Author Topic: Did he really just say that?  (Read 5257 times)

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hobish

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Did he really just say that?
« on: October 12, 2012, 05:29:00 AM »
We have some typically innapproriate humor in my office. It's a big office, there are 250 people on my floor alone who all sorta-kinda work for the same company. There are televisions with a news channel placed all around, so politics and race and current events are all fodder. Pretty much anything is open for discussion as long as you do your job and aren't a jackhole.

My department got a jackhole. I don't know what his previous job history was. I don't know where he went to school or how he came to work for us except through the temp company. What i do know is after him sitting next to me for less than a week he told us about undesirables moving to his neighborhood while rolling his eyes toward the black guy sitting next to him, tried to talk to me about people being too religious, and what finally ticked me off was holding up a work order and wondering how well the submitter could speak English based on their name.

My office culture is very much take care of it on your own. There is an HR department, of course; the company is huge. HR doesn't need to hear me say, "XXXX said this offensive thing." My supervisor also has a truckload of other stuff to do. Sup isn't a very hands-on kind of guy. He is also terrible with interpersonal stuff, and with a department of the likes of ours, good for him. He can't do my job, but if i had his job of wrangling us-all i would stab people.

The situation is already resolved, but i am curious what y'all would do. I've gotten some really good perspective from this board and a lot of that involves how i handled it.
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greencat

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2012, 05:39:45 AM »
I would have taken a good hard look at the guy, and asked him if he realized that he was presently in 2012 and not the 1950's.

If that failed to clue him in, I'd tell him "You're being offensive."

Then I'd have a chat with your supervisor and HR.  I know you said that "HR doesn't need to hear it" but they actually do - this is what HR is supposed to do in a big company.  If he's a new employee, he's probably still on probationary status, and knowledge of wholly inappropriate on-the-job behavior is something they need before he transitions to permanent status.

There's a big difference between telling jokes and making offensive statements.

I'm definitely interesting in hearing the actual resolution!

Margo

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2012, 06:13:47 AM »
I'd agree that this is something which HR needs to know about, even if you are not specifically asking them to take action. Not least becuase if these are the attitudes he holds, they may well have an impact on other workers who may be less able than you are to deal with it themselves, or on clients where his attitude could have an effect on the organisation and how it is perceived.

In terms of how you deal with it at the time of the incident, I think my approach would depend a little on eactly what what done/said. I think that calling someone out explicitly is entirely appropriate, in this kind of situation, so a "Wow - that's pretty offensive / that's a really racist thing to be saying" is OK.

I might also consider the 'wilful misunderstanding' line if his comments are implicitly rather than explicitly racist / offensive.

e.g
Offensive CoWorker "I just got this work order from Amir in Dept X. Hope I can understand it, do those people even speak english"
Hobish "Well, I know we in Dept Y look down on Dept. X but I've never heard it suggested X-ers can't speak english. (plus some joke about awhatever your deparmtment normally complains about Dept X doing"
OC " No, I mean - 'Amir' - not exactly an english name, is it" (or words to that effect)
H "That's a pretty racist thing to say, unless you're saying you have a problem with Amir's communication skills specifically"

The benefit of this approach is that you can make it clear that the comments and behaviour is inappropriate in the kind of situation where the offensive language isn't specific, and it forces the other person to either back down or to be explicit, which then makes it harder for them to pretent that it never happened.

I'm curious about how you handled it, though, Hobish

25wishes

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2012, 07:51:31 AM »
Actually your title is a pretty handy response to any offensive remark
"Wow, did you just say that out loud?"

followed by an explanation of what is wrong with the remark if needed.

Penguin_ar

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2012, 07:57:44 AM »
Do tell HR.  Not just because he annoys you, but because this is a potential law suit waiting to happen, and could negatively impact your company.

JenJay

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2012, 08:09:02 AM »
I would say things like "What is that supposed to mean?  ???" and "I know we joke a lot, but what you just said sounded very racist. You might want to be more careful." In other words give him a chance to adjust himself to "fit in", in case it's a very bad attempt at being cutting-edge funny. (Not that I think he's funny, but maybe he watches a lot of that type of stand-up or something?)

I'd also start a document to log his comments "On Date at Time coworker said X and I responded Y." that way if he chooses not to edit himself more carefully and you need to go to HR you've got something they can get right on.

bopper

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2012, 08:37:47 AM »
I agree with JenJay...."Coworker, I am going to offer you a little friendly coaching.  Some of the things you have said are starting to cross a line.  For example, the other day you were preventing me from completing a work order because wondering how well the submitter could speak English based on their name.  Or the time you told me about "undesirables" moving to his neighborhood while rolling his eyes towards <Name of Black Guy>. I know we joke alot around this office, but you are getting into bigot territory. And because you are new, I am giving you this friendly coaching to let you know you are crossing the line from joking into offensive.  I really don't want to get HR involved."


lowspark

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2012, 09:29:25 AM »
My company has an annual required training on appropriate/inappropriate communication in the work place. They give us multiple options on whom to contact in case we need to. In my case, I'd go directly to my supervisor because I have a great rapport with him and I know he'd take action. But if that weren't the case, I'd go to HR.

