Disrespectful Remarks About Veterans With Tattoos

 Question for Ask the Workplace Doctors regarding
disrespectful remarks about veterans with tattoos:

“The V.P. of my company made disrespectful remarks about me and other veterans,
because of my tattoos. What can I do?”

The Vice President of a major entertainment company where I work told my manager that he was not happy with the way I made a bank deposit the night before.  I would not have a problem if he just left it at that. He continued to degrade me by saying, “Is this the quality of work I can expect from the military? With that kind of discipline and attention to detail I can understand why all these soldiers are getting killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s why he has tattoos on his arms and his cousin has a big tattoo on his back–no discipline. I am concerned.”

My Manager told me that he said all this, and it really upset me. I served in the military and was recently discharged for medical reasons. I am now a disabled veteran at a 10% rating. I also went to Iraq and still have close friends over in Iraq still serving proudly.  My cousin, whom he knows, is also currently serving on active duty and has pulled two tours in Iraq. I hoped for more respect for all the sacrifices our service men and women are making for this country.

Yes, I have tattoos on my arms that are both symbols of my service to my country. One reads “Loyalty” and the other “In God’s Hands.” Both my personal appearance and my military service are very sensitive subjects for me and I would like to take action if at all possible.

Upset Soldier


Dear Upset Soldier:
If we read your description accurately, your manager reported what you put in quotations as the words of the Vice President–degrading words about you and others in the military and especially disrespectful remarks about veterans with tattoos. So what came to you was second hand, but probably a fairly careful paraphrase of the VP’s remarks. You don’t say how you responded to your manager. If you told him what you wrote us about feeling hurt and angry, possibly he will carry your words back to the VP. Now should you let it pass or you can go to the VP to learn firsthand what he said and to respond the way you have to us about how you feel? Is this the question that is weighing on your mind? Or are you asking should you “take action” in a different way? Possibly by by-passing the VP and reporting the hear-say from your manager to Human Resources?

In short, are you disgusted enough to make a big stink about this? If you choose to make a stink, what might be the response? Your VP could deny that he said this and put your manager in a bad light. Do you want that? Or by “taking action” you might report this to a veteran’s organizations or the military, clear up to the Pentagon. Or you could go to the press? That could put this VP in hot water. Is that what you want? If you make a stink, will this change his attitude about those of you who were and are in the military? Might all this come back on you and might both your VP and the manager deny these disparaging words were ever uttered? These are the questions and potential consequences you must mull over in choosing your action.

You have some choices to make. You want to do what is right. You want this kind of slander to stop. You want most of all to do your part to change this individual’s discounting of you and others who serve in the military. Might the best way to do this be to ask for a meeting with your VP and to learn what was said and then to respond, first by apologizing for thet error relating to the deposit you made? Then to tell him you hope he did not say what was reported and how you feel about this–just as you have stated in your e-mail to us.

Also, we hope you can show the same kind of respect veterans deserve to those who think military solutions are not always wise solutions and are mistakes that have cost our country needless deaths and injuries as well as have cost innocent people dearly.

Will you let us know what you do and how it works out? By the way, you are articulate and have composed your thoughts well. Where did you get your training? We hope you have an opportunity to use this knowledge in your work and possibly by volunteer tutoring.

We sign off with the word WEGO to symbolize a constructive way of confronting conflict and building good working relationships–that means, to us, putting faith in communication. Earning our signature WEGO is an on-going process of between every level of management and employees. That is how those from top to bottom earn the right to call themselves a team. Will you send us what course of action you choose? How has that worked out for you? Or what does not work? The hope and purpose Ask The Workplace Doctors is that your question and our answer enables us to learn from times of conflict such as yours.

William Gorden
Ask the Workplace Doctors

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