Manager said something covertly racist

  1. I was at a leadership conference recently with my manager and several other supervisors (1 manager, 4 supervisors total). During the conference, we were asked to simulate how we would communicate with a housekeeper that went above and beyond by doing something outside of their normal job duties to help a patient.

    One of my fellow supervisors says, "I'll be the housekeeper."
    My manager says, "I wanna be the housekeeper!"
    I say, "----- said it first, she can be the housekeeper."
    My manager says to my fellow supervisor, "------, you're name is NOT Juanita Lopez" ****I have changed this name*****

    To the best of my knowledge, Juanita Lopez is not a real person who works at my organization, but has a very common sounding Hispanic name. I believe she was insinuating that housekeepers are generally Hispanic. The rest of us supervisors were kind of shocked and looked at each other for a minute, felt uncomfortable, and then went on with the exercise.

    What makes it even worse, is that one of my peers IS Hispanic. She is also my friend.

    I feel this should be reported to HR, however here is my hesitation: In the past I have gone round and round with HR reporting bullying and inappropriate behaviors, along with MANY fellow employees including other supervisors, doctors and staff. My manager has a long history of bullying and incivility and retaliation, and there is a long history of HR not doing anything about it. It's a "Good ole' boys network." Everyone who feels her wrath just eventually winds up leaving the organization.

    Out of the the 3 other supervisors:

    My Hispanic friend does not want to make a big deal out of it, and absolutely hates confrontation, and actively avoids it. She does not want to say anything, nor be dragged into anything. She said she is used to these sorts of incidences and just lets it roll off her back.

    The other two kind of just do their own thing, and have had the chance to stand up in the past, and/or support others who have been bullied, but they just don't.

    I don't know if I have the energy to deal with this again, out of need for self-preservation, and also knowing that I will not have any back up, and knowing HR likely won't do anything. My plan is to find something else by the end of the year.


    Here are my options:

    *Confront my manager - she does not do well with confrontation, becoming extremely defensive and wrathful

    *Report to HR openly - this did not go well for my last fellow supervisor who reported bullying, and she went through months of stress and heartache, and finally resigned.

    *Report to HR anonymously - this did not go well for myself and about a dozen other people I know over the years, and I don't believe my anonymity was actually protected.

    *Send an anonymous letter.

    *Go to the news.

    *Do nothing.

    Regardless of what I pursue, if any investigation is opened, my friend will be dragged into it. None of my options feel good or right.

    Has anything dealt with anything similar?
    •  
  2. Visit sugarmagnolia3 profile page

    About sugarmagnolia3

    Joined: Feb '11; Posts: 88; Likes: 89
    from US
    Specialty: 10 year(s) of experience

    60 Comments

  3. by   psu_213
    I would speak directly to the person who said it, but I would not look at it as "confronting" her. More like "I know you were just trying to make a joke, but I have several friends who are Hispanic, and I found the comment offensive." You can leave the specifics of your friend out of it.

    The one thing I would definitely NOT do is go to the news. It would basically be career suicide to air your facilities dirty laundry to the media. Even if you wanted to be anonymous, I would trust the media to keep me anonymous about as much as I would trust HR to do the same--i.e., basically no trust in them at all.
  4. by   ruby_jane
    Kudos to you for recognizing the racism and feeling uncomfortable (for yourself and your friend).

    I think the moment to have said "Hey, you might not have meant it this way but that sounds really racist" was immediately after the statement was made. I think your opportunity to actually make a difference lessens with the amount of time that passes. So if it was yesterday, probably still OK.

    Retraining someone to NOT utter every racist thought in their head is like training a puppy. If you don't provide an immediate consequence, the person doesn't learn. If the person is provided immediate and consistent feedback - and it can be confrontational or it can be friendly - then perhaps s/he will eventually learn what s/he can and cannot say on the job.

    Also, I have learned that the person uttering the statement is likely to say: "Well (insert the name of the Hispanic friend) was there and SHE didn't take offense." It's still an inappropriate comment, whether the person of the targeted group felt like waking that other employee up or not.
  5. by   llg
    Quote from psu_213
    I would speak directly to the person who said it, but I would not look at it as "confronting" her. More like "I know you were just trying to make a joke, but I have several friends who are Hispanic, and I found the comment offensive." You can leave the specifics of your friend out of it.
    I'd recommend a slight wording change. I'd say something like ... "I know you were just trying to make a joke, but I have friends who are Hispanic ... and that made me uncomfortable."

    That way, you are less likely to escalate the bad feelings. Experts often recommend that we tell people how their bad behavior makes us feel rather than accuse them of being a racist or bully or whatever. Saying you found it "offensive" sounds a bit like an accusation -- which may elicit a defensive (or offensive) response from the manager. By saying the remark made your feel "uncomfortable," you are more likely to open a productive dialog. She might apologize or say something like, "Oh, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable" ... which might promote a health conversation that will help her learn not to do that again.

    Also, when that sort of thing happens, it's best to say something right away. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes. Eventually, the "appropriate moment" passes.
  6. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Quote from llg
    I'd recommend a slight wording change. I'd say something like ... "I know you were just trying to make a joke, but I have friends who are Hispanic ... and that made me uncomfortable."

    That way, you are less likely to escalate the bad feelings. Experts often recommend that we tell people how their bad behavior makes us feel rather than accuse them of being a racist or bully or whatever. Saying you found it "offensive" sounds a bit like an accusation -- which may elicit a defensive (or offensive) response from the manager. By saying the remark made your feel "uncomfortable," you are more likely to open a productive dialog. She might apologize or say something like, "Oh, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable" ... which might promote a health conversation that will help her learn not to do that again.

