Racial Song In Workplace

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about racial music:

If someone of another color repeatedly sings a song with the n word in it on the job and I’ve asked him repeatedly not to say that word in my presence, what can I do?

Signed, Can’t Cover My Ears

Dear┬áCan’t Cover My Ears:

If you have asked him before, go to a supervisor immediately about it. Preferably, write a letter or send an email to a supervisor. If the supervisor doesn’t make him stop, go higher. No one in authority will think you are wrong to complaint, but they might hold you partially responsible if you DON’T complain. So, do what you know is the right thing to do. If there is any pressure put on you about it, report that immediately to your supervisor too or go higher than him.The trouble with the idea that everyone is having fun and that the person of color was saying the word himself, is that if someone (that person or someone else) ever gets angry and decides to get revenge, there will be a big complaint, a big lawsuit,or a big fight at work. Those who participated or who didn’t try very hard to stop it, may lose their jobs. So, even though it will be tough to do, it’s in your best interest to do it.

If you have been a good person generally and have been a good employee, you will probably get support from most people. At least they will know, if they are reasonable people, that you did what you needed to do.The biggest thing to watch is that you have not said or done things yourself that could be considered offensive racially, sexually or for any other reason. If you have done that, you lose credibility for complaining now. Or, at least you should be prepared to be reprimanded for your own comments or actions. I’m not implying that you have done anything, but we always mention that as a concern when someone is advised to complain about such matters.

The other thing to be conscious about is that you will probably still be working with the problem coworker. If he has generally been OK to work with, except for that song he sings (maybe because he knows you dislike it), you may want to say that to him. If you have the chance after you have reported it, talk to him and tell him that you didn’t like to make the report but you didn’t think you had any choice. Then you could say that you hope he will understand that because you’ve always liked working around him otherwise and would like to continue having a good working relationship.I know it’s challenging, but I’m confident that you can do it and come out feeling good about it. Best wishes to you with this situation.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.