Why is society’s first reaction to political incorrectness/brain fart always “Fire him (or her)! Or I’ll stop buying your product/watching your show/supporting your cause!”? You do realize that there are other options and punishments available, right?
Do people stop and think about what firing a person means? Loss of livelihood, stress in a marriage, loss of income – often impacting future earning in future work, depression, or even loss of life itself. Do angry people understand this? A person says something that is horribly offensive. Unforgivable. Completely off-base. But 99 times out of 100 would never say such a thing. He or she, for one micro-second, thought it would be a funny joke. Or misspoke. Or perhaps he or she even truly felt that way (racist, sexist, homophobic, etc). Does that one statement, sometimes only offensive if you truly dig into the details and twist it a certain way but usually is pretty obvious, warrant the loss of their job? One statement out of 10,000 statements carried out over a five, 10 or 20-year career (or longer) offends and – “oh you gotta fire that guy. Fire him!”?
Let me ask you this. Would a two-week suspension plus several months of weekly sensitivity training address the problem? Or do we need to go straight to firing?
We all know someone who has been fired. How did it impact that person? Do you know someone who has been fired since turning 30 (when the life path is often somewhat established)? I do. I know someone close to me who was fired from a job that they dearly loved in a sector that they wanted to stay in for life. This person was fired based on a angry, absolutely fuming person who insisted on the firing or their business will be taken elsewhere.
What resulted was a downward spiral unlike anything I’ve ever seen. After weeks of dwelling in worsening depression, there was a suicide attempt. Two months later there was another one. There was a full year of trying to find a job in the same field with no job to be had. Slim pickings in that sector in that particular year. So a job in another sector was taken. For less money. Suddenly rent was a struggle.
Doesn’t make it any easier to come out of that depression, does it? I won’t continue listing the events that happened because you get the idea – one bad thing resulted in another, which impacted another, etc. This person is happy now with a good job in yet another sector and everything is great. But essentially three years of this person’s life was filled with misery, or 10% of this person’s time on this Earth – gone. And it could have literally been gone – for good – had either suicide attempt worked.
All because a person went straight to “fire” instead of “suspend” or “written up” or even “give me a discount”! Just – fire this person, or else.
Why do we do that?
I’ve often mused about this over the years and lately it’s starting to really bother me. Recently a Georgia cop told a terribly offensive joke. Really stupid statement. “We only kill black people” he said to a Caucasian woman who was terrified at being pulled over. I don’t guess to be in the cop’s mind, but I’m pretty certain he didn’t honestly believe that he and other cops only kill black people. He made a tasteless joke to calm a woman down and if he has any good in him at all then he regretted it as soon as he said it. Obviously a person in authority, or any person, absolutely should not imply killing of any sort let alone singling out one race like that. Especially in the current racial climate in that particular area. This officer was on the job for 28 years and had no record of saying racist comments. Is it possible for us to chalk this up to a very nasty, regrettable brain fart? Or we must go straight to firing?
Citizens and media alike were clamoring for him to be fired and when the Chief announced that he would be, the “black community leaders…applauded (the Chief’s) commitment”. So…that was the only route to go in order for you to “applaud” the action?
He’s in his late 40’s. Is he married? Kids? Just what would be destroyed here? (Note: the officer retired, so he technically didn’t get fired, but that veers from my point). Could it lead to straining the marriage? Kid’s college fund? One stupid sentence, a bad joke. And that’s the punishment that fits?
Let me offer an alternative. Three week’s of unpaid suspension. The entire staff of policemen at that location attend a sensitivity class. The officer himself must attend this class weekly for two months. Ten hours of community service helping under-privileged black children. Would the “black community leaders” applaud this? Or a man’s life must possibly be destroyed instead?
Today was the straw that broke the camel’s back. ESPN and Jemelle Hill. Hill is the co-host of one of their Sports Center programs, but on her Twitter she doesn’t just Tweet about sports. She tweeted about Donald Trump:
“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”
“He has surrounded himself with white supremacists — no they are not “alt right” — and you want me to believe he isn’t a white supremacist?”
“He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected”
All the Trump-backers came out in droves. The White House Press Secretary called this a “fireable offense”. The right-leaning users on Twitter were frothing at the mouth: “fire her or I’ll never watch ESPN SC again”.
Are the statements appropriate on Hill’s Twitter account? Given that she built her 600K+ followers as a result of the media company she works for (had she been a lawyer, would she have an audience of 600K to hear her political opinion?) I would say that it’s not. She should have a personal Twitter account for those things. Just like I have this blog for my personal rants, rather than rant on DobberHockey.
Should she be fired? Should you threaten removing your business if she’s not? Let’s see…you and 100,000 others pressure ESPN to fire her and they do. Do you feel better? The sad thing is – you probably would feel better. And then within 24 hours you would forget about it.
Meanwhile, she’s unemployed. No income, and likely no chance of landing something in that field for at least a year because any hiring would result in the angry Internet people raising a stink. So then perhaps she finds something local. Like city news on the local TV channel or perhaps radio. Meanwhile there’s stress, anxiety, and her personal situation. Does she have a boyfriend? Is it serious? Does this anxiety gradually end that?
Would something more fitting be, I don’t know, ESPN have her remove the Tweets? Could the haters say “ESPN – have her remove the offending Tweets or I won’t watch SC again” instead of “ESPN – fire her or I won’t watch SC again”?
In today’s world, with social media prevalent as it is, people get heard. The problem is, within an hour 100,000 people can be heard. And they’re angry. And that means there is a lot of pressure to comply. With that in mind, knowing that the company just might do it, can we stop with the knee-jerk “FIRE HIM”? Calm down. Think about what firing means. And instead insist on discipline, not firing.