Partisanship and Religion in the Workplace.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Late last week I found the following printed on a sheet of paper and posted anonymously above the copier in the office where I work:

“Solution to the problem in Libya:
They want a new Muslim leader, I say give them ours…
Solves 2 problems.”
This item pissed me off, but I held off responding until I thought about it. As a manager, I have the ability to address the item to the entire staff, but am unsure if I too am just being partisan.

It bugs me for multiple reasons.  Not only is it tin-foil-hat, Obama-is-a-Muslim crap, it touches on religion and politics.  We work in a state government office, so we need to avoid partisanship.  I am considering the following statement to our staff:

"Last week I found some commentary posted above the copier that I found troubling.

The printed item (which I won’t reprint) could be seen as a silly joke. It could also be read as conspiracy theorist nonsense or partisanship in the workplace. At worst, it could be read as religious intolerance.

We all come from different backgrounds religiously, politically, and culturally. Overall we work well together. Our diversity is a real strength. Let’s keep it that way."
Am I just being too sensitive? What are your thoughts?

13 comments:

Andy 12:18 PM  

I think you should address it, and that is a good way to do it. If you let that go, then others are bound to come up. Someone who may not be offended by this may be offended when someone insults Christianity, or insults football, or insults eating meat.

The workplace is just that...a place where people work. And socialize. And relate. They must all feel comfortable. One person's bad joke is another person's uncomfortable feeling.

Best to nip it in the bud now.

Smitty 5:28 PM  

Yeah, as a manager, the culture in the office is partly your responsibility. You do apparently work around a gob of wingnuts and Teahadists, but there may be others either offended by that statement as you are or ignorant of its massive idiocy.

Your statement is to the point and is as neutral as any statement could possibly be. Further, if it sparks confrontation or a conversation, I'd love to see your staff's defense of whether or not Obama is a scary musslin.

I' also love to see the resultant lawsuit if you are forced out.

Monk-in-Training 5:53 AM  

I also think you should respond. As you say, it is not only factually incorrect, it feeds all sorts of the worst sides of human nature.

Where I come from, that sort of thing is MORE than common place, so I would nip it in the bud as best I could.

Otherwise you will be getting emails from smug, self convinced tin-foil hat types that will eventually have something to really emotionally hurt someone.

I get worse than this from my BOSS, and he is pretty mild when it comes to this stuff around here.

Monk-in-Training 5:55 AM  

I meant to say:
I also think you should respond,as you have stated above.

The statement is not only factually incorrect, it feeds all sorts of the worst sides of human nature.


It's still early here...

steves 9:06 AM  

What kind of office is it? I have to say that the situation you describe is completely intolerable. I am not easily offended and can put up with a great deal of BS. That being said, a workplace should be a place where people actually work. Things that decrease morale, make people uncomfortable, and otherwise lower productivity shouldn't be tolerated.

Where I work, I would expect that a person that put up that kind of sign would be warned and then fired if it continued. The fact that it is factually incorrect is irrelevant. It is just plain rude and counterproductive.

Bob 12:18 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob 12:19 PM  

I ended up working with my superior, who is seen as more of a civil servant and less of a political person (might even lean rightward) to make sure she agreed with my assesment of the posted comment. She was pissed and encouraged me to handle it.

I posted the following yesterday:

"Late last week I found some commentary posted above the copier that I found troubling.

The printed item (which I won’t reprint) might have been meant as a joke, but introduced inappropriate political and religious comments into this workplace. Most concerning is that these remarks could be read as intolerant of a particular religion.

Comments that can be judged by others as intolerant of a religion or any other protected class are unacceptable.

We all come from different religious, political, and cultural backgrounds. Overall we work very well together. Our diversity is a real strength. Let’s keep it that way."

My boss loved the response, so it worked out well. I wish I could have slammed the offender for the stupidity of the statement, but that would have been too political.

If I get flack maybe I should let the perpetrator know that under certain private employers (like Steve’s) they might be out on their ass. So far only one staff person has commented and it was a thank you.

Thanks for the responses everyone.

steves 4:22 PM  

Bob, I would think that public employees could be fired for making signs/comments like you describe, especially if it is at work.

Bob 7:43 AM  

"I would think that public employees could be fired for making signs/comments like you describe, especially if it is at work."

While I haven't had the chance to test it out, the reputation of the HR and Civil Service system is that is nearly impossible to fire on the first offense. I don't have proof who did it, but I have a good idea. Let's just say I will be hanging onto this one.

steves 2:05 PM  

I just doubted that an employee could make some kind of free speech defense in this kind of situation. I don't think this warrants being fired if it is a first offense.

Monk-in-Training 9:46 PM  

A new guy started at my office two weeks ago. Late last week the crazy emails started.

At least two, maybe three racially offensive emails that I was surprised at even for around here. But then bosses higher up the food chain were copied on them. sigh...

Oh, and of course, he makes a fair to do over his Christianity.

:) what else is new?

Streak 5:05 PM  

Late to this conversation, and having a rather bad day myself, but I would be oh so very tempted to post something about these kinds of things being more revealing than an iq test. Or, perhaps that the poster means that you guys need to test for arsenic in your water.

Or just post that whoever wrote this is the dumbest fucking racist idiot that your office ever hired.

Like I said. I have had a bad day. :)

steves 5:13 PM  

I tend to agree with Streak here. At best, it was a poor attempt at humor...at worst, the person is an idiot.

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