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Can your reputation survive a spontaneous protest?

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “Our staff was recently asked to attend a 'professional development' session put on by a comedy group. The topic was supposed to be communication. Much of the material was funny, but there were also lots of crude and offensive jokes. This cancelled out any value the presentation might have had for me.

“Although our work environment is not normally like this, management did nothing to stop the inappropriate comments. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just sat there, despite being very uncomfortable. Do I have the right to walk out of a meeting where people are making objectionable remarks?” Disheartened

A: Potentially offensive humor is never appropriate in the workplace, so your employer should have done a better job of screening this material. Since no one can force you to stay and listen, you could certainly have chosen to leave. However, walking out in the middle of a presentation is not the most politically savvy protest strategy.

A better approach would be to recruit other offended employees, then meet with management to explain your concerns. Group action will not only have a much greater impact, but will also reduce your personal risk. One person should present the group’s viewpoint in a calm, professional manner.

For example: “We realize that the comedy act was meant to be funny and entertaining. However, some of the jokes made us uncomfortable, because we felt they were crude and embarrassing. Since that kind of talk has never been part of our culture, we assume you were also surprised by their comments.”

On the other hand, if you find that you were the only one bothered by these remarks, then you are obviously working with people who share neither your sense of humor nor your values.

Have an issue to take to management? Here's the best way to do it: How to Complain to Your Boss.

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