I just found out my boss made offensive and racist comments. I find his behavior disgusting and I don’t want to work for him anymore, however, I am under contract and don’t have a lot of options right now. What do I do?
This is Mme HR’s fantasy land where a professional basketball player would write to her and ask her advice. Go with me people. But I think that all of us, at one point in our career, have hit that point where we are exposed to some dirty naughty bits that don’t sit right and we have to make a decision. Do we live with it or do we go? And if we go, storm out in a cloud of moral outrage, where do we go?
You’d have to be living in a cave to not have heard about Donald Sterling, billionaire owner of the NBA team the LA Clippers. Allegedly, Mr. Sterling (which incidentally is not his real last name, he changed it to Sterling from something that ended in –witz) told his mixed race girlfriend to get rid of all the pictures of black people on her Instagram and not to bring them to Clipper games. Even perennial LA local hero and smiley-pie Magic Johnson is not welcome at Clipper games. Supposedly, or allegedly, or whatever.
And if you are from LA, or live in LA, or want to live in LA than you know not to rent in one of Sterling’s apartment buildings! Ha! Ba-dum-dum. Cuzlook, when this story broke there wasn’t anyone out there saying: “That doesn’t sound like something Donald Sterling would say.” Sterling has been sued for sexual harassment more times than our other favorite (not) NBA boss, Isaiah Thomas. He’s a slumlord and I guess a bit of a maverick, but I suppose working your way up from being the son of a grocer in Boyle Heights to being a billionaire whose last name is Sterling doesn’t happen by accident.
Maybe I’m cynical, 12 years in HR does tend to take a toll on you in the whole faith in humanity department. So when I say that if you think you can quit your job because the CEO is a racist evil asshole and you are going to go out there and find a new job where the CEO isn’t a racist evil asshole you are dreaming, does that make me cynical? And maybe it’s not racist, maybe it’s sexist or money grubbingist, or some other ist, but look, like I said before, these guys don’t get where they are by accident.
I remember having a conversation with one of the CFOs I worked with. He was truly in a moral dilemma because when he had gone on a business trip with the CEO he witnessed the CEO soliciting a prostitute. The married CEO. Because I’m a pragmatist, I couldn’t really help him beyond the commiseration in the moral outrage department. He’s the CEO, he likes call girls. Is he a good CEO? (In this case, no). Is the company succeeding? (In this case, no). So what are you going to do? What can you live with? Can you still look at yourself in the mirror? The CFO left, by the way, but more I think because the company was tanking than the CEO’s adultery.
So what should the Clippers do? They don’t have a lot of options. They can stop playing, great, but they really only hurt themselves as they are in the midst of round 1 of the playoffs. They can ask to be traded, but that can’t really happen until the season is over. They can protest, make symbolic gestures like the one they made on Sunday where they dropped their uniform jackets in the middle of the court and wore their practice jersey’s inside out. I think ultimately, as the worker bee in this scenario, all they can do is keep working. Yes, it’s demotivating and crappy as hell, but what are you going to do? Jeff van Gundy, analyst for ABC and all around white guy blowhard kept lamenting over and over that they should “do something.” One of his suggestions was to sit in silence on the bench for 15 minutes. Um…ok… they could just sit there while the game is starting? The other team, would be like, “hey guys,” bounce, bounce, bounce, “wanna play?”
We can’t all work for Mother Theresa. Wait, is she hiring? This is the world we live in. CEOs are evil (mostly), rich people are evil (sometimes) and it sucks. Here’s how I handle it because I’ve had to swallow my share of shit over the years. I focus on my co-workers, my teammates, and my customers, the other employees. I show up for them, I work for them, I hope that I contribute something for them. So Clippers, play for each other and play for your fans, focus on that. Hopefully Sterling will get his, but let’s keep it real, how do you punish a billionaire asshole? Take him to court? He would LOVE for you to take him to court. He cut his teeth in this world as a personal injury lawyer. Fine him? Ok, but it’s probably chump change to him. Embarrass him? Again, good luck, his reputation is already pretty bad (see personal injury lawyer above).
That’s what really sucks, because there isn’t something you can do to this guy to truly give him what he deserves. Let’s hope that God’s got that covered on the other side. So, you just gotta keep doing what you gotta do, you feel me? It’ll be ok, don’t hold yourself accountable for his disgustingness. Milk ain’t free.