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Things You Shouldn’t Say To A Co-Worker

Some handy advice via the Spring 2009 edition of the Diversity Spotlight newsletter from the Delaware Department of Transportation (a pdf file):

DIVERSITY SPOTLIGHT

Delaware Department of Transportation

Comments you never want to make to a coworker —- WORKPLACE FAUX PAS

Curiosity is natural; and with a diverse workforce, inquiring minds always want to know. How you communicate your inquiries can keep you from offending your co-workers.

How can you go about interacting with your colleagues without putting your foot in your mouth? How do you keep from getting the cold shoulder and creating friction in the workplace? Understanding how others are affected by your comments will help build an inclusive and diverse work environment.

It is always better to be honest and acknowledge your unfamiliarity when you are curious about a person or a topic. It is never inappropriate to build a better working relationship with your co-worker by getting to know them. You can never go wrong by saying "I really don’t know that much about…" or "I’m curious about this, would you be offended if I asked you….?" People will have greater respect for you when you are sincere and admit you are genuinely interested in learning about them.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Co-workers

Employees who make the decision to "come out" are usually apprehensive about the kinds of reaction they will receive from colleagues.

• What did your family say?

This is personal and not an opportunity to start gossip.

• I don’t consider you gay.

This is insensitive.

• Have you thought about getting help?

You are stereotyping, telling the person there’s something wrong that should be fixed.

• Never call a coworker a "fag" or "homo."

This is derogatory, rude, and totally insensitive.

• I didn’t need to hear that.

If you are not interested in the person’s personal life, simply say "Thank you."

African American Coworkers

• The "N" word

You may have heard comedians or African Americans use the word "nigger" casually.

It is never, ever acceptable to use this word in any context. You are asking for trouble; leave this one alone.

• You people

Let’s just say you are asking for trouble when you make this reference. Your focus should be on the individual, not the race or culture.

• Should we order fried chicken or watermelon for you?

This is stereotyping and shows ignorance.

• You are articulate, or you speak very well. As opposed to what? You may be implying that most African Americans are not well spoken or well educated. Remember a vice presidential candidate made this mistake.

• I am not prejudiced against black people, my neighbors are black. You are saying it’s all right to treat people differently because you know a few people of the same race.

Asian Co-workers

• You must be the new IT person.

All Asians are not IT professionals.

• You speak English very well, or did you learn to speak English in America?

You are assuming that everyone who speaks with an accent is foreign born. The fact is that we all speak with an accent; e.g., New England, Southern, British, etc. The appropriate approach should be "I’m not familiar with your accent, may I ask where your accent is from?"

• What’s your native language?

Don’t assume because people look differently or speak differently that they are not natural-born Americans or are from a foreign country. Remember we have military bases all over the world; and don’t forget the Peace Corps or Fortune 500 companies with employees and families spending the bulk of their lives overseas.

• Can you recommend a good Chinese restaurant?

All Asians are not Chinese. Take some time to study a world map. The world is made up of continents with many countries, regions, cultures, and sub-cultures. Remember the news reports about a vice presidential candidate who thought Africa was a country.

• Wow, you are from India! My neighbor Ashok Shah is from India; do you know him?

Think for a minute … do you know every American – or everyone who lives in Dover or Wilmington?

Older Co-workers

• You know Wal Mart is hiring.

This is not funny. An older employee has experience you could benefit from.

• When can we start planning your retirement party?

With this kind of attitude you are creating an unfriendly work environment.

• You are just warming that seat.

DelDOT values the contributions of all employees regardless of age.

White Co-workers

• That’s how a typical white person acts.

You are suggesting that all white people are the same by putting them in the same category. The behavior may have nothing to do with the person’s race.

• I don’t trust white people; they are all racists. This is stereotyping and totally insensitive. Get to know the person or discuss why the actions may have offended you. Don’t generalize.

• White trailer trash.

Why would you think that referring to someone as trash is acceptable? This is derogatory, and should never ever be used.

Co-workers with Disabilities

• You don’t need to date; your life will be better without a woman/man causing you trouble.

Being disabled does not mean the person is socially challenged.

• You don’t look disabled. Why do you have a handicapped sticker?

The person may have a non-visible disability.

• Never refer to a co-worker as a "retard."

This is an insult to people with mental disabilities.

• Never refer to a co-worker as handicapped.

Always remember person first. It’s not the "disabled man." It’s the man with the disability.

Hispanic/Latino Co-workers

• You know we should send all of you back across the border.

Don’t assume because people look differently or speak differently that they are not natural-born Americans. Where did your ancestors come from?

• It is never ever acceptable to refer to a Hispanic/Latino co-worker as a "spic" "wetback" or "hot footer." This is derogatory.

