The aftermath of the Paula Deen firing has brought up many issues for employees, not the least of which is what the heck we’re supposed to do when the boss exhibits inappropriate behavior. In a long career, most of us will run into something that sets off our radar, whether it’s racism, sexism, or homophobia. It’s bad enough when it’s a coworker, but when it’s your boss, you’ll have to approach the situation with special care. Here’s what to do.
1. Hear something, say something.
If you can, it’s best to speak up the very first time the boss says something that feels inappropriate. Obviously, the power differential might get in the way here. If you are able to say something, you don’t need to discuss it in depth. A simple, “Oh, that makes me uncomfortable,” will do.
2. Write it down.
If the behavior is ongoing, write down the specific incidents as they happen. Include the time and date, and be as straightforward as you can. Now’s not the time to go into how each incident made you feel. If you need to present your log to HR, you’ll want it be as “just the facts, ma’am” as possible.
3. Tell HR.
If communicating directly with your boss doesn’t work or doesn’t feel possible, definitely bring in HR. Come armed with times and dates and remember that you’re doing the company a favor. The last thing they want is to discover that theirs is a hostile work environment the hard way (in court). Don’t threaten legal action, either directly or in a veiled way. Present your case from the perspective of looking for a solution, not trying to get the evildoer punished. Remember that the goal is to create a safe, productive workplace, where everyone can feel comfortable and protected.
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