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This happened in a friend's workplace long ago, so I don't have full details anymore, but I've recalled it and noted I wouldn't really know how to handle the case.

In a big restaurant with several employees, there is a "call announcement" now and then, where one employee (who's not in a management or supervisory role) calls some other employees by name to organize tasks, such as "Andrew, please clean male bathroom #2", "Brenda, please start preparing ingredient X", and so on. Several different people do this announcement every day, using a microphone and some speakers in the kitchen that don't carry to the customer area.

Now, I'm not sure if this was a one-time event, or if it became a recurring thing. But for the purpose of this question, let's say that Joe was going to make one such announcement and he does such as:

"Andrew, please clean male bathroom #2, Skunky whore please start preparing ingredient X..."

In plain terms, he replaced a colleague's name with an insult. It was not a mean nickname, it was a deliberate and intentional insult when almost all employees (but no customers) could hear him. The person involved was on bad terms with Joe so this wasn't just "for fun".

But how should a manager address this situation? Specifically:

  1. Should the manager interrupt the announcement to prevent other people being called non-names names?
  2. How should Joe be approached about this?
  3. Should the unnamed person be informed that Joe was reprimanded? Should the manager apologize on the company's behalf?
  4. The difficult one: What if the manager is newly arrived in the restaurant, and this is a recurring behavior by several offending employees? I.e. there are plenty of non-offenders, many of which are being offended, but no time to tell those apart.

One particularly impulse I'd have but seems out of fashion would be to interrupt Joe and ask to talk to him in private. So, I would prevent further offense on spot, avoid a public reprimand, but make clear enough for everyone that action was taken. So offended people don't think his behavior was tolerated and I'd like to avoid letting this become a cultural thing.

  • It happened once or was a regular thing? – Solar Mike Apr 15 at 18:20
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    @SolarMike OP says in the question, "I'm not sure if this was a one-time event, or if it became a recurring thing". – F1Krazy Apr 15 at 18:32
  • @SolarMike : As per the question, I don't know. This was told to me by a person who was a recent hire at that place, and I'm no longer in close contact with this person. – Mefitico Apr 15 at 18:33
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    If that actually happened (which I somehow doubt given the murkiness of the backstory) this would not be a recurring event since any decent manager would either fire Joe on the spot or issue a dire warning that any type recurrence will lead to immediate dismissal. – Hilmar Apr 15 at 20:04
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    @guest : Country is Brazil, AFAIK no action was taken on spot. The person who told me was shocked with the situation but did not mention any kind of management speech that would imply actions were taken. Could be the case that management simply wasn't there to act at the time and did not care to investigate afterwards. – Mefitico Apr 16 at 12:24
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I would immediately and emphatically shut him down, finish the announcement myself, take him for a one-on-one discussion about the type of employee he wants to be. At that point I'd assess his reaction to this discussion and his record to determine if this was a last straw or not (typically this wouldn't be an out of the blue from someone with good professionalism). For the rest of the staff I'd bring it up in start of shift meeting the next day that a certain level of professionalism and courtesy amongst co-workers is expected at all times; if Joe were fired I'd follow it up with "Joe and (company) have parted ways, should you see him in here in the future please treat him as you would any other customer."

The cost of embarrassing him by putting him on the spot is much lower than being seen to accept toxic behavior in the workplace. Also if he is pulling this garbage in front of everyone how is he treating these people in one-on-one interactions.

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    If this announcement happened with customers present, I'd be quite confident that a few of the customers would suggest exactly that to the manager. – gnasher729 Apr 15 at 18:55
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    @gnasher729 I hadn't even considered someone doing this in front of customers. I would probably lose my mind. – Myles Apr 15 at 19:39
  • @gnasher729 : I've clarified the question to state that no customer hears these announcements. – Mefitico Apr 16 at 11:43
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After Joe finished, the Manager should directly say on the intercom "Joe, please come to my managers office", and announce who takes the superivosory position for the rest of the Day.

If its immediately possible (depending on legislation and contract) walk Joe off the premises trough the front door. If not, we know who will take care of the bathrooms for next months until he quits.

(To be clear, while other insults may not demand such a reaction, "Skunky whore" is enough over the top for no second chance).

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Should the manager interrupt the announcement to prevent other people being called non-names names?

Interrupting is quite impossible. "Skunky whore" takes less than 2 seconds to pronounce. If the manager would attempt interrupting, he would actually interrupt (probably) "preparing ingredient". That would be useless.


How should Joe be approached about this?

  • The manager should have a face-to-face meeting with Joe, and explain that such behavior is definitely not welcome in the restaurant;
  • Also, the manager will make it clear to Joe that Joe has to apologize for his behavior to the unnamed person;
  • The unnamed person is invited to the private meeting, to allow Joe to apologize;
  • Organize an event with all employees, where the manager explains (again) the code of good conduct, and the behaviors which will not be allowed. The manager will make a reference to the recent incident, so everybody understands that some action was taken about it;

I've witnessed a somehow similar situation, and manager handled the situation in the way described, and I think it was the best. Some things must be public to all employees, but some things should remain private.

Should the unnamed person be informed that Joe was reprimanded? Should the manager apologize on the company's behalf?

The unnamed person is informed, see previous topic. The manager does not need to explicitly apologize, if the things are done the way I've described. He can do it though, if he so chooses.

The difficult one: What if the manager is newly arrived in the restaurant, and this is a recurring behavior by several offending employees? I.e. there are plenty of non-offenders, many of which are being offended, but no time to tell those apart.

The manager must act as a manager, regardless of his employment time with the current company. Make it clear to everyone which are rules of good behavior, making sure that they are followed.

The most obvious tools a manager has: praises, reprimands, bonuses, penalties. Ultimately, a manager can fire a very rebel employee.

Of course, ideally, the manager will try to understand WHY the things happen in that way, and might want to try to help his employees solve their problem in a more civilized way. In that sense, the manager starts walking the way of leadership also.


While interrupting the offensive words might not be possible, the manager can act promptly when the issue happens, and trigger the actions I described above. That would be a clear message to the employees that the manager is not willing to allow uncivilized behavior at the work place, and that he promotes a healthy and fair work environment.

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  • Let me add that the manager (if new) should defintely make sure that he has not understood something wrong and that there is no emplyoee named similarily to "skunky whore"! This may seem silly, but on this site there have been questions regarding employees with names which sound in English language like four-letter-words. Making a mistake in this regards could be dangerous for the new manager. – guest Apr 16 at 15:01
  • Also, even if the person referred to as "skunky whore" doesn't mind it (maybe the two of them exchange insults regularly, but it's all in fun), the manager should point out that it can make other employees feel uncomfortable. – mhwombat Apr 16 at 18:06
  • @mhwombat: you are mostly right. However, behavior at work is supposed (or at least happens) to be different compared to the behavior outside work. What is acceptable at home (walking wearing only underwear or naked) might not be acceptable at the work place. Language needs adjustment too. Example: I was traveling with a friend, and we had a pretended-aggressive chat. Some people around were ready to intervene and stop us - but we reverted to politically-correct behavior, and explained that nothing was wrong. – virolino Apr 17 at 4:48

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