The Big(oted) Boss
Dear Expert in Failed Relationships:
I like my job, like my direct manager at the company for which I work, and enjoy working with my colleagues. However, there’s a problem that has to do with the CEO. We see him once a month, and since we’re not a very large company he insists that we all have dinner together when he comes into town. That would be fine except for his dinner conversation. Since he is the CEO he gets center chair and center attention. All of us are expected to keep our eyes on him and nod as his spouts his racist and sexist diatribes. He will rant from soup to coffee about how the “brownies overseas” are putting him out of business. He will make side comments about the size of the waitresses’ chests. He says gays are a “disease,” and the only affirmative action he believes in is a “white sheet and a rifle.”
After sitting through one of these dinners, I feel sick for hours afterward, and mostly sick of myself for not telling him to shut the f*ck up! But of course, if I do that I’ll lose my job. I have tried to decline going to these dinners, making up as many excuses as I can think of that won’t sound like I’m shirking my work responsibilities, because in this company, these dinners are considered business meetings. But there are only so many times I can be excused without raising eyebrows and I am at my wits end. Please, do you have a suggestion on what I can do to let my boss know I hate this without losing my job? I need my job, and in this economy I’m afraid I won’t find another.
Sick of the CEO
You have my sympathy. I, of all people, understand what a position one is in when one can’t afford to leave a job because of an unpleasant work situation. But you know what? Maybe that’s a good thing, because if everyone were able to just up and quit whenever they came across an uncomfortable or in this case, DISGUSTING boss, these “Adam Henrys” would continue to do and say whatever they like with the rest of us listening mutely because we’re too terrified to speak up.
The advice I have is based on the assumption that your work is stellar and you are just as good for the company as it is for you, with of course, the one exception being the mind-set of the CEO. If your work is stellar and the company has no reason to fire you and use your work ethic as the excuse, you have recourse, but it’s going to take some courage. The first thing you need to do is document the dates, times, places you have been subjected to this trash talk. Be as specific as you can, such as, “During the soup course last week, Mr. Henry made this lewd comment to us about the waitress______” Or, as we were eating our dessert, Mr. Henry referred to Indians using this derogative term_______”
Once you’ve documented the who, what, how, and where, approach your direct supervisor, the one with whom you say you work well, and come clean. Say, “I know I’ve made a number of excuses not to come to dinner each month. Here’s why.” State your case calmly and simply tell your boss it makes you physically ill to listen to these diatribes. Ask to be excused from attending. If your direct supervisor excuses you from attending and your colleagues ask why you’re not at the dinners any longer, be frank but professional. “I told our supervisor I could no longer bear listening to Mr. Henry make racist and sexist remarks.”
This might prompt resentment or uprising. There will be colleagues who dislike the fact that you’re excused when they’re not, and there may be others who follow in your footsteps and go to the supervisor as well. I hope the latter happens, because then it will be the supervisor’s responsibility to explain to the CEO why there’s been a dinner mutiny. Adam Henry will then have to make a choice. He’ll either learn to curb his tongue, or if he’s as big a jackass as he sounds, he may demand that you and anyone who followed you is fired. If he does demand that you’re fired, now with your documentation and your declaration to your supervisor (which you’ve also documented) you have recourse to go to Human Services and if necessary, to sue the company for your job back, and for any lost monies owed to you as a result of this unlawful termination.
Yes, this is a huge and tiresome undertaking, and yes, you may be out of a paycheck for several months while it’s mitigated with lawyers. But I hope you decide it’s worth the trouble. The entire country is caught up in a miasma of fear and bigotry with our politicians all leading the way. If more of us stood up rather than shut up about this, it would STOP, not only in the work place, but in the political arena. If you value yourself, if you value your ideals, take the risk and speak up.
Or, you can just continue to stew in your monthly soup.
I would love to hear from readers on this. Comments, anyone?
Do you have a question for me about failed (or failing) relationships? I’m happy to read your questions and answer them in this column. Keep in mind that I’m a writer and licensed teacher, but not a therapist or a lawyer. However, I do consult these experts to answer my letters when necessary. Leave your questions in the comment box below, or e-mail email@example.com and put “advice column” in subject line. For more information about me, visit www.patriciaVdavis.com
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Patricia V. Davis is the author of Harlot’s Sauce: A Memoir of Food, Family, Love, Loss and Greece and The Diva Doctrine: 16 Universal Principles Every Woman Needs to Know
Last 5 posts by Patricia V. Davis - an Expert in Failed Relationships
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