Sunday, September 18, 2011

What If?

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.


Mommy Needs a Xanax said...

Unless Coworker's comment/attitude directly screws over someone because of their race, I say let it go. No, it's not cool to say racist stuff at work or anywhere else, but was it a racist remark like "Brown people piss me off" (which means nothing) or "I'm not going to hire/pay/fairly treat so and so because he's black/Mexican/Asian/not like me" (which affects someone.)

If it's the former, I'm not sure how reporting it does anything for the good of society. It's not like you report the girl, get her fired, and racism comes to a screeching halt and Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream is realized. The real end result is Blogger feels good about herself for three minutes and Coworker's got a new reason to hate someone.

There's my two cents. I'd keep my mouth shut and be sure not to associate too closely with Coworker.

Chickadee said...

That was a difficult lesson for me to learn in my early adulthood that life is not in black and white, absolute evil or absolute good. Those people who are doing good, sometimes have ulterior motives that are not-so-good. Those who do crappy things may not know better or react in fear. That's not always the case of course. As you said, there is usually shades of gray in there.

I'm not sure what I would do. There are members of my family that are racist and really say some stupid things. I pick my battles. If the comment is out of line, I bark at that family member, and other times, I let it slide.

But co-workers are different. Hard to work with someone who is like that, but awkwardness and resentment are difficult to work around as well.

knancy said...

The first thing that struck me about this person’s post was,
“It was a private conversation.” Well then, keep it that way. I know I have dealt with people (clients) and had wished for a zap gun to send some of them to another plane of existence eons away from me. Mostly though, my comments were sexually discriminating as I can’t cope well with overly egotistical, condescending, misogynist men.

A second statement: “Other employees had been dismissed solely on the statement of the reporting party in cases where a racist comment was made.” scares the hell out of me. I would not want to work where one person’s accusation against me could get me canned. Unreal!

It is also stated that blogger would have to go to a supervisor to get something done about this. Hey, let the supervisor do the work they are paid to be doing. Let them hear it on their own or see a problem in the client/worker relationship and deal with it. That is their job not the blogger’s. Plus, supervisor will just shove it off to HR. So there you go.

The only good advice I can give here would be to tell the coworker that they should be more careful about what is said on company property that could be over heard and have dire consequences. I am hoping that the coworker will mature and become more open minded and professional especially if blogger would have a heart to heart conversation with them (preferably after work hours).

Hillbilly Mom said...

MommyNeeds, Chick, and knancy,
You've all brought up points I didn't think about. For sure, getting Coworker fired would not have changed her attitude. So would reporting her be for vengeance, or for an "I'm better than you" attitude on the part of Blogger? Who knows?

Maybe Coworker did not, out of ignorance, know that her comment was offensive. That could be why it seemed out of character.

Yes, supervisors are paid the big bucks to deal with these issues. So somebody better get to supervisin'!