• Can you help me out with my landscaping?

Why would you assume that all Hispanics/Latinos are landscaping experts?

• Can you recommend a good Mexican Restaurant?

This is stereotyping and shows ignorance. All Hispanics/Latinos are not Mexicans.

Caution

• If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. The State’s Beliefs and Principles states: In valuing people, there are diverse views; and through openness, awareness and sensitivity, we can begin to understand how our words and actions are perceived by others.

Newsletter Topics

Submit your ideas for the Newsletter to Cherrine Smith, EEO/AA Officer

Now this is news you can use.

But will Delaware’s favorite son, Mr. Biden, get this newsletter?

We especially like how they sum it up their teachings with this novel golden rule:

If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.

That’s certainly our motto around here.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, May 3rd, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

43 Responses to “Things You Shouldn’t Say To A Co-Worker”

  1. proreason says:

    I enjoy primers like this.

    For example, my sexual harrassment skills were very weak until I was given the proper training. Now I’m an expert.

    • MinnesotaRush says:

      I’ve ordered a sign for my desk that says, “I’m open to sexual harrassment”. Want one?

  2. ptat says:

    Darn, The Onion News keeps bleeding over into this site! Hilarious!

  3. U NO HOO says:

    ROFLMAO

    “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.”

    Cherrine Smith is a very good speller, for a bureaucrat.

  4. Steve says:

    According to this report, which is a pdf file:

    http://tinyurl.com/d5vrzp

    Ms. Cherrine Smith is the older sister of a ‘black activist.’

    And she and her brother are from Liberia.

    They were granted asylum in the US because their political activities in Liberia got them targeted for assassination.

    So it would sound like they weren’t saying something nice back then.

    • U NO HOO says:

      Ms. Smith apparently took a job an American wouldn’t do.

      Oh, oh, wasn’t Liberia started by freed American slaves?

    • catie says:

      Yes, U No Hoo it was started by a group of freed slaves. When I was in 6th grade we were studying this very topic and one girl named Tina raised her hand and when the Nun called on her she asked it if was too late to send them all back over there to Liberia? I thought Sister Doris was going to have a stroke right then and there. It was hilarious and then the whole class started clapping. Of course this was a “lily white” school inhabited by Nuns the few that were left, who were avowed liberals.
      But isn’t old Cuppa Joe from DE? Didn’t he say Barry was “clean and articulate”? Hmmh, perhaps he needs to sit in on one of Miss Smith’s little lectures.

    • curvyred says:

      Not too mention his comments about 7-11 and people of Indian descent.

    • Reality Bytes says:

      OK I checked. It didn’t mention “You’re Fired!” Wow! They missed that one…for now.

  5. curvyred says:

    I am shocked that they actually address “typical white people” at all – since we are the oppressors (according to many liberals) .

    I guess we should all just be quiet in work place – lest we offend ANYONE, I wonder why they didn’t address the issues with all the “phalias” that Hastings is seeking to protect?

    It is a shame that the “diversity police” do not realize that they do more to cause division and resentment between people then they do to unite people.

    I like how the author of this “helpful” piece can read minds and intentions of people based upon a few words .

    • DoctorRock says:

      I think dividing us is the point. In simpler times, we could all regard each other as children of God, which acknowledges our fundamental human dignity. You know the drill, “Endowed by The Creator with certain unalienable rights”. But today that would seem to offends atheists, pantheists, Wiccans, the S&M crowd…
      We had an episode at a former employer. A minority with a chip on his shoulder sued because he “felt” the workplace was hostile to him. And he was generously paid off, because of his great pain and suffering. I hope he invested the bundle in GE.
      But this is an example of how “being quiet in the workplace” doesn’t work either. People could see he was trouble so they avoided him, and with the right lawyer, their reticence became the basis of his suit. The poor fellow was ostracized!
      I thought the article was stupid and offensive. I thought everybody knew that ribs go better with watermelon! And if you really want to find a good chinese restaurant you ask a Jew.

  6. U NO HOO says:

    “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Co-workers

    Employees who make the decision to “come out” are usually apprehensive about the kinds of reaction they will receive from colleagues.”

    What happened to “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all”?

    • heykev says:

      “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Co-workers”

      The company I worked for started a MAJOR initiative shortly before they began laying off people last year. They hired a whole cadre of “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender” sensitivity trained HR VP’s (who all make really big $$) to implement this very thing.

      It cost the company several MILLION dollars to start and maintain – there were brochures to write, “hot lines” to start, a whole whirlwind of activity for something that was not a problem, issue or even n anyone’s radar except upper management. It was very frustrating to everyone I knew as everywhere the company was cutting back and reducing wherever possible.Since it was before layoffs hit, the running joke was “there’s goes our bonus”.

