“Don Cherry Fired After Toxic ‘You People’ Rant…” the headlines wrote. He is known for and often revered for his outspoken and passionate outpourings about Canada. His fans argued that he was not trying to offend anyone or any group. He was ‘saying it as he saw it’.
Nonetheless, his November 9 comments were the demise of his employment relationship with SportsNet.
We’ve seen it happen in public forums, but what about in private businesses?
Can stating your opinion get you fired?
When it comes to discrimination it doesn’t matter what your intent is, the only thing that matters is the effect. Whether on public television or in a small lunchroom, assigning negative characteristics to a single person or group of individuals based off of a protected ground in the Human Rights Code will always put you in hot water.
Though it may feel like his dismissal was a punishment for having alternative viewpoints to the mainstream. What is being censored though, is the over simplifying and broad generalizations that cause negative affects to individuals and people groups.
As a business, when dealing with comments made by an employee that are discriminatory, vexatious and considered harassment, the organization must consider how it affects the reputation of the company?
It’s not about Cherry’s opinion not being allowed to be voiced. In the privacy of friends and family, or on a personal podcast, he can speak for himself. But while under the employ of SportsNet, the organization needs to determine if they can stand behind what Cherry says and trust him to accurately act in a way that represents the best interests of the business and their customers.
“Today’s generation is too sensitive,” many Cherry supporters would argue. They say that they grew up in an era where you could say whatever was on your mind and no body got upset about it.
We are living in a completely different country from any other historical Canadian generation. We are more diverse than ever before. We have over come many discriminatory practices that alienated people and treated them as less. Being Canadian now is recognizing all of what makes up our evolving cultural landscape.
Tips for Managing an Outspoken Employee
Perhaps you have a “Don Cherry” who lacks a filter and rides the line of “the inappropriate” much too closely for anyone’s comfort. Here are some tips for managing a conversation:
A Manager cannot ignore these comments. Doing so will not only make it appear that you (possibly) agree, but that voicing vexatious statements that ought known to be unwelcome are allowed with in the workplace. Make it clear that above all, your workplace is looking to bring people together, not erect walls and dividers.
Start with clear expectations by having a conversation with them about their comments. You need to tell them that while they are representing the company, they need to abide by all the rules. Refer to the company’s code of ethics or harassment policy.
Depending on the situation, severity and history, consider disciplinary action. The disciplinary action might be directly related to harassment or it may be more nuanced surrounding company values and code of conduct.
Provide behaviour based training. This can be delivered online or in person where remedial or corrective action and assistance has been identified as a means of resolution and workplace restoration. Sometimes, a need to improve or enhance interpersonal skills and interaction is the best course of action and shows due diligence on the employer’s part. If it’s a systemic issue within the organization, having a person skilled at training that drives inclusive behaviours and imbeds inclusive habits such as the services offered by The Jasmar Group, would benefit the entire organization.
Always record the steps you have taken to help this employee refrain from saying inappropriate things.
Do not promote them into people leadership or public-facing roles until they have demonstrated a willingness to be inclusive and mindful.
Ensuring your employees are speaking and acting in a way to bring teams together is the top priority. Eliminate an environment that makes an individual doubt their own self-worth because of their upbringing, beliefs, culture and values.
So, can your personality get your fired?
Your personality can’t, but the things you say can.
Living in a multicultural world can be a learning experience that overflows into our work environment. As an employer, it is your legal responsibility to ensure that no one in your workplace feels discriminated against. If you would value the security of a team of HR rock stars in your corner, and on your speed dial who can also guide you through situations like this and many more, please reach out! Our partnership retainers start at 5 hours a month and give you the security of having professional resources at the touch of a button!