Updated: Aug 31, 2020
DEAR MOMENTS OF FOCUS: A colleague, and fellow executive in our company,makes
vaguely racist comments during social situations about the current news; she’s careful
not to say these things at the office. I am deeply offended, but I think if I saysomething,
our work relationship will be adversely affected. What’s my next step?
DEAR DEEPLY OFFENDED: We are sometimes put into places to deal with uncomfortable scenarios because quite frankly, we are the best suited for the situation.
We often hush the statements that should be made loudly and loudly state those things
that should be hushed. Being a fellow executive, you have the capability and voice that
your employees do not have. You can have a conversation that, although it could affect
your working relationship adversely, could favorably affect the working environment for
your entire staff. A subtle response from you could make a difference in the things that
your colleague says in the future. Most people who make public racist statements do so
because they feel comfortable saying what they feel, or because there have not been
enough people to make them uncomfortable enough not to make them. At this point
although she is having these conversations outside of the office, she is still technically
having them in an office-related environment by speaking to you as a fellow colleague. If
you and the other executives say nothing, her conversation will eventually trickle down to
your staff. To whom much is given, much responsibility is required and, as an executive
you have an obligation to protect the company’s interest. If something is said to the
wrong employee, the company could be exposed to a major lawsuit. My advice to you
would be to say when there’s some racist statement made, “I don’t think that’s an
appropriate thing to say and/or I don’t feel comfortable with that statement.” You don’t
always have to say a lot but planting a small seed can sometimes have a great affect.