Our love affair with the “N-word” just keeps on – who can say it? Should we say it? Rappers say it, why can’t I say it? We are taking our community language and behavior into the workplace. Community language is the type of communication you do at home or around your friends and family – your community. When I was growing up, there were things you said at home and things you never said outside the home. Not anymore – everyone wants everyone else to know all about them. They bring their cursing and insensitive attitudes into the workplace.
Maybe you are not a fan of the NFL so you haven’t heard about the Miami Dolphins firestorm. The Dolphins are in the midst of a headline grabbing situation involving 2 offensive linemen. In October Lineman Jonathan Martin abruptly left the team in the middle of week. It was reported that he was a victim of teasing by his fellow offensive linemen. As more information became available we learned that he was hazed unmercifully by some teammates.
As many questioned Martin’s manhood – how does a 300lb man allow another man to bully him – the face of the bullying appeared, it was Lineman Richie Incognito (real name). The bully also has a voice – he left voice messages calling Martin a “half n—-er, piece of sh-t”. And Incognito even threatened to kill Martin and his mother. Incognito has a history of aggressive behavior, he was kicked off 2 college teams and the St. Louis Ram released him because of his bad attitude. But now we are hearing that the coaches in Miami told Incognito to toughen up Martin. We are also learning that Richie Incognito and Martin talked to each other this way all the time.
This story is still unfolding everyday but the NFL locker room – all sports locker rooms will forever be changed by the Dolphins situation. The NBA has already issued a statement to all teams that any and all hazing is to stop immediately and no more “n-word.”
Is this common? Does it happen everywhere? Well…
Recently, I went to the store to purchase some fruit and veggies and the 2 check out girls were talking to one another, the one girl says “That b*tch know I don’t fool with her a** like that!” and they both laugh. My face clearly showed my reaction to the comment, and the girl says “I’m sorry, we just talking.” I wanted to respond “I know you are talking, but did you know I can hear you and it’s not cool?”
A former co-worker reminded me that in her department many of the employees refer to each other as rednecks, now with the whole Jeff Foxworthy thing – maybe you don’t consider that racial but it totally is. Imagine if a group of blacks used THAT word; you know the word, to refer to each other – hopefully you would be offended.
One of my HR homies, who will remain nameless for the sake of this article, often shares some of the ridiculous things that happens in her line of work. Things like sex at work, drugs, cursing and fighting in the workplace – we call it #HoodHR.
All of this has me thinking…we need to ask some obvious and blunt questions before hiring. Oh, I know, you will say, “Well, you need to review your hiring procedures – where are you finding your people?” Oh, and you’re probably thinking, “You aren’t managing well enough.”
Look, people change. They lie to you to get hired, but there is something about documentation and clear expectations that could help also.
How about instead of spending a bunch of money on assessments we just get real with some people. For instance in the interview we ask questions like these.
- Do you know that using racial and sexual slurs and curse in the workplace is wrong and you can and will be fired for it?
- Do you know that sex at work is wrong and you can and will be fired for it?
- Do you know that bullying and intimidation at work is wrong and you will be fired for it?
- Do you know that fighting which includes heated arguments is not permitted at work and you can be terminated for it?
These may seem obvious to you but they are not. Read this article from Mike Haberman about a guy who called his boss a “f—king clown” because he didn’t agree with his performance evaluation and the guy didn’t see anything wrong with it. In fact he tried to sue for wrongful termination, saying that heated discussion should be expected at work.
Maybe we need to make our rules, guidelines and expectations more clear because what’s clear to you or me, seems to be clear as mud to employees.