5
   

I think I've witnessed racism in another department

 
 
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 12:51 pm
Something at work has been bothering me for a very long time so I figured I'd come back to my old friends here at A2K to talk about it. Let me see if I can start from the beginning.

My group, a development group, has to work very closely with another group that supports our application as well as others. They do deployments and monitor and respond to alarms on the servers that host our application. Their titles include the word "developer" as they are supposed to have some basic programming background so that they can write scripts and automate processes and that sort of thing.

A little more than a year ago they re-hired someone, I'll call him J, for their group who had quit previously without giving notice and while he was on call, leaving the other two to scramble to cover for him. He was re-hired over their objections. Shortly after, we were told he would replace M, a more than capable guy who we trusted, as our primary contact for support. We had difficulty communicating with J almost immediately, both verbally and in writing, and quickly realized that he was bordering on technical incompetence. However, he reports up through a different chain so there wasn't anything we could do about it. We remained in contact with M and tried to direct J to M for guidance on our application.

It continued like this for the year until J was promoted to team lead over M and D, the other support person. Conflict was inevitable and noticeable due to the obvious lack of respect M and D have for J's technical and leadership skills but also because of cultural differences. J seemed to have a particular hatred for M, for reasons I don't know about. When J was promoted, they opened a req for another support person because J took himself out of the on-call rotation. At the same time, the person who had been acting as one of our client contacts for our application (we'll call him A) found out his job was being eliminated. He has no technical background, but was encouraged to apply for the support position based on his knowledge of the application. He got the job and was quickly hyped up as the deputy leader of the group, so to speak, at least with respect to our application (where most of their work is right now). He was given visible projects and lauded for every success. He began to notice a stark difference in the way J spoke to him versus the way J spoke to M and D. He found that he was given leeway to question decisions and argue with J but that the other two had reaped disciplinary threats for similar but milder behavior. M was once threatened with a write-up for a harmless technical mistake, while mistakes made by J or A were deemed "learning opportunities". In conversations between myself and J, I was taken aback by his willingness to say negative things about M's and D's abilities and skills, while praising those of A, who again has no technical background. J also has an issue with tone, especially in email, which I assume is innocent but doesn't help the situation. He once addressed me via email in a tone that it took me 10 revisions to respond to without using expletives.

If you haven't figure it out yet, J and A are of one race and M and D are of another. About two weeks ago M was fired for "performance" reasons. I am just an observer and know only what I see and what each of them tells me, and I have obvious personal preferences which cloud my perception, but this situation reeks of racism to me. I have no idea who I can speak to about it or what I would say. Again they report up through another group and my information is limited. I have nothing in writing and I don't know if there is some other reason for the decisions that were made, but it has really been bothering me for a long time. I find myself hoping that M sues us. Any suggestions?
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 5 • Views: 2,202 • Replies: 26
No top replies

 
roger
 
  2  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 01:03 pm
Nothing useful. Keep hoping M sues. Otherwise, document communications between you, J, and M, just in case they write something that absolutely reveals their incompetence or racism. If you shoot, don't miss.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 01:08 pm
@FreeDuck,
Is there an HR function at your company? You should be able to report your observations to them, hopeful in a confidential manner.
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 01:15 pm
@engineer,
engineer wrote:

Is there an HR function at your company? You should be able to report your observations to them, hopeful in a confidential manner.


There is, but I have reservations about talking with them since it isn't something that directly affects me. Also, M went to HR before he was fired, though he didn't make racism accusations. He just told them that he felt there were personal differences that were making it hard for him to do his job. They were supposed to mediate but didn't, or maybe they investigated and determined M was at fault, I don't really know. It's just one of those things where I don't want to make an accusation not knowing all of the facts because I'm not personally involved. And if they have concerns about being sued they might not be very welcoming of my observations.
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 01:22 pm
@FreeDuck,
I guess it comes down to your faith in the HR department, but our HR group is always looking for corroborating evidence in cases like these. Outside observers pointing out issues lends more weight to the initial complaint. I doubt they are worried about being sued unless they are already aware of an issue, but if they decide your comments have merit, they could do something to head off a lawsuit like rehiring the guy or awarding a severance package. There is also the other team member to consider.
0 Replies
 
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 01:26 pm
listening
0 Replies
 
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 01:40 pm
@FreeDuck,
Quote:
If you haven't figure it out yet, J and A are of one race and M and D are of another. About two weeks ago M was fired for "performance" reasons.