As someone else said, this is exactly the kind of thing that gets companies sued and if HR really doesn't want to know about it, they sure do have their heads buried in the sand and they are eventually going to pay the price.

But that would not keep me from doing the right thing, namely, reporting inappropriate talk in the workplace. And at minimum, I'd ask to be moved so I wouldn't have to sit next to him anymore.

BatCity

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2012, 10:32:19 AM »
I can tell you how I handled a guy like that many years ago.  I was working in a call center, and I ended up sitting next to a guy who was pretty classy  ::)  His first words were "Oh, great, I'm sitting next to a woman.  I know what's going to happen next.  I'm going to say something stupid, and then I'm going to get hauled off to HR".

What I told him: If you say something stupid, I will tell you to your face.  I'll only take it to HR if you give me a hard time about it.

It actually worked pretty well.  I was very blunt with him (Dude, don't say that.  Take it back, and I want an apology).  He actually appreciated it, and I think over time he even improved a bit.  But he was young and I think he just wasn't taught how to behave.

TootsNYC

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2012, 12:34:40 PM »
I agree with JenJay...."Coworker, I am going to offer you a little friendly coaching.  Some of the things you have said are starting to cross a line.  For example, the other day you were preventing me from completing a work order because wondering how well the submitter could speak English based on their name.  Or the time you told me about "undesirables" moving to his neighborhood while rolling his eyes towards <Name of Black Guy>. I know we joke alot around this office, but you are getting into bigot territory. And because you are new, I am giving you this friendly coaching to let you know you are crossing the line from joking into offensive.  I really don't want to get HR involved."

This might be how I wuld handle it.

O'Dell

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2012, 01:34:37 PM »
I can tell you how I handled a guy like that many years ago.  I was working in a call center, and I ended up sitting next to a guy who was pretty classy  ::)  His first words were "Oh, great, I'm sitting next to a woman.  I know what's going to happen next.  I'm going to say something stupid, and then I'm going to get hauled off to HR".

What I told him: If you say something stupid, I will tell you to your face.  I'll only take it to HR if you give me a hard time about it.

It actually worked pretty well.  I was very blunt with him (Dude, don't say that.  Take it back, and I want an apology).  He actually appreciated it, and I think over time he even improved a bit.  But he was young and I think he just wasn't taught how to behave.

I've handled these things similarly in the past. I've even been not so nice about it, but I've improved with the help of EHell. A repeat offender who isn't getting that *crickets* are the result of what they said...they typically need the blunt approach.
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lilfox

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2012, 01:47:58 PM »
I just had something like this happen yesterday.   Milder than the previous examples but still made me >:(

The guy who sits across from me (Joe) was having an impromptu meeting at his desk with two other guys (one I know really well - Ken, one I barely know but seems mild-mannered - Sam).  This is common practice in our office culture, but I couldn't help hearing their entire conversation though I was not really listening.

At one point Joe says something that wasn't work-specific and casually included a term that is descriptive of a group of people, but now considered derogatory when used the way he used it.  I half-turned around and gave him a flat look but didn't say anything.  I wanted him to know I could hear him and didn't approve.  Joe is known for trying too hard to act like a "cool kid" (he's mid-40s), though I hadn't heard him say something blatantly offensive before.

But then Sam surprised me by adding a comment ALSO using that term, like he was trying to match Joe's tone.  So then I turned all the way around and said, as icily as I could, "That's an interesting choice of words."  As I was turning back, Joe kind of muttered "Sorry" and they eventually picked up their conversation again.

Sometimes I feel like the PC police.  I've called out relatives and some close friends on using racial stereotypes or derogatory terms (like the above situation).  One person actually told me she felt she couldn't be honest about how she felt about <group of people> because I would get mad at her.  I can't help how someone feels, but I definitely don't want to listen to stuff like "All X people are <stereotype>."

Personally I vote for making it known you won't tolerate that kind of language, whether it's a sharp look, a quiet comment like "Please don't use that term again", or a fuller explanation of its offensiveness to you (and presumably others).  I think the choice of which depends on the situation and the speaker, and how effective you think each response might be.

QueenofAllThings

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2012, 02:36:31 PM »
Hobish, I think I've been on this board long enough to have a good grasp of your personality - and, while most of the above suggestions are good, I imagine you'd be a little more ... straightforward.  ;) .

I am jiggling in my seat waiting to hear how you handled it!

2doglady

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2012, 10:20:40 PM »
I was involved in a conversation a few years back where one of my co-workers said something derogatory during a non-work related conversation*.  I was really surprised and disgusted with him and went to him a moment later and said "You need to watch what you are saying".  My tone left no question that I was upset.  He never said anything like that in my presence again.

*He used a term for a group of people when a co-worker who was part of that group was standing a few feet away and couldn't have missed the conversation.
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grannyclampettjr

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Re: Did he really just say that?
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2012, 10:43:57 PM »
Do tell HR.  Not just because he annoys you, but because this is a potential law suit waiting to happen, and could negatively impact your company.

Yes.  This right here.  This isn't "Granny Clampett is talking too much about her cat again and it's really annoying."  This is hate speech.