Cultural and Religious Differences
your desktop screensaver. . . . Well, I’m afraid that it’s made some of your coworkers a bit uncomfortable. I haven’t seen it myself, but I have to respect the fact that others ﬁnd it to be totally natural and beautiful, of course, yet a bit too explicit. In fact, I was told by more than one person that they’re not quite comfortable coming into your cubicle at this point. The people who asked me to address this felt very badly and really were uncomfortable asking me to intervene. Of course, we’re all happy for you and for little Ashley, it’s just that that particular display shows off a bit more of you than others expected to see. Under the circumstances, would you consider no longer displaying that particular photo as your screensaver and maybe using a picture of the baby instead?
Again, the challenge in a case like this is that breast-feeding is indeed fully natural and absolutely beautiful. That being said, not everyone chooses to have children and instead prefers to keep those kinds of images outside of the workplace. Your approach here is caring and sincere, and people will typically respond in kind. That same approach would work with the gentleman who displays photos of his wife on the beach in a bikini or who leaves copies of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition on his coffee table. In short, it’s not up to you to dictate what’s right or wrong. It’s simply a matter of sharing the perception that people may be uncomfortable or even offended by the material. It would be difﬁcult for an employee to respond, ‘‘Well, people shouldn’t feel uncomfortable simply seeing pictures of me breast-feeding my newborn/the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated/the newest Victoria’s Secret catalog on my coffee table.’’ People will typically ‘‘get’’ that others may be offended and, out of respect for others’ concerns, remove the screensaver or magazine and replace it with something else. If you’re challenged by someone who insists that she has the right to display a breast-feeding photo or a revealing photo of her husband in a Speedo, then don’t rush to judgment. If your ﬁrst conversation results in deﬁance (after all, some people are just like that), then let the individual know that you’ll want to look into this further with the help of human resources or general management. You’ll likely ﬁnd that before you have to readdress the issue with the individual, she’ll come to you and conﬁrm that she’s thought about it and agrees to remove the photo. Even if that doesn’t occur, let a third party (typically HR) come in and lay down the law. Since you have to continue supervising this individual, it’s best if you’re not viewed as the unilateral disciplinarian and decision maker. Once that third party conﬁrms that the screensaver or
101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees