It’s been a while coming, but I quit work yesterday after finally realizing that I was working for people who, if they happened upon an ornate bottle on the side of the road, and found it contained a magic djinni offering to grant them the greatest riches and pleasures, they would toss the bottle back into the ditch in disgust upon the further realization it was made from plastic containing BPA.
This past week, I was actually feeling pretty good about the work situation. Sunday night, I checked my email, and here is what I saw (names changed, some information redacted to avoid potential legal issues—redactions and embellishments are non-italicized) :
I noticed two things you’ve done recently that many of us would consider insensitive and/or offensive and wanted to point them out quickly and explain so you can avoid similar things moving forward.
One thing is your addition of “(Attack Helicopter)” to your display name on Slack, in the exact format in which many of us have included our preferred personal pronouns. This is pretty clearly mocking the practice of using non-traditional pronouns and therefore also the people who choose to do so. I’m hoping this was not your intention, but regardless I wanted to make sure you now understand that that’s how everyone is going to receive it which is obviously not ok.
The other thing was your comment in Long Dong Silver’s card about the sex change operation. For some of us, sex reasignment surgeries are a real, important, and meaningful thing, a part of a probably painful personal struggle. So to make a joke of them would be offensive to a lot of people, and not just those with gender identity struggles. Of course it would have been fine to include in a personal note to LDS, which I know is what you were doing, but this was in a public workplace setting where others would be exposed to it, which makes it not ok.
In this case I’m quite sure your comment had no intentional disrespect behind it, and so I wanted to be sure to point it out and explain how people would be offended by it so you can begin to see this kind of thing for yourself from now on.
I really need you to be much more careful about this stuff. Both Karen and I, and I think LDS as well, have had conversations with you about how important it is to us to maintain a thoroughly inclusive and respectful workplace, and I think it’s clear that your sensitivity meter is not calibrated the way we need it to be. So I guess you’ll just have to over-correct and play it really safe in workplace settings. Your humor in particular often approaches or crosses the line of workplace-acceptability, so you should be especially vigilant there.
I really hope you can make it work because we can not have you on the team if this kind of thing is going to keep happening.
For you this is probably an uncomfortable burden, but I have to believe that you would rather carry that than to offend or make any of our teammates feel unwelcome.
Happy to talk more about this if you want to, but otherwise I just need an acknowledgement from you that you think you can keep it clean from here on out. We’re about to do some awesome stuff together and I don’t want this to get in the way.
Just to clarify, there was no sex change operation literally involved; I was making a comment on how the number two cause of death in the US is from “complications” during hospital stays. You know, a guy goes in for minor surgery to repair a broken something, and instead comes out with an extra pair of boobs and missing a penis. Mistakes are often made, and minor surgery is when it is done to someone else, other than you.
Attack Helicopter! It cracks me up every time I read it. I was born a human to human parents, but I now identify as an AH-64D. Hilarious, but I am not making fun of people who have actual identity issues. No, I am mocking those men among us who identify as (him, he) as if there were ever any ambiguity. It’s like adding a victim pin to your jewel encrusted crown because you heard victims were special. Nobody is taking you seriously. We should all have the courage to mock you, not just me.
Then, another thing! There is no mention of any issues or problems related to the quality or value of my work. No, they want my skills, my Ph.D., my decades of technical experience for their benefit, but they don’t want me. It’s hard to not be at least a little offended by that sort of position. Please come to work everyday and contribute value, but be sure to do it as a worker drone, void of personality, bereft of passion and imagination, and in exchange for your mental bondage, we will reward you one shiny nickel each week.
So, I replied (redactions and embellishments are non-italicized):
Hey, you whose name I have removed and I wonder how your spouse puts up with you, I get your point, and I understand your concerns, and I would like to reassure you that I will do better, but I’m a goof and I sometimes say things without thinking them all the way through. It’s never my intention to deliberately offend anyone,—well, sometimes it is—and you are asking me to not be myself, to abandon my personality, which is something that is fundamental to who I am. It is apparent to me that I am not a good fit with the culture of this company, and I think I should resign now and save everyone the potential of future conflict. Today will be my last day with Sack of Sensitive Sorrows Inc.
The team has a lot of work to do, and I wish everyone the best of luck going forward.
This company is trying to develop a complex product on a very tight timeline, and to do so requires someone of my particular skills and experience. Without me, their probability of success is significantly diminished. Rather than choosing to be successful, they instead chose to nit pick, to be right and score a piric moral victory. Obviously, I was being sarcastic when I wished them the best of luck. Failure may not be in their imagination, but it’s definitely in their future.