Dear Amy: I recently changed careers. I am a new hire at my place of employment. Most of my co-workers are old enough to be my parents or grandparents and have been working there for more than 10 years.
I have noticed a clash in personality with most of my co-workers. I am quite reserved and professional, while during breaks and downtime, they speak and act as if they are in a rowdy bar. I try to be friendly and sociable with them, but it is hard, mostly due to our age difference.
It has become increasingly difficult lately, as their personal and political beliefs have come out in conversation. I am a very progressive person, but some of my co-workers have expressed some extremely racist and classist views that make me very uncomfortable.
I have bitten my tongue during these discussions, but my conscience is telling me I am not being a good ally by keeping my mouth shut.
I am not afraid of losing my job over my different opinions, but I am afraid of being snubbed and shunned, as I’ve noticed most of the minorities at our workplace have been.
My bosses and co-workers place importance on social activities, arranging cookouts at our office and nights out. I have been very cautious about interacting socially, especially after hearing those racist views.
I enjoy my job, and the benefits are great. I would like to be comfortable at work.
I don’t feel as if my bosses could do anything about this, as most of the racist talk has come from people who are employed by the city, and not directly by our company.
Should I avoid social interactions, or should I speak out about my disapproval of their racism?
— New Girl with Moral Dilemma
Dear New Girl: Yes, you should speak out. It is shocking that government employees would feel comfortable expressing racist views in the workplace. I am distinguishing between people expressing political viewpoints, and those who are openly racist. There is a wide difference between the two.
The workplace is not the place to express one’s racist thoughts. This behavior is unprofessional and unacceptable, and it is unethical for you to stay silent.
I think you should also make note of some of these incidents, in order to advocate for change. Your bosses should absolutely crack down on this.
If you are shunned for speaking out, then count yourself lucky. You would then be relieved from the pressure of spending any leisure time with these people.
Also, look for a different job.