      After the layoffs, people were even more upset as everywhere else in the company deep cuts were made. But this group was untouchable, and is to this day.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      So much for equal rights, eh?

  7. U NO HOO says:

    Is Cherrine Smith Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender?

    Isn’t Biden from Delaware and didn’t he run for vice president and is Ms Smith still talking about the country of AFRICA?

    I’m still ROFLMAO.

    That’s all.

  8. Colonel1961 says:

    ‘Do you know a good Chinese Restaurant?’

    Raughing out roud…

    • Confucius says:

      This is how a typical white person acts.

    • Colonel1961 says:

      ror

    • MinnesotaRush says:

      I do know a good Chinese restaurant .. I even took a picture of it .. crick crick …

    • Confucius says:

      More white trash.

    • preparing4theworst says:

      I know a pretty good chinese place….way the hell and gone in southeastern new Mexico, just down the street from an excellent Mexican food place which is around the corner from the Steak house………for pete’s sake…..enchaladas and egg rolls for everyone. egg foo yung muy bueno!

    • Confucius says:

      As an aside, egg rolls and egg foo young aren’t Chinese. All were invented in America (for Americans) like Cheez Whiz and SpaghettiO’s.

      I bet if you looked in the kitchen of the Chinese restaurant, you’ll find Mexican workers. Ditto for the steakhouse.

  9. Anonymoose says:

    Most of these are situational where if someone has a little common sense they won’t be offended. For example, I know several Asian people from places like Malaysia and Taiwan who speak very good English and take being told that as a compliment. OTOH it wouldn’t be for someone born and raised in the US to say that.

    The ones that are deliberate putdowns are mannerisms that predate the Civil Rights era, the only person I’ve known or seen recently using some of these has been Obama with his “typical white person.”

    As for the LGBT people “coming out,” they want it to be personal so you only hear what they want to tell but it’s rude to say you don’t want to know about their personal life. Huh? “I don’t need to hear that” would be exactly what I’d say, followed by “I also don’t care, I’m just here to work.”

    It’s telling the only category that merits “Get to know the person or discuss why the actions may have offended you” is white people.

    • Colonel1961 says:

      I think the second sentence of the second bullet under ‘White Co-workers’ was their response, i.e., not directed at white people but at non-whites.

  10. gipper says:

    “It is always better to be honest and acknowledge your unfamiliarity when you are curious about a person or a topic. It is never inappropriate to build a better working relationship with your co-worker by getting to know them. You can never go wrong by saying ‘I really don’t know that much about…’ or ‘I’m curious about this, would you be offended if I asked you….?’ People will have greater respect for you when you are sincere and admit you are genuinely interested in learning about them.”

    To the transgender-“woman”-not-yet-sexually-reassigned:

    “I’m curious about this, would you be offended if I asked you why your pants have a bulge?”

    • MinnesotaRush says:

      Wow, gipper!!! Me thinks possibly a little too forward. FUNNY as all hell .. but maybe just a little too blunt. LMAO!!! I’m cryin’ here I’m laughin’ so hard …

  11. VMAN says:

    So this black guy (oops African American) walks up to me and says hey Adolph can you tell be where I can get a good bratwurst and what’s a good beer to go with that. We sure did give you guys a good beating in WWII. I really like that Braveheart movie. Do they really not wear anything under those kilts. Oh and can I ax you what’s up with that haggis stuff. As you may have gathered I am of German and Scottish ancestry. This has been a fictional dialogue thank you very much.

    • Reality Bytes says:

      OK! 2 orthodox Jews mug 2 black guys (funny right?). After they run awaywith their wallets the one guy turns to the other and says, “What da hell was that?!”

      “Dat’s Hassidum!”

      “Ha See Dem Too But What Da Hell Are They!?”

      That jokes almost a 100 yrs old. It killed them in the Catskills.

  12. annabetsy says:

    This is hilarious! I haven’t laughed so hard since I heard Gibbs last press conference, which is always very entertaining. Who doesn’t know this stuff? Oh, WAIT! Didn’t Obama refer to his Grandma as a typical white person? Oh well. I guess that section was just in there for a disclaimer.

  13. canary says:

    They should have learned this by now, somewhere between school from birth to college.

    `Let’s get back to work`

    This would offend your co-worker, who is simply trying to get to know your sex gender preferance, to see if you are on the market or what clubs you frequent.
    If you can’t tell them what sex you are, what sexual games you like, be friendly simply respond, ” I’m..so.. like..busy..later. “call me” hand gesture to ear.

    ` You are articulate, or you speak very well. As opposed to what? You may be implying that most African Americans are not well spoken or well educated. Remember a vice presidential candidate made this mistake’.

