Tired of Political Correctness

Fripper wrote:

I may be speaking out of turn but I believe what Bandit is saying is that he wasn't offended or made uncomfortable by what his female coworker was saying, but rather saddened that he or his male coworkers felt safe in making an in kind reply for fear of a HR charge.

If that's the case, he should be saddened that enough men have made inappropriate comments in professional settings to warrant that kind of HR policy.

Edit: Honestly, even that's a stretch because it implies that in an ideal world we wouldn't have that policy. The goal really isn't a workplace where you can be off color whenever you want.

@SixteenBlue

To your first point I think you're dismissive to think that only men can make enough sexist remarks to warrent an HR policy against certain conversations. In my opinion the primary factor resides in the majority gender of the workplace. A workplace of mostly women can be quite saucy in their language.

To your second point I agree. Ideally this shouldn't be an issue. Work should be for work, socialization and all its rules should be separate. I think with more work from home we're getting closer to that.

Finally, it's Friday, I've had a few pops and I apologize if I'm not as coherent as I should be.

SixteenBlue wrote:

The goal really isn't a workplace where you can be off color whenever you want.

This is pretty much my feeling on the whole situation. It shouldn't be acceptable for either gender to be making off color remarks in an open working environment. The point of having it be a female or male coworker is irrelevant. Offensive jokes/comments shouldn't be allowed in an open environment like that ever.

Well, I might want to amend that. It depends on the situation I suppose. But if lewd comments makes anyone (male or female) uncomfortable or offended while at work, I'd say it'd be fair game to be brought up to an HR rep.

tl;dr version: if women/men were making lewd comments that made me cringe, I'd first approach whoever said the comments and would try to have a civil conversation about offensive language. If the behavior didn't change or intensified, it'd be a trip to HR.

The reality is that HR policies like we're talking about are in place for many reasons, including the scenario Bandit is speaking of. "Hostile Work Environment" is not just code for "everyone is trying to sleep with me, stop it". It's clear the situation did, in fact, make him uncomfortable - uncomfortable in the sense there is a conversation going on that is unprofessional, and he felt that by joining in, it would be trouble. So all he could do is sit by and watch awkwardly (and exchange uncomfortable glances with his co-worker). While this is not the same as someone being directly sexually harassed, the result is in a similar vein: "I'm going to just stay silent and keep my head down, but this is making me really uncomfortable and I'm not sure if I even mention that fact it'll be taken seriously."

There is certainly a double standard in play, and we can argue if that's fair or warranted by society or whatever, but the reality is that part of the reason women "get away" with it in this situation is that it goes unreported because the man doesn't want to come off as whiny or sensitive. Which, ironically, are similar reasons to why women don't frequently report situations, either. And then men get away with it. And on and on.

Fripper wrote:

I may be speaking out of turn but I believe what Bandit is saying is that he wasn't offended or made uncomfortable by what his female coworker was saying, but rather saddened that he or his male coworkers felt unsafe in making an in kind reply for fear of a HR charge.

You are correct sir.

No one in the group was offended by the content, but we were uncomfortable with participating in the discussion because like it or not, things have changed such that there is way more tolerance for a female being off-color than there is a man.

I wouldn't ever report it because it's trivial and no one was actually being harassed. It's just sad to me that people I know who in the private life would love to cut loose and join in a conversation like that instead feel they can't because of an HR policy. How does this impact the team dynamics? You spend more time with the people at work than you do your family most days, and yet there's this big movement saying we have to act like professional drones in the office.

I don't support harassment or bullying in any way. But I think that making office interactions bland sucks.

No one in the group was offended by the content, but we were uncomfortable with participating in the discussion because like it or not, things have changed such that there is way more tolerance for a female being off-color than there is a man.

Oh BS. Not in the large multi-national I work for. That's just another stereotype, a backhanded way to mourn the loss of "good old boy" culture. "We can't talk that way any more, but the womenfolk can, it's not fair!" Tell you what, if you report it to your HR as something that made you uncomfortable, you'll find out very quickly that they have a dim view of it no matter *who* says it.

Either that, or your HR department is incompetent. But the point stands. If you are uncomfortable, but didn't say anything, you're just assuming something, when the reality is likely to be very different.

I actually experienced the opposite when I was working briefly at a rock quarry. The guys would say all kinds of raunchy sh*t and ask me to put my hands down their overalls but when I got a little sweary I got reprimanded at the home office for not being professional. When I pointed out the double standard they basically told me they can't expect the hicks in overalls to change but as a girl I should know better.

