One of the disadvantages of political correctness is that more terms are added to the list almost daily. Because of this, almost everyone utters a politically incorrect statement due to ignorance. Dealing with coworkers who knowingly use such comments or words can be a bit tough. By using some guidelines, taking on political incorrectness in the workplace should not be too taxing.
Determine how frequently the offenses occur.
A slip of the tongue does not need much attention. When the occasional comment becomes regular usage, it is time to act. People who continually make politically incorrect statements are usually looking for attention. The flip side is that they may be severely prejudiced against an individual or group. Either way, the issue should be addressed and fixed if possible.
What is the person’s motivation for making the comments?
The reason behind improper words or comments is important. It could be as simple as the person was raised in a generation where certain ways of referencing something were considered okay. A little education can go a long way with this type of issue. If this is direct effort to make a slur toward a person or group, you need to deal with this decisively and quickly if you are in a position to do so. If you are an equal, you may need to go up the ladder for assistance.
Are you are target of the comments?
If you are a victim in this situation, you may need to handle it slightly more aggressively. First, make sure that you have all of the facts, and that you can report them accurately. It is best if they can be supported by verifiable witnesses. Second, address it with your supervisor with a human resources person being a part of the meeting. Third, make it clear that this behavior cannot be tolerated. Be prepared to take legal action if the problem escalates or persists.
How closely do you work with the person involved?
If the comments are made by someone that you only see once or twice per year, it may not be worth your time to pursue any action. However, if you work along side the person or interact frequently with him or her, you may want to act sooner than later. You may also choose to move more slowly if the comments are made randomly and not directed at you or another coworker.
Try a tactful approach first.
Always try to resolve the problem by just speaking to the individual. Often when a problem is pointed out, it goes away. A gentle approach gives the other person a chance to change without being overly embarrassed or reprimanded. You can always crank up the intensity later.
Recruit a partner during the second attempt to confront the offender.
Be willing to make more than one attempt if the politically incorrect comments are annoying and frequent. Make sure that the second round happens with you and at least one more person. Two or three more people can have a greater impact.
Go up the ladder.
Going to the boss is never a problem. In fact, you may find that the problem is already being addressed and action is coming. Most good supervisors and managers can handle these kinds of reports without it looking bad on the whistle blower.
Be willing to file a grievance.
Most companies have a grievance process if you feel that satisfaction is not forthcoming. You can do the paperwork and go through the channels. You concerns will be examined and a response will come. Be prepared that it may not be to your liking if the guilty person is well liked or a high performance employee.
Decide if legal help is needed.
Lawyers can always be called in. Be prepared that you may have to shell out cash to go this route. You may find legal help through your state government. Other agencies like the ACLU may also be willing to respond to your need.
You may have to move on to a new employer.
The bad news is that even if you get the problem resolved, it may leave you in poor standing with your current employer. This is why it is best to take care of this type of issue at the lowest rung possible on the corporate ladder. You could win the battle but lose the war. If the comments are not directed at you, a family member, or a close friend, it might be best to just give fixing the problem a shot and learn to live with it. You have to judge the level that you are willing to get involved.