Ask the grumpies: Should I report a racist comment?

K asks:

My job is full of awful people but today I very clearly heard my director making a racist comment about one of his employees. I still cannot believe it was said and it clearly is an inside joke with the two managers he was on a zoom meeting with(he was virtual, they were in an office a couple doors down from me). And they clearly did not know I was in the office based on their attitudes when later on they encountered me.

I have always had a target on my back in this office for being smart and asking good questions.

If I complain they will know who reported. I cannot live with myself if I don’t do something about what I heard.

What was “weird “ too was this same “joke” was made years ago by someone in the small town I grew up in, I was out with my daughter one night who was maybe 4 at the time and a dude thought it was funny or some shit to say this same thing about another black child in the area, who was also out that night.
F*cking sucks.

Racists suck.

I appreciate the conversations here. Not because I am looking for people who necessarily think exactly like me but because the community is intelligent, thoughtful and REAL things are talked about…..all sorts of things.

That sounds terrible and it’s a terrible position to be in.

You will have to decide whether to report or not.  The trade-offs are probably pretty clear to you– they’ll potentially make your work-life worse if you report, but morally you feel that you need to report it.  You know your calculus about how much you need this job and what your options are if you need to walk away because you can’t take it anymore.  You’re not in an at-will state and you’re likely high skill, so it may be difficult for them to just fire you, but there may be a non-zero probability.  We can’t give advice about whether to report, only you can decide.

In either case, you should be looking for work at a different company if you can’t trust upper management to take care of racist managers if brought to their attention. Similarly for being punished for being smart and asking good questions.

Racist managers make employees less productive.  Hopefully you will find a place that doesn’t have a culture of racism.

Good luck!

Grumpy Nation, what thoughts and advice do you have for K?

10 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Should I report a racist comment?”

  1. Omdg Says:

    Find a new job. It’s not going to get better and they will say you made it up. Nothing good will come of reporting it to you. It will only make your life worse.

  2. Carolyn Says:

    Is it possible to talk to the fellow employee that the comment was made about and ask them if they would like you to back them up in reporting a pattern of racist behavior towards them? At the very least, please write down the exact date/time, the people involved and wording of the comment so that you have this as a record if you decide to do something about it in the future.

  3. K Says:

    Oh look there it is…
    I will say this as a follow up:
    I did appropriately bring it up with a manager that I felt comfortable with
    And it did not go well…

    Including but not all:
    Being publicly mocked in office group texts
    And being verbally torn apart in a staff meeting.
    Anon in mass

  4. revanche @ a gai shan life Says:

    I had to check twice to see if this was an Ask A Manager post because I swear I read a similar question there too but that’s probably just indicative of how prevalent racists are in this country.

    I’m sorry, K, your workplace / colleagues suck.

  5. Debbie M Says:

    This is sickening. Also this: “I have always had a target on my back in this office for being smart and asking good questions.” Why don’t employers want people who are smart and asking good questions? How do those places stay in business? I see others agree this is a toxic workplace. I wish it were easier to get good jobs with good employers.

    Sorry, I also don’t know how to answer your original question.

  6. First Gen American Says:

    I really believe that if the values of your company culture align with your own, you’ll have more job satisfaction and happiness. It matters less to me about the specific work and more about whether what I am doing matters. Spend your energy job searching.

    And in the most general terms, I’ve seen more crazy stuff happen at smaller companies than at large companies that have more resources to make policies and have processes to keep this kind of thing in check. Big public companies care about tarnishing their image or having their stock price go down. (We called it the newspaper test…would it be okay if it was on the front page of The NY Times?).

    Good luck getting out of the toxic environment.

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