"Why were you leading those boys on? You know they can't be expected to control themselves!" :l

Put it this way. I've *seen* people reprimanded and in one case fired for repeated sexual comments in the workplace. Female people. And this is in companies that are overwhelmingly male. It's just that they are big enough that they have to take the possibility of being sued seriously. They set the rules and they enforce them.

If you think your HR won't enforce it, report it. If they don't, you can probably retire on the eventual settlement, if you can show this is a regular thing...

Robear wrote:
No one in the group was offended by the content, but we were uncomfortable with participating in the discussion because like it or not, things have changed such that there is way more tolerance for a female being off-color than there is a man.

Oh BS. Not in the large multi-national I work for. That's just another stereotype, a backhanded way to mourn the loss of "good old boy" culture. "We can't talk that way any more, but the womenfolk can, it's not fair!" Tell you what, if you report it to your HR as something that made you uncomfortable, you'll find out very quickly that they have a dim view of it no matter *who* says it.

Either that, or your HR department is incompetent. But the point stands. If you are uncomfortable, but didn't say anything, you're just assuming something, when the reality is likely to be very different.

First let's calm the hostile approach down a bit. I make an observation, and because it doesn't happen at your multi-national clearly it's bs? You're better than that.

We were uncomfortable, we didn't say anything. Maybe it's because it wasn't offensive? Maybe we actually like this person and appreciate her work and don't feel like stirring up crap and impacting the team dynamic just because she got a bit loose in the tongue around people she considers to be friendly towards her.

You know, maybe we're grown ups.

Robear wrote:

If you think your HR won't enforce it, report it. If they don't, you can probably retire on the eventual settlement, if you can show this is a regular thing...

Yes, because stirring up trouble looking for a lawsuit makes for a fantastic employee. Want to put a screeching halt to your career advancement? Start complaining about every trivial thing that happens around you. How to alienate your coworkers and get a reputation as a loose canon in 3 easy steps.

Bandit, you've made a fantastic case for why women should just shut up and take it, the same way you and your "grown up" friends did. The real sad part of your story is what you took away from your experience.

All I can say is that at Walgreens, where sexual harassment became so pervasive it led to class action lawsuits and new policies, I did see a woman fired for the exact situation you mentioned. You are right in your implication that the workplace is better when rules are applied fairly to all. But the answer is not letting a woman slide so the good ol' boys can get rolling again.

If reporting HR violations are a fast track to ending your career, you should change jobs and/or careers.

SixteenBlue wrote:

If reporting HR violations are a fast track to ending your career, you should change jobs and/or careers.

In many jobs being able to fraternize with your co-workers is advantageous to your career and a skill that will reflect on how others feel you should advance. Being able to talk frankly is indeed a barrier to being well regarded in that case. In bandit's example that's all we're talking about. Whether the nature of these policies scares him or others into modifying who they are and missing out on opportunities to connect with others. I would say there is more grey area in there than you are letting on. I think we all know this.

DSGamer wrote:
SixteenBlue wrote:

If reporting HR violations are a fast track to ending your career, you should change jobs and/or careers.

In many jobs being able to fraternize with your co-workers is advantageous to your career and a skill that will reflect on how others feel you should advance. Being able to talk frankly is indeed a barrier to being well regarded in that case. In bandit's example that's all we're talking about. Whether the nature of these policies scares him or others into modifying who they are and missing out on opportunities to connect with others. I would say there is more grey area in there than you are letting on. I think we all know this.

And this completely misses the point. This freedom to talk frankly had been used to to isolate women by placing a barrier to any woman who didn't want to deal with this kind of banter. It's like Michael Scott talking about how open they are to minorities, and it's not his fault they keep quitting.

The scary part is, he is fully aware that certain topics and banter would offend, even the women he is using in this example. But he is looking for a loophole to go back to the previous atmosphere instead of addressing the women's violation. Because two women are out of line, he feels like it is a good case for all women to deal with in appropriate male banter.

But maybe it's easier to pretend that the policies that were put in place were purely arbitrary, or worse, just appeasing uppity women rather than policies that actually facilitated more professional interactions. We wouldn't want Todd Packer to lose the ability to express himself freely, I suppose.

IMAGE(http://stream1.gifsoup.com/view1/1972540/todd-packer-o.gif)

DSGamer wrote:
SixteenBlue wrote:

If reporting HR violations are a fast track to ending your career, you should change jobs and/or careers.

