I was at a seminar today and we were asked a fairly simple question: On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being fully agree, rate how much you agree with this statement, “I would not address inappropriate behavior from a superior.”
Or something to that effect. More or less they were wondering whether or not your outward reaction to inappropriate behavior varies depending on the “status” or “rank” of the person doing the inappropriate actions.
We had a really interesting discussion at our table about it. My feelings are such: inappropriate behavior is inappropriate behavior. It doesn’t matter if the person is a janitor, a bus driver, a garbage man, a mechanic, a blue collar worker, or the president. We are all goverened, for the most part, by the same set of both lawful boundaries of what is and isn’t appropriate, and humanistic values. We all [should] have the intrinsic respect of others.
The difficulty arises when you have to interact with people who don’t share those same intrinsic values. The subject was brought up several times about you witnessing your boss doing something inappropriate. We all agreed that we’d probably feel that we should address it, but probably wouldn’t. Why? Fear. This person has control over the future of your career. What if they fire me? What if they move me to a crappier position? What if I make them mad and they don’t limit my chance for progress? We are scared that the people who have the power to direct your career doesn’t share that same respect for others, and holds what you say against you?
My solution is simple, let the status of the person not effect whether or not you issue their behavior with them, but let their status effect how you issue it. It would be far more productive and beneficial if you went into your superior’s office and said “I thought such and such was offensive/over the line/etc." It allows for a one on one addressing of the issue, and is a far more supportive environment for an actual discussion of what happened than the photocopier, water cooler, or hallway is.
Bottom line, inappropriate is inappropriate. Regardless of social, economic, or buisness-related rank, it must be addressed in one form or another.