Seems like D is the cornerstone here and should be your guide as to how you proceed from here.

If you have a good relationship with D, you might ask D out to lunch and try to work the subject of M and J into the conversation to see what perspective D adds to the formula. Based on what D says or doesn't want to discuss, take your cue from that.

D might welcome the additional support in his/her effort to either bring the issue to management (with you as a witness) or keep the issue quiet (while using you as a sounding board) so s/he can keep the job in this bad economy. You may even find out that there really were some performance problems with M that you weren't aware of.

If you don't have that kind of relationship with D, stay out of it and continue observing and recording incidents. Try to let D know that you are noticing things and are available to talk with should the need arise.
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 01:45 pm
@Butrflynet,
Also, how long have you worked there? Long enough to have a pretty good idea of what is the company culture? If you have friends in other groups or locations, try to get an idea from them if it is a common occurrence for people of M and D's race to be passed over for promotions in your company.
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 01:49 pm
@Butrflynet,
I agree that D is the one I should be worried about. Previous conversations with him indicate that he feels marginalized, thinks J has racist tendencies if not motivations, but is scared of losing his job, especially since M was fired. He's been really keeping to himself since and looks borderline depressed, so maybe asking him out to lunch isn't such a bad idea.

I know from speaking with M in the last few months that he had kind of given up. He felt targeted, so his work motivation went from "do a good job" to "don't make any mistakes they can use against you". You never get the best out of people if they think you're gunning for them. I'm quite sure they would not have fired him if they didn't have some kind of corroboration, but performance measures don't seem to be applied equally to each team member.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 01:53 pm
@Butrflynet,
Butrflynet wrote:

Also, how long have you worked there? Long enough to have a pretty good idea of what is the company culture? If you have friends in other groups or locations, try to get an idea from them if it is a common occurrence for people of M and D's race to be passed over for promotions in your company.


I don't think it's uniform across the company. From what I can tell this is the only group that appears to have issues. Morale has been noticeably very low for at least a year -- enough that people have commented openly about it. Others have had problems when they were in this group but were able to get moved to another group, where they flourished and were promoted. M was trying to move to another group at the time he was fired.
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 01:53 pm
Quote:
At the same time, the person who had been acting as one of our client contacts for our application (we'll call him A) found out his job was being eliminated. He has no technical background, but was encouraged to apply for the support position based on his knowledge of the application. He got the job and was quickly hyped up as the deputy leader of the group, so to speak, at least with respect to our application (where most of their work is right now). He was given visible projects and lauded for every success. He began to notice a stark difference in the way J spoke to him versus the way J spoke to M and D. He found that he was given leeway to question decisions and argue with J but that the other two had reaped disciplinary threats for similar but milder behavior. M was once threatened with a write-up for a harmless technical mistake, while mistakes made by J or A were deemed "learning opportunities".


Sounds like A is also a possibility. It appears that you've already talked with A about this a bit since you're able to describe his observations of the situation. Did A express an opinion about the difference in treatment given to M and D?

If there is a problem there, it sounds as if it is up the next level of the chain. J's supervisor hired him over M, promoted him over M and gives preferential disciplinary treatment of J and A over M and D.
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 01:59 pm
@Butrflynet,
Butrflynet wrote:

Sounds like A is also a possibility. It appears that you've already talked with A about this a bit since you're able to describe his observations of the situation. Did A express an opinion about the difference in treatment given to M and D?