In many jobs being able to fraternize with your co-workers is advantageous to your career and a skill that will reflect on how others feel you should advance. Being able to talk frankly is indeed a barrier to being well regarded in that case. In bandit's example that's all we're talking about. Whether the nature of these policies scares him or others into modifying who they are and missing out on opportunities to connect with others. I would say there is more grey area in there than you are letting on. I think we all know this.

Very true. Even the best medicine can have side effects. Doesn't mean acknowledging that instantly turns you into Jenny McCarthy.

Bandit wrote:

First let's calm the hostile approach down a bit. I make an observation, and because it doesn't happen at your multi-national clearly it's bs? You're better than that.

That's a pretty off-handed remark to take as "hostile", but okay. It was not meant that way, it was meant in the "Oh, please" sense.

We were uncomfortable, we didn't say anything. Maybe it's because it wasn't offensive? Maybe we actually like this person and appreciate her work and don't feel like stirring up crap and impacting the team dynamic just because she got a bit loose in the tongue around people she considers to be friendly towards her.

Then exactly why were you uncomfortable? Because of what you *imagined* would happen if you complained, compared to what you imagine would happen to you in the same situation? I don't get this. You're not uncomfortable, where's the problem? Women complain *because* they are made uncomfortable. If they're not, they don't complain. And in the recent past, they had no recourse in many of these situations. Now they do. So what exactly made you uncomfortable, besides a sort of bitter scenario where "they get to say something we can't"? If it's nothing someone else said, then it's not their problem, it's yours.

You know, maybe we're grown ups.

Really? Getting upset because you weren't offended? I don't really follow.

Robear wrote:

If you think your HR won't enforce it, report it. If they don't, you can probably retire on the eventual settlement, if you can show this is a regular thing...

Yes, because stirring up trouble looking for a lawsuit makes for a fantastic employee. Want to put a screeching halt to your career advancement? Start complaining about every trivial thing that happens around you. How to alienate your coworkers and get a reputation as a loose canon in 3 easy steps.

As I noted, I know people who have been fired for this, and their accusers have not been blackballed. They were *compensated*. As someone else noted, if your company doesn't have a non-retaliation clause, that's pretty sleazy.

But since there was nothing offensive in what they said, your problem is not with the women at all, nor is it what they said that's the problem. It's with your imagined social scenario in your head. You're expressing the idea that you're gonna be the victim, no matter what. If you follow the rules, you can't speak your mind freely - freedom loses! If you don't follow the rules, and speak freely (and offensively), then you get turned in - freedom loses! And if you try to turn a woman in for what you imagine she'd turn you in for - inoffensive speech - you'd lose again! And when women *don't* say offensive things, you *still* get offended - it's all that damned pc stuff that makes them so inoffensive, I guess.

But here's the deal - if it's not offensive speech, then none of that applies and you've got no basis to complain. If women are not offended, they don't call HR. If you're not, you don't. It's simple, in the real world. And there's nothing in your complaint but imaginary consequences of non-existent reactions to problems that don't exist. Your problem is your belief that women get more tolerance than men, and even when several of us note that that does not track with the real world as we experience it, you're clinging to this idea that the mere fact that you're prevented from speaking offensively about women means that they are unfairly advantaged. But the fact is, you're doing exactly what you'd like them to do - ignoring inoffensive speech - and yet for you, it's a problem somehow.

My advice is to be a grown-up. Avoid locker room speech at work, and there's no problem. If someone doesn't, male or female, call them on it, privately at first. That's how grown-ups do it. I've done this to stop guys sending me porn and seriously misogynistic "jokes" in company email, and they were fine with it. I've asked a female manager to cool it with the jockstrap metaphors. And we've all been friends afterwards.

Simply ignore speech you consider inoffensive, and there's no problem.

The problem here is something you created for yourself. Any other reading leads inevitably to "but men and women have to abide by the same rules in the workplace", and that doesn't make your case for you. If someone says something you feel uncomfortable hearing, then yeah, that *is* offensive, and you should act on it as such. Complaining because you feel constrained but at the same time won't use the established mechanisms (all ethics handbooks tell you to speak the person or to your manager at the first occurance), then that's your issue, not the policy or the other person.

Robear wrote:
Bandit wrote:

We were uncomfortable, we didn't say anything. Maybe it's because it wasn't offensive? Maybe we actually like this person and appreciate her work and don't feel like stirring up crap and impacting the team dynamic just because she got a bit loose in the tongue around people she considers to be friendly towards her.

Then exactly why were you uncomfortable? Because of what you *imagined* would happen if you complained, compared to what you imagine would happen to you in the same situation? I don't get this. You're not uncomfortable, where's the problem?

I think he's saying the problem is that people couldn't join in, even though everyone would have enjoyed it and no one would have been offended. What he's imagining I think is what would happen if it got back to HR. Even if no one was offended by a particular incident, can HR departments fire or reprimand preemptively? If someone creates a Hostile Work Environment around the water cooler but no one gets offended, does it still violate an HR policy?

tl;dr as I understand it: it's not the co-workers' comments that made him uncomfortable, it was the need to not engage enjoyably with the co-workers out of fear of a preemptive HR.

I think he's saying the problem is that people couldn't join in, even though everyone would have enjoyed it and no one would have been offended.

I bolded those two parts because it's almost a certainty that this would never be the case. Maybe in that small group right there, at that moment, but that's not what policies are written for. And if that was a known characteristic of that specific situation, why the worry? Join in and go for it. Unless of course you weren't sure, and if so, the policy did its job for you, but wasn't doing its job for your coworkers. They made a mistake. Congratulations, you just experienced the kind of discomfort that some women do in those situations. Shoes on other feet, and all that. Except women don't feel that way because of some policy, they feel that way because of an unspoken permission that pervades the culture which makes them the guilty party when they're offended. And because their complaints can be seen as "making trouble," women are often retaliated against.

The thing that is being mourned is poison. Let it die.

And that fear is his own, since by his own admission, the topics were not offensive. It's not based in reality, but rather in a fear that equality is not really actually equality. But in fact, if it's actually inoffensive language, it should be obviously inoffensive to both male and female listeners, so there really should be no issue.

To me, the implication is that there's a worry that the women will try to "get men back" for all the stuff they said before that, you know, would not be offensive except to those ultra-sensitive feminists or the like. Maybe that's not what's behind it, but it's hard for me to understand otherwise, at least without an explanation of why something that is not offensive might actually be reported as offensive.

Unless, of course, he's aware that what he finds non-offensive might actually be offensive to other people. That's a whole different ball of string.

NSMike wrote:
I think he's saying the problem is that people couldn't join in, even though everyone would have enjoyed it and no one would have been offended.

I bolded those two parts because it's almost a certainty that this would never be the case. Maybe in that small group right there, at that moment, but that's not what policies are written for. And if that was a known characteristic of that specific situation, why the worry? Join in and go for it.

Because like you said, policies are not written for specific situations. They're not even written to make the world a better place. They're written to CYA, so that if the company ever does get sued, they can point to their anti-discrimination policies and a pattern of policy enforcement. The worry is that if you join in, HR might discipline you anyway not because of that incident, but to make sure HR's failure to act can't be used against the company in a lawsuit over some future incident.

Robear wrote:

And that fear is his own, since by his own admission, the topics were not offensive.

Again, I think you misunderstand him. The topics were not offensive to him or anyone in the group. That doesn't mean the topics wouldn't be considered good evidence of a hostile work environment in some future lawsuit for some other incident. Like I say above to NSMike, HR's number one job is to keep the company out of hot water. I don't think a fear of HR engaging in CYA behavior can't be based in reality in such a situation.

Then the answer is to point that out the other person - "Hey, you know, that kind of stuff is funny but some people could take it the wrong way, so please refrain" and go on with life. The problem there is not with "political correctness" but simply with litigiousness, but obviously that's not the context here. The context here is political correctness, and Bandit's idea that there is a double standard at play.

Robear wrote:

Then the answer is to point that out the other person - "Hey, you know, that kind of stuff is funny but some people could take it the wrong way, so please refrain" and go on with life. The problem there is not with "political correctness" but simply with litigiousness, but obviously that's not the context here. The context here is political correctness, and Bandit's idea that there is a double standard at play.

Yup--that's the answer to your question of why he was uncomfortable.

NSMike wrote:
I think he's saying the problem is that people couldn't join in, even though everyone would have enjoyed it and no one would have been offended.

I bolded those two parts because it's almost a certainty that this would never be the case. Maybe in that small group right there, at that moment, but that's not what policies are written for. And if that was a known characteristic of that specific situation, why the worry? Join in and go for it. Unless of course you weren't sure, and if so, the policy did its job for you, but wasn't doing its job for your coworkers. They made a mistake. Congratulations, you just experienced the kind of discomfort that some women do in those situations. Shoes on other feet, and all that. Except women don't feel that way because of some policy, they feel that way because of an unspoken permission that pervades the culture which makes them the guilty party when they're offended. And because their complaints can be seen as "making trouble," women are often retaliated against.

The thing that is being mourned is poison. Let it die.

