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INSIGHT

Stupidity outside of work

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

I often end up addressing some of the sadder aspects of human behavior in and around the workplace.

I have frequently been called by clients to help deal with issues such as sexual harassment and bullying, an employee who uses the n-word at work and someone who gets so drunk after work that they become incredibly obnoxious in public. In all of these situations, and others like them, one of my tasks is showing that person the door to their former place of work. I almost always will try for a negotiated separation so both parties can move forward, but the transgressor is definitely out.

I recently saw a news item that in many ways combined all of these. Although the incident occurred in Canada, I think it is instructive for employers and employees almost anywhere. I guarantee you any company in the United States would be on firm ground if they followed this lead.

A female news reporter was conducting a live broadcast that drew the kind of low-grade jerks we’ve become all too familiar with. In what apparently is a growing trend, someone stuck their face in the camera and yelled a phrase about having sex with the reporter then and there. Several others chimed in. Not surprisingly, the reporter decided she had had enough and began confronting some of her harassers.

With the bravery reserved for a crowd of young men who’ve been drinking, several laughed and tried to defend their obscene behavior. One man, in particular, offered a lengthy explanation of why he and his friends should be able to act and talk that way, repeating the vulgarities several times.

I hope he enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame. The little stunt cost him a $107,000 a year job.

That’s right. He worked for an electric company and when news (with video!) of the incident reached his employer, they terminated him for violating the company’s code of conduct.

I am sure some will defend this individual and accuse the company of some sort of “Big Brother” behavior. As a consultant, I would advise any company to be sure they are on firm ground. In this case, I think the employers clearly were.

First, something outside of work is nevertheless of potential relevance to the workplace. I once helped a company terminate a woman who became extremely drunk at her son’s baseball game. Like many drunks, she became very vocal, profane, and obnoxious. The situation degenerated to the point where police were called.

Unfortunately for the woman, there is a policy in the company’s personnel manual that says employees must comport themselves professionally, honorably, and ethically at all times. Employees are even reminded that their behavior off the job reflects on their employer. Her profane and obnoxious behavior, coupled with several instances of on-the-job unprofessionalism, provided a justifiable opportunity to terminate a marginal employee.

Our Canadian company probably could have cited violation of sexual harassment rules and bullying as well. The video reveals a combination of crudeness and thinly disguised bullying that sets off alarm bells for me about this person’s judgment and character. I wouldn’t hire him and I wouldn’t advise any of my clients to, either. If he already was an employee, I’d be concerned.

The reason is simple: Just as with someone who uses the n-word in the break room, this guy doesn’t get it. And he doesn’t get it on many levels. Is he likely to talk like this at work? And what about any coworkers (including female coworkers) who see that news broadcast?

One assumes that a $107,000 a year job involves a fair amount of responsibility and judgment. Since this individual illustrated little of either, I’m not surprised he lost the job and its salary. But the company could also have been concerned that retaining him would open them to future legal action by keeping this creep at work. It’s a hard lesson, but one the individual apparently needed to learn.


Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit www.laborgroup.com or call (913) 927-0229.


The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.


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