What if you were faced with a dilemma of doing something for the good of society, or something for the good of an individual? I know. Kind of vague. Here's the situation:
In hop, skip, and jumping through blogs yesterday, I landed on one in which a person heard a coworker make a racist comment. It was a private conversation. Blogger was surprised to hear such a thing from Coworker. So surprised, in fact, that she did nothing. Upon reviewing the situation, Blogger felt that some form of action was necessary. She debated with herself. She could go to management with the incident, which could get Coworker fired. Other employees had been dismissed solely on the statement of the reporting party in cases where a racist comment was made. Blogger was torn. Because Coworker is a single mom with a young child to support. Times are tough, and Coworker might have trouble getting a new job.
Blogger's dilemma was whether to report the incident to a superior, or to have a private conversation with Coworker about the comment. Making it clear that further display of such an attitude would not be tolerated, and Blogger would go straight to management. But Blogger was concerned that Coworker might mistreat the clientele if she was allowed to skate.
Tough decision. Nobody can be sure how she might handle it until the time such circumstances affected her directly. I feel that I would err on the side of caution. Telling a supervisor could cause Coworker to lose her job. Not that she might not deserve it. But this comment surprised Blogger. So either it was an anomaly, or Coworker was good at hiding her true feelings at work. A young child could be adversely affected if Coworker was canned. On the other hand, Coworker could do something that might affect the child of a client. But you'd think there would have been complaints about Coworker before if this attitude got in the way of her work.
I don't know. Tough call. But I couldn't deliberately get somebody fired during this economy. If the penalty was a reprimand and mandated diversity training, yeah. I'd tell. But not if it's dismissal. Coworker did not say it in the presence of clients. The only two people who knew were Blogger and Coworker. I'd talk to Coworker and let it be known that I would run and tell in a heartbeat if I heard it again. Or sensed a prejudice in dealings with clients. Then it's on Coworker.
Life is messy. It's not played out in absolutes. Sometimes there are no on-off switches. No plus-minus. Life plays out in varying shades of gray.