak English", I would give her the benefit of the doubt.

However, wishing for people to go back to wherever they came from simply because of the way they speak is just plain wrong. It would not be tattling. It would be reporting a wrongdoing.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: DavidH on June 03, 2013, 07:10:16 PM
I think it depends on what you want to have occur. 

If your goal is to no longer hear her comments, the first step would be to say to her that she may not be aware of how loud she is sometimes and that your clients can hear her complaining about other clients when they call you.  Could she please try to keep it down.  You could also add that some of the comments are not really appropriate for the workplace, let alone for your customers to hear.

If you want to raise this as a larger issue with HR, then you should go to your supervisor or HR and describe the specific comments you have heard, citing specific times you or your customers have overheard them (not just general but things like last Tuesday, Customer A heard Coworker B say, "...") and go from there.  A general, she sometimes says things like this and sometimes customers overhear is very difficult to do something about since there isn't a specific incident to refer to. 
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: onikenbai on June 03, 2013, 10:46:51 PM
I think the real issue is her exclamation that they should go back to wherever they're from.  That's just not right and it should be brought up to HR as an intolerance issue.  I wonder if your co-worker's ancestors jumped off the boat fluent in English themselves or should they have turned around and sailed home?

On the flip side, just today I was wishing out loud that a particular client's English was better as he sends me emails that are completely garbled, and even after requests for clarification I still have no idea what he's instructing me to do because of limited language skills.  But he still has every right to be in this country.  I can understand language frustrations as I'm from Toronto where a decent proportion of the population doesn't speak English at all.  Of course, to be granted Canadian citizenship you have to prove a reasonable fluency in either French or English so good chance my client is working on his English, at least I hope he is for my sanity's sake.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: Oh Joy on June 04, 2013, 04:34:59 AM
I may be splitting hairs a bit, but I think it's very important to distinguish between your coworker's feelings and her actions.  She is welcome to like or dislike anyone she chooses, and it is simply not your business to 'tattletale' to your employer.

However, her actions while at work are your concern.  Leave the xenophobic diagnosis out of it, and talk to your supervisor about the phone slamming and disparaging comments, both from the tone it sets in your workplace and the likelihood that your callers can hear it.

Best wishes.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: Pen^2 on June 04, 2013, 10:02:29 AM
I may be splitting hairs a bit, but I think it's very important to distinguish between your coworker's feelings and her actions.  She is welcome to like or dislike anyone she chooses, and it is simply not your business to 'tattletale' to your employer.

However, her actions while at work are your concern.  Leave the xenophobic diagnosis out of it, and talk to your supervisor about the phone slamming and disparaging comments, both from the tone it sets in your workplace and the likelihood that your callers can hear it.

Best wishes.

Exactly.

Part of having a job is appearing and acting professional. This means that one cannot spout one's opinions, especially unflattering ones, in front of clients. At any rate, the employer should be made aware that she is complaining about her clients in front of other people's clients, and that this is a bad image for the company. It is frankly unprofessional. She can complain during the lunch break, not during the hours when she's being paid and has a responsibility to have some semblance of professionalism.

Since you've said that your clients can hear her on the phone, can we assume that someone has said something to you?

"Supervisor, could you have a few words with Coworker? Throughout the workday she says unflattering things about our clients loudly enough that other clients hear her. They've commented to me about this, and I'm concerned that it isn't making the company look good. It might be worth speaking with her about professional language and expressing her opinions during lunch or after work instead of when the clients can hear her. Thanks!"

She is welcome to all the opinions she wants, but it is immature to express them whenever she feels like it. That is what etiquette and professionalism are all about.
Title: Re: should I tattle-tale my coworker's xenophobia?
Post by: MyFamily on June 04, 2013, 11:12:59 AM
I believe that you should mention the racist comments.  It doesn't have to be overly dramatic, but for many reasons, it is important to let the boss know that she is making you uncomfortable with her comments.  I"d suggest language such as:
Supervisor, I need to share with you that coworker is making comments such as "fill in with a specific example" after she gets off the phone with some clients.  Unfortunately, she is very loud and not only am I able to hear what she says, but some of our clients who have heard her have expressed to me that they are uncomfortable hearing these types of things.  Thank you."

Don't offer solutions - not your job, that is the job of the supervisor.  If the supervisor asks if the comments make you uncomfortable and if you want to file a complaint, that is up to you, but since they do make you uncomfortable, I'd strongly advise you to be honest with the supervisor. 

Yes, people are allowed to have their opinions, but when they are sharing those opinions in such a manner in the work-place, different rules apply.  It may be that you are not the first person to go to Management with this, it may be that Management doesn't care (in which case, honestly, I"d reconsider working for such a company, personally), but you need to let them know.