June 22, 2009

It's A Fine Line Between Discretion And Cowardice

Scene: [The office, by the coffee machine. Morning. ENTER Transplanted Lawyer and a Co-Worker.]

Transplanted Lawyer: "Hey, 65-year-old co-worker, I see you got a tattoo on your forearm this weekend! That's very cool!"

Co-Worker: "Yeah, Younger Co-Worker gave it to me over the weekend! See, here's the cross, on top of the Star of David, and behind them, the flag with the original thirteen stars. I didn't want to get all fifty because she did them last and it was starting to hurt."

TL: "I think thirteen would have been enough! The bruising doesn't look too bad."

CW: "No, and I usually bruise up pretty good. But it was kind of fun."

[ENTER Paralegal]

Paralegal: "You know, I've thought about getting a tattoo myself. But I'd want an anklet, something that looks like an anklet. Isn't there a rule here at work about no visible tattoos?"

CW: "Well, no one's said anything to me about that. If they want me to roll down my sleeve, I'd do it at work, but I got this tattoo for a reason."

TL: [Waves hands and shakes head at Paralegal in "no-no-no-no-no-no" gesture. Is ignored.]

PA: What was that?

CW: [Progressively faster and louder] "Our President really pissed me off when he said that this wasn't a Christian nation. So I said--"

TL: [Interrupts] "Hold it, hold it. We need to stop here."

PA: [To TL] "Huh?"

CW: [To PA] "What I said was, the President said this wasn't a--"

TL: "This is the part of the conversation where everyone can still go back to work happy. I'd like it to stay that way."

[All pause for a beat.]

CW: "Oh. I mean, this is my way of saying --"

TL: [Interrupts again] "And you're absolutely entitled to say it. I'll just head on over to my office now and get back to work on that motion." [EXITS.]


Bear in mind two things:

First, TL is not a partner of this firm but does have quasi-supervisory authority over both CW and PA. This means he can tell them to do things, and they're supposed to do them. But TL does not have the independent authority to impose discipline or dispense rewards, although he is known to have the ear of those who do hold that authority.

Second, no one actually articulated an opinion on the "Christian nation" issue. Some might say this is a distinction without a difference, since at least as to the basic issue, it was perfectly obvious how both TL and CW felt, and it should have been obvious that both had very strong feelings.

Now, do you think TL was...
A) ...exercising appropriate discretion and wisdom for a workplace, or
B) ...passing up a good opportunity for a productive exchange of thoughts, or
C) ...shrinking needlessly from a confrontation?

Follow-up question: If you think TL did the wrong thing here, what would you have done in his place?


Anonymous said...

Definitely A.
People don't seem to understand that freedom of expression includes my right not to listen to their issues.

DaveBuck said...

A! I have to work very hard to avoid B but at work, I can do it. You set the right example in front of other employees/colleagues. People tend to imitate what's been modeled by people they respect. Perhaps you'll see more appropriate discretion in the future because of your reaction here.

Oh yeah....Christian nation....*rolls eyes*.