    WRONG. President George Bush actually said this with a chuckle after Obama’s election

    • That’s how a typical white person acts.

    You are suggesting that all white people are the same by putting them in the same category.

    Remember, Only Obama can say his grandmother was a typical white person in front of the entire world, and continue this verbal sentiment

    • Can you help me out with my landscaping?

    Remember, Only Michello can ask this question in America.

    `In valuing people, there are diverse views; and through openness, awareness and sensitivity, we can begin to understand how our words and actions are perceived by others`.

    ..but, It’s okay for American leaders to discipline you in front of the entire world to blow yourself up, call you a racist coward, tell the world it’s “your” fault (when you can’t defend yourselves)

    • DoctorRock says:

      OT – but I hope you played your horse yesterday. I can’t figure horse racing, so I go with the names. And when I saw “Mine the Bird”…

    • canary says:

      DoctorRock, awesome 50-1, and small horse. I rescued a canary and named him Liberty, of course.

  14. gipper says:

    “African American Coworkers”

    “You are articulate, or you speak very well. As opposed to what? You may be implying that most African Americans are not well spoken or well educated. Remember a vice presidential candidate made this mistake.”

    I am white and can remember being teased by black men in an Army school almost 20 years ago. These young men tried to imitate your typical white guy by enunciating all their words and speaking as sophisticated as possible. They also chanted “Kill the white people!”, which was taken from an Eddie Murphy skit on Saturday Night Live. The funny thing is, I never really felt threatened by them because I didn’t take them seriously and I was friends with one of them.

    “Asian Co-workers”

    “Can you recommend a good Chinese restaurant?”

    I am white, but I am married to woman of Chinese ancestry who was born in Vietnam. She and her family escaped Vietnam in a fishing boat when she was five years old after the fall of Saigon. I don’t think she would at all be offended at the above question. Heck, she could recommend a good Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese restaurant–as could I. (And it wouldn’t be some Americanized Chinese buffet.)

    • MinnesotaRush says:

      Gawd gipper .. I’m still LMAO and crying over your “would you be offended if I asked you why your pants have a bulge?” line. THAT should be chiseled in granite somewhere!!! :-))

  15. oki2 says:

    Asian Co-workers
    • You must be the new IT person. … crap.. I am in IT.
    • You speak English very well, or did you learn to speak English in America? I get asked this one occasionally… fifth generation American. I don’t even call myself Japanese American… just American.
    • What’s your native language? I like to answer “American” because it confuses them.
    • Can you recommend a good Chinese restaurant? No, there is a really nice authentic sushi grocer nearby though.
    • Wow, you are from India! My neighbor Ashok Shah is from India; do you know him? Never got asked if I know someone just because we both have slanted eyes, thankfully.

    I reckon that Americans of Asian descent probably have it easier than the other races. I don’t get a lot of ribbing about my race. Occasionally I get someone who calls my car a riceburner and I do sometimes get asked where I’m from (DETROIT! YAY!).

    • gipper says:

      “You must be the new IT person. … crap.. I am in IT.”

      oki2, My Vietnamese-American brother-in-law works for IBM and my Thai-American best friend is IT for the VA; however, my Asian wife knows her way around Excel and that’s about it. I haven’t had much training in IT, but I am usually the troubleshooter of the household.

  16. BatK says:

    shoot, no one’s ever asked me where they can find a good deli…

  17. GetBackJack says:

    Reminds me of the punch line to an old old joke …. “Well, then I guess a bl****b is out of the question.”

  18. MinnesotaRush says:

    And for the $100,000 question .. did these libwits put this little “DIVERSITY SPOTLIGHT” project together at home for extra credit; or did they do it AT the office while we were paying them (to PLAY office)???

  19. AmericanIPA says:

    Damned shame I work alone and won’t be able to use this sage advice on my co-workers. But the next time I run into a Chinese fag, I’ll try to be more sensitive. We have a good mosaic working here and I would hate to screw it up by saying something I really mean.

    • proreason says:

      “But the next time I run into a Chinese fag, I’ll try to be more sensitive.”

      LMAO

  20. 64dodger says:

    I read this to my wife Sunday morning. What a hoot. We laughed until are bellies almost exploded.

    Do any of these fools have a brain between them?

    This would make a great comedy routine for SNL.

  21. professorjwn says:

    Wow, this made me ROTFL!!!!

    Who wrote this, Ted Kennedy, Robert KKK Byrd, or Bill Clinton?

    Amazing somebody could actually think like that.

    Supports my belief that some Democrap voters and ALL elected officials are “not right in the head!” Sorry “tiched” for you southerners.

    I am prejudice against prejudice people!!

    The Dems see everybody by color…..makes me ill.


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