    Also, when that sort of thing happens, it's best to say something right away. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes. Eventually, the "appropriate moment" passes.
    Well-stated! You are so wise.
  7. by   Sour Lemon
    Quote from sugarmagnolia3
    I was at a leadership conference recently with my manager and several other supervisors (1 manager, 4 supervisors total). During the conference, we were asked to simulate how we would communicate with a housekeeper that went above and beyond by doing something outside of their normal job duties to help a patient.

    One of my fellow supervisors says, "I'll be the housekeeper."
    My manager says, "I wanna be the housekeeper!"
    I say, "----- said it first, she can be the housekeeper."
    My manager says to my fellow supervisor, "------, you're name is NOT Juanita Lopez" ****I have changed this name*****

    To the best of my knowledge, Juanita Lopez is not a real person who works at my organization, but has a very common sounding Hispanic name. I believe she was insinuating that housekeepers are generally Hispanic. The rest of us supervisors were kind of shocked and looked at each other for a minute, felt uncomfortable, and then went on with the exercise.

    What makes it even worse, is that one of my peers IS Hispanic. She is also my friend.

    I feel this should be reported to HR, however here is my hesitation: In the past I have gone round and round with HR reporting bullying and inappropriate behaviors, along with MANY fellow employees including other supervisors, doctors and staff. My manager has a long history of bullying and incivility and retaliation, and there is a long history of HR not doing anything about it. It's a "Good ole' boys network." Everyone who feels her wrath just eventually winds up leaving the organization.

    Out of the the 3 other supervisors:

    My Hispanic friend does not want to make a big deal out of it, and absolutely hates confrontation, and actively avoids it. She does not want to say anything, nor be dragged into anything. She said she is used to these sorts of incidences and just lets it roll off her back.

    The other two kind of just do their own thing, and have had the chance to stand up in the past, and/or support others who have been bullied, but they just don't.

    I don't know if I have the energy to deal with this again, out of need for self-preservation, and also knowing that I will not have any back up, and knowing HR likely won't do anything. My plan is to find something else by the end of the year.


    Here are my options:

    *Confront my manager - she does not do well with confrontation, becoming extremely defensive and wrathful

    *Report to HR openly - this did not go well for my last fellow supervisor who reported bullying, and she went through months of stress and heartache, and finally resigned.

    *Report to HR anonymously - this did not go well for myself and about a dozen other people I know over the years, and I don't believe my anonymity was actually protected.

    *Send an anonymous letter.

    *Go to the news.

    *Do nothing.

    Regardless of what I pursue, if any investigation is opened, my friend will be dragged into it. None of my options feel good or right.

    Has anything dealt with anything similar?
    Hispanic is not a race, it's an ethnicity. A lot of housekeepers are Hispanic. There's nothing wrong with being a housekeeper. There is no need to create offense on your friend's behalf.
    If the imaginary housekeeper had been named "Jane Smith", how would you feel about your friend running to the boss/HR/media?
  8. by   SC_RNDude
    What exactly would you be trying to accomplish by doing any of your proposed actions?
  9. by   kakamegamama
    What benefit would your proposed actions have? Is this YOUR windmill to joust at?
  10. by   Susie2310
    Quote from llg
    I'd recommend a slight wording change. I'd say something like ... "I know you were just trying to make a joke, but I have friends who are Hispanic ... and that made me uncomfortable."

    That way, you are less likely to escalate the bad feelings. Experts often recommend that we tell people how their bad behavior makes us feel rather than accuse them of being a racist or bully or whatever. Saying you found it "offensive" sounds a bit like an accusation -- which may elicit a defensive (or offensive) response from the manager. By saying the remark made your feel "uncomfortable," you are more likely to open a productive dialog. She might apologize or say something like, "Oh, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable" ... which might promote a health conversation that will help her learn not to do that again.
    I have never agreed with this strategy, which I first heard in nursing school. Focusing one's objections to a person's inappropriate behavior on the uncomfortable feelings created for oneself sidesteps the actual problem, which is that it is inappropriate to make racist remarks at work and that these comments are very insensitive and can cause much pain. There's nothing wrong with straightforwardly but politely stating this to the person who is engaging in this behavior. I agree that one would want to be tactful when raising this point with one's manager, but the point is that the behavior is simply wrong and has the potential to be harmful and the person needs to stop doing this. Worrying about escalating bad feelings by being straightforward, and avoiding confronting the situation directly, is a big mistake in my opinion. Then you can end up with a situation where the person committing the bad behavior says, "Well, I'm sorry your feelings were hurt" (and continues to behave in the same way) or, "That's tough that your feelings were hurt" (and continues to behave in the same way). The issue isn't that you were made to feel uncomfortable; the issue is what is right and what is wrong.
    Last edit by Susie2310 on Apr 19
  11. by   Horseshoe
    Quote from sugarmagnolia3

    *Go to the news.

    Are you serious? You're going to go to the news over what was an insensitive remark? I cannot imagine any news outfit wanting to make a story about something of this nature.
  12. by   Been there,done that
    "there is a long history of HR not doing anything about it." You have already lost the battle. There are better fights to fight. More importantly, patient rights.
    Best wishes.
  13. by   Horseshoe
    Quote from sugarmagnolia3
    I feel this should be reported to HR, however here is my hesitation: In the past I have gone round and round with HR reporting bullying and inappropriate behaviors,
    Yeah, ok. I'm guessing that if you have a history of reporting people for various offenses and nothing has been done, the likelihood of them doing anything about this incident is pretty much nil.
  14. by   JKL33
    Quote from sugarmagnolia3
    During the conference, we were asked to simulate how we would communicate with a housekeeper that went above and beyond by doing something outside of their normal job duties to help a patient.

    Are housekeepers a different species or something?

    The whole scenario is a good example of the difficulty of not just aiming to be genuine and treat others the way you would want to be treated.

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