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I am currently working in a very small startup (5 people, located in Europe) where the CEO and the other employees have quite “extreme” thoughts.

Every day they spend literally hours talking about weird conspiracy theories and talking bad about black people, women, gay, muslims and so on. I am none of these just to point out I am not taking it personally but anyway I feel really uncomfortable.

I tried to avoid arguing with them as I don’t like lying but this brought to think I am very shy and not interested in the company. I would not let them know my thoughts because I am sure this would lead me to lose the job taking into account how they take seriously these matters.

How could I keep my job, while being honest at the same time?

EDIT: Thanks for your suggestions. I am trying to find another job.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • 8
    Lots of comments here which basically were opinions and commentary. Take those to chat instead of here, thanks. – enderland Apr 12 '17 at 15:33
  • When you say hours every day, do these conversations interfere with productivity? Are deadlines being missed as a result of these discussions? – corsiKa Apr 14 '17 at 22:00
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    Why would you want to keep that job? – DLS3141 Apr 21 '17 at 13:56

12 Answers 12

244

Start looking for a new job. As soon as you have found one, put in your notice and get out as fast as possible. It is very unlikely that these people will change anytime soon, and you certainly don't want to work with them until they do.

Your actual question was "how could I keep my job being at the same time honest?". You could, by just trying to avoid interactions, but my opinion is that you should not keep your job if you can find another.

I'd like to emphasize that you should not just quit. Quietly search for another job first. The advice also assumes that the situation indeed is as extreme as you put it, that your coworkers are literally spending hours every day behaving this way, and that you are not interested in the company.

  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings I agree that "just quit" answers are sometimes a bit too easy to make, but I also interpret this situation as being on the extreme side. I still think that OP should look for another job first, and once that is secured, move on. I assume that "literally hours" means literally hours, and that OP, as stated, is not interested in the company. – Victor Sand Apr 19 '17 at 5:47
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings I do not see anything in that meta discussion that says that it's unacceptable to suggest looking for a new job. I provided an explanation to my advice and never suggested to "just quit". I added another paragraph just now clarifying that even more. – Victor Sand Apr 20 '17 at 5:44
  • The answer should be more than just find a new job. But the edit makes it acceptable. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 20 '17 at 15:44
163

If you want to keep your job and don't want to lie, your last remaining option is basically not getting involved.

Engage with them professionally, make sure to communicate a lot about your actual job and show passion towards your work, but whenever they try to pull you into a discussion that makes you uncomfortable, respond only with "I'm sorry, that is not a topic I will discuss at work."

Then, try to guide the discussion back to work.

All that said; a startup that spends more time on racism than productivity isn't going to last.

21

You can't really change your coworkers. Your only sensible option is to keep your head down, avoid making direct statements, deflect and search for a new job with the utmost priority.

It may be uncomfortable for you, but you yourself acknowledge that direct pushback could get you fired. This job isn't going to work for you, clearly.

12

I'm going to be the skeptic here and doubt the following:

  1. Everyday they spend literally hours talking about weird conspiracy theories and talking bad about black people, women, gay, muslims and so on.

Because you don't get things done talking literally hours.

  1. the CEO and the other employees

Because this is such an archetypical "Me vs the world" situation, you're giving everyone that's not you the same label.

  1. weird conspiracy theories and talking bad about black people, women, gay, muslims and so on

Vague and typical "Me vs the world" again. When people have biases they're usually very narrow, to have "everyone except you" have a large amount of biases against many groups and, again, everyone except you is like this, to me it sounds like you're quite eager to label them.

Either way, it seems that you don't fit, so you got the choice to not interact with them (you will likely become replaceable fast if you isolate yourself) or take your leave, if it's indeed such a stagnant place then nobody has a professional future there.

  • 53
    In a small startup, it's entirely believable: four buddies with similar beliefs start a company, then hire an outsider to fill in a skill gap. – Mark Apr 11 '17 at 18:39
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    If you've never been in an environment like this, it's perfectly understandable to doubt whether they exist, but that doesn't mean they don't actually exist. There's no reason to believe that this startup is actually getting anything done. I've consulted for startups where I didn't even think they should have net 30 terms because there was so little work getting done I didn't think they would last the month. – Todd Wilcox Apr 11 '17 at 18:39
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    This doesn't answer the question. – Ben Crowell Apr 11 '17 at 19:33
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    I don't think the OP is suggesting they sit around in a circle having racist meetings for hours a day. It's quite possible to get work done in the same small office with idle chit-chat throughout the day, most of which, in this case, is racist/sexist/etc. – colmde Apr 12 '17 at 8:50
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    "When people have biases they're usually very narrow" - I don't think this is true. It's pretty common to have the full batch of race, gender, sexual orientation and religion biases. – JollyJoker Apr 13 '17 at 13:31
10

You didn't specify the nature of the work you're doing. Most of the posts on this site are about software development positions, so I'll base my answer on that.

I agree that there seems to be 2 likely outcomes:

  • Confront someone about these issues and risk job loss.
  • Keep your mouth shut and keep your job.

If you choose the latter, is it possible to throw on some headphones and listen to music or podcasts? That way you could keep your job and not be uncomfortable at work.

I've had very similar situations at my current company (although they aren't as extreme as yours). I've had great success with the headphones idea! Try the larger headphones that will block out noise even when there's not currently sound coming through them. I use this style:

enter image description here

If your line of work isn't development or the headphones idea won't work, please try to find another way to block out what's making you uncomfortable. Only in the case you can't find a solution, I'd recommend taking option #1 and talking to someone about. And if you lose your job, so be it. You'll find something better that makes you much happier.