We've talked about it at length and he's dared to drop the 'r' word, but very hush hush. Nobody wants to say it. Whenever anyone does it's always in the strictest confidence. Like D, he needs the job, but only until the end of summer when he graduates. But again, this is my dilemma. If the two of them wouldn't speak up about it, where do I get off sticking my nose in it?

Quote:
If there is a problem there, it sounds as if it is up the next level of the chain. J's supervisor hired him over M, promoted him over M and gives preferential disciplinary treatment of J and A over M and D.

I agree and that's part of the problem. The potential for retaliation from the next level up the chain is high. Someone who was at least conscious of any kind of racial sensitivities would have never put J in that position.
0 Replies
 
sullyfish6
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 02:09 pm
It will be difficult to say there is a race issue unless you have incidences where overt racial comments and/or action can be docmented.

But more importantly, why is J the Golden Boy?

Someone upstairs likes him. It seems J has surrounded himself with people that make him look good. He may be ruthless and self-serving, but apparently he is getting the job done. That's all "upstairs" will care about.

Sorry, but you are not the only person working for an asshole.

Why don't you and the others join together and form your own company?
0 Replies
 
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 02:10 pm
@FreeDuck,
Quote:
Others have had problems when they were in this group but were able to get moved to another group, where they flourished and were promoted.


Any possibility of talking with any of those others that have had the negative experience in that group?

How long has the person at the next level in the chain been with the company? Has s/he been supervisor of that one group the whole time or did s/he work elsewhere before being assigned there? If s/he worked elsewhere, is there a similar track record in those other groups?

Depending on what you can gather about the background and track record of the person, and the willingness of others to open their mouths and go on record, you could approach your group supervisor, the HR department, (or the CEO of the company if it is a smaller company) from the point of view of a preventive advisory: "there is a problem in that work group that needs attention/investigation before our company gets sued."
sullyfish6
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2010 02:16 pm
If people who were fired and/or asked for transfers to another group are of one particular race, you may have a concern to raise, since it indicates a pattern.

Repeated actions, that's what you have to look for.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2010 06:17 am
@Butrflynet,
See, that all sounds like way more involvement than I want. That's the sort of thing I think someone in HR or someone with power over the situation should do. What I'd really like is just to make someone aware without making myself a target. And yeah, I would definitely approach it from a "this isn't good for the company" perspective, as that's exactly what I believe.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2010 06:59 am
@FreeDuck,
Reading with interest. I'm sympathetic all the way across the board -- I get how you feel the need to act but also how hard it is to figure out what to do, exactly. No bright ideas here either though.
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2010 08:28 am
@sozobe,
Thanks for the company, all the same. It helps just to put it down, even if no-one who can fix it will be able to read it.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2010 08:33 am
@FreeDuck,
I'm sympathetic too, with no advice since I see the quandaries.
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2010 08:51 am
@FreeDuck,
U said:
Quote:
Conflict was inevitable and noticeable due to
the obvious lack of respect M and D have for J's technical and leadership skills but
also because of cultural differences
Such lack of respect, "obvious" as u said, render it uncertain whether racial considerations
rendered the negative results that u described.
Members of the same race, or even the same family,
can fight among themselves because of matters relating to lack of respect and thay have done so.

Years ago, I had nabors wherein the father murdered his son
(of the same race) because of issues relating to lack of respect.
 

Related Topics

Dispatches from the Startup Front - Discussion by jespah
Bullying Dominating Coworker - Question by blueskies
Co worker being caught looking at you - Question by lisa1471
Work Place Romance - Discussion by Dino12
Does your office do Christmas? - Discussion by tsarstepan
Question about this really rude girl at work? - Question by riverstyx0128
Does she like me? - Question by jct573
Does my coworker like me? - Question by riverstyx0128
Maintenance training - Question by apjones37643
Personal questions - Discussion by Angel23
Making friends/networking at work - Question by egrizzly
 
  1. Forums
  2. » I think I've witnessed racism in another department
Copyright © 2021 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 06/19/2021 at 09:26:17