And then we're back to people getting fired because someone overheard something, misinterpreted it, took offense, and went to HR. I've worked for companies where HR ruled with the iron fist of fear and they're horrible places that crush the humanity out of you.

You can be professional and still be human. However HR policies are designed to be absolute and never take into account humanity, as in a more salty conversation would have been perfectly acceptable for that small group even though it might have offended someone with more fragile sensibilities in the office (who would have never been included in the conversation to begin with because we're all keenly social animals). But those policies are purely designed to limit the corporation's exposure to any potential lawsuit, which means everyone has to act as drones.

DSGamer nailed it. We're dealing with a vast area of gray that some people aren't willing to acknowledge exists. I mean I've gleefully had someone fired because they were sending sexually explicit emails to one of my female employees (20+ years his junior) and, at the same time, listened to her blow by blow account of her sexual relationship with another coworker. I've also seen a least a half dozen couples get married because they met at work even though all of those relationships are explicitly verboten according to HR policies.

That problem then isn't PC, its ineffective HR.

But effective HR is, by nature, exceptionally PC.

OG_slinger wrote:

But effective HR is, by nature, exceptionally PC.

Agreed. Both are good things. The issues raised have all been examples of bad HR, not effective.

SixteenBlue wrote:
OG_slinger wrote:

But effective HR is, by nature, exceptionally PC.

Agreed. Both are good things. The issues raised have all been examples of bad HR, not effective.

No, both are not good things.

HR is awesome when there's a clear cut bad thing happening. Like when I had one of my reports telling me that a VP was creeping her out with his sexually explicit emails. A simple visit to HR and we had a stack of emails he had sent to her, any one of which would have (and did) get his ass fired. That's good.

HR sucks, though, when it comes to anything that isn't as clear cut, as in Bandit's example. The HR policy would be for Bandit to turn his coworker in for making a non-professional comment when his human (and very likely right) reaction would be to respond in kind. But HR policies aren't allowed to account for normal human interactions, so you end up with policies that discourage you from being human to the people you spend most of your life with.

PC is the same. It works exceptionally well when there's clear cut examples of any -ism going on. It falls apart, though, when a lot of normal human interactions are viewed through its lens.

Robear wrote:

Then the answer is to point that out the other person - "Hey, you know, that kind of stuff is funny but some people could take it the wrong way, so please refrain" and go on with life. The problem there is not with "political correctness" but simply with litigiousness, but obviously that's not the context here. The context here is political correctness, and Bandit's idea that there is a double standard at play.

Wow. Someone who replied like that would be the life of the party.

Jayhawker wrote:
DSGamer wrote:
SixteenBlue wrote:

If reporting HR violations are a fast track to ending your career, you should change jobs and/or careers.

In many jobs being able to fraternize with your co-workers is advantageous to your career and a skill that will reflect on how others feel you should advance. Being able to talk frankly is indeed a barrier to being well regarded in that case. In bandit's example that's all we're talking about. Whether the nature of these policies scares him or others into modifying who they are and missing out on opportunities to connect with others. I would say there is more grey area in there than you are letting on. I think we all know this.

And this completely misses the point. This freedom to talk frankly had been used to to isolate women by placing a barrier to any woman who didn't want to deal with this kind of banter. It's like Michael Scott talking about how open they are to minorities, and it's not his fault they keep quitting.

I said it was more of grey are than many of you are admitting. I think I got the point precisely.

Jayhawker wrote:

The scary part is, he is fully aware that certain topics and banter would offend, even the women he is using in this example. But he is looking for a loophole to go back to the previous atmosphere instead of addressing the women's violation. Because two women are out of line, he feels like it is a good case for all women to deal with in appropriate male banter.

?

You think that's the problem? Bandit is itching to find an excuse to be "allowed" to be sexist?

Jayhawker wrote:

But maybe it's easier to pretend that the policies that were put in place were purely arbitrary, or worse, just appeasing uppity women rather than policies that actually facilitated more professional interactions. We wouldn't want Todd Packer to lose the ability to express himself freely, I suppose.

IMAGE(http://stream1.gifsoup.com/view1/1972540/todd-packer-o.gif)

Like I said, no middle ground. If you have any desire to talk a bit more freely with any co-worker suddenly you're Todd Packer. Not even worth debating this. Ironically bandit was trying to point out that he sees women as being capable of engaging in a full range of discussion without needing "protection".

Robear wrote:
Yup--that's the answer to your question of why he was uncomfortable.

But that double standard is most likely in his head. Certainly nothing he described verified that it existed, it just stated his own fears. My response would be "Stand up for yourself if you think it's offensive".

I think you're back to misunderstanding him.