“I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes,” Fehrnstrom responded. “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.” These words were recently said by a Romney campaign advisor, and, regardless of your political leanings, we would all likely agree the advisor would like to use an Etch A Sketch to redo his statement.
Have you ever said or written something you regretted and wished you could take it back? We all have at some point. Being accountable for our words and actions in the workplace (and elsewhere) is absolutely critical. I have been spending more and more time coaching executives who misbehave and at the end of the day, it is typically their words that get them in trouble.
The reality is, Etch A Sketch is just a toy and we have to live with the consequences of our words.
Here are some reminders for HR and management:
1. Please do not think of your direct reports as your family – your family doesn’t sue you for harassment or discrimination because of your jokes or comments.
2. Don’t assume that just because someone hasn’t complained, that everything you say or do is ok. Employees are not required under any harassment laws to tell the offending person to stop.
3. Remember your role – you have power. Power to change the terms and conditions of someone’s employment.
4. Saying “I was only joking” doesn’t help. You say it often enough and clearly you aren’t joking or know when to stop.
5. Pay attention to people’s reactions to jokes, comments, stories, etc. Often you can tell by watching the nonverbal to see how someone responds to you and what you said.