PS, I'm sorry this is happening to you. Good luck to you, friend

  • If this is affecting hiring policies and the like (illegally) they may run the risk of guilt by association, depending on their position. A pair of headphones won't make that go away. – Weckar E. Apr 12 '17 at 8:57
  • I kind of tried to cover that when I mentioned, "if unable to find a solution to blocking what's making you uncomfortable, take option #1". Guilt could be something making him uncomfortable. – CrazyPaste Apr 12 '17 at 14:24
6

Edit: Making decisions under emotional duress is usually ill advised. Racism causes such, as one can tell from the tone of the question. My "macaroon" analogy allows the OP to make a decision about the situation without the duress and the conclusion of that "it is best to move on" becomes reinforced by the actual conversations of the leadership. Forgive me for not making this more clear in my original answer and for any offense I may have caused.

Everyday they spend literally hours talking about weird conspiracy theories and talking bad about black people, women, gay, muslims and so on.

Instead lets say they were talking about making macaroons and other pleasant baking topics. Would this really change things? In my mind no.

I am currently working in a very small startup (5 people, located in Europe) where the CEO

This is the bigger flag. How the hell can anyone in such a small startup talk about anything for hours per day? Even work decisions can't take that long. Make a decision, implement it and move on. No time for idle chatter on any subject.

You are working at a startup that will very likely go no where. The benefit of working at a start up is the potential for large financial gain. Once you take that out of the equation, it is probably time to move on. Given that there subject mater is also immoral makes it even less likely they will succeed.

Now there might be another reason to stay, but your question did not cover that. Once you are able, jump ship, and find a better opportunity.

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    The difference between spending hours a day talking about baking versus hours a day talking negatively about any kind of people is that macaroons are never going to be customers, but people are. A culture of negative discussions of (potential) customers is more likely to provide poorer customer service. It's not only inhumanity, it's bad business. – Todd Wilcox Apr 11 '17 at 18:37
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    Another difference between racism and a macaroon obsession is that listening to racism all day at work would make me some combination of sad and angry. – Ben Crowell Apr 11 '17 at 19:47
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    The OP is obviously stressed out (and actually states, "really uncomfortable") which is the point here. It's not "What can I do about employees who spend all day talking". – colmde Apr 12 '17 at 8:53
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    This answer is borderline sociopathic - "there's no difference between being obsessed with racism and homophobia and being obsessed with baking"?? – iono Apr 13 '17 at 1:45
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    The difference between discussions about racism and macaroons is that macaroons aren't people. – Robert Dundon Apr 13 '17 at 17:08
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While all other answers are suggesting you to leave and that may be the best way out, it does not serve your first priority of keeping the job and being honest about it. I think there are two things you can do.

  1. Understand if their discussions are just talk or do they actually practice business with these values.

    a. If it is just talk, may be you can ignore it because everyone has their opinion. They should not be loud about it but may be you can just ignore if possible (if you really enjoy the work).

    b. If they are really doing business with those values, that is if they are not hiring or giving business to people who belong to their "hate-list", then you can look into the legal aspect of it and your local law and try to persuade them against that behavior citing the law. It is lot easier said than done but if you are going to quit anyway, may be it worth it to try and fix the place.

  2. See if you can at least talk to others one at a time and understand if they really believe all this or just trying to suck up to CEO or fit in the "culture". May be you can have a reasonable discussion with some of the saner team members and talk them out of it or at least point out that this behavior is wrong and making you uncomfortable. It is unlikely but you can still hope to change the culture there since it is still a small team.

I understand this is not part of your job description but depending on how uncomfortable you are with the entire situation, you can at least give a fight to change things here rather than turning away directly. If you fail, you know you at least tried before you left.

  • Yeah, great idea, confront your co-workers and tell them that their behavior is bad and against the law! Great career advice. NOT! If OP thinks his company is violating the law, he needs to quit immediately, and report to the police without telling them. – wberry Apr 12 '17 at 16:02
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    @wberry, First of all, I totally disagree that one should quit if their company is breaking the law. They have every right to notify the authorities and keep their job. Depending on what people/culture would be left behind after their actions, they (OP) them self may have to quit but staying should be the first priority, especially if you are ready to quit anyway. And that is exactly what I told in my answer. – PagMax Apr 12 '17 at 16:34
  • "Yeah, great idea, confront your co-workers and tell them that their behavior is bad and against the law!". I do not know why that needed sarcasm. – PagMax Apr 12 '17 at 16:35
  • This is why people should strive to be compassionate and considerate of others' beliefs: because that way other people can be open and confront you with any problems they may have, rather than see the need to stab you in back like someone would a in criminal syndicate. Well, some people will do that anyway, I suppose. – can-ned_food Apr 13 '17 at 18:00
5

You are in one of four situations:

  1. You are dealing with otherwise good people who (ignorantly) feel it is fun/funny to say those things.
  2. You are dealing with bad people who actually believe those things.
  3. Your perception is the problem.
  4. Some combination of the above.

Good news!

No matter which one is correct, your solution is: find a new job.

How could I keep my job being at the same time honest?

Why would you would want to stay?

  • 5
    In case 3 a new job certainly isn't the solution. They may just run into the same issues again. Frankly, only case 2 would definitively be a "new job" scenario. Ignorance can be fixed. – Weckar E. Apr 12 '17 at 8:59
  • I understand that you are saying if he is the problem then he wouldn't need a new job, I disagree. If he is the problem (#3) then he probably won't figure that out, and would still need a new job. At the new job he may find people that he can relate to better, and thus the immediate problem is solved. He still has a problem, but that's outside the scope of his question. – J. Chris Compton Apr 12 '17 at 14:10
4

I worked at a place where just about all the other workers were racist, but the topic didn't even come up on a monthly basis. I disagreed with them and on occasion expressed my differences. That was good enough for me because I had knew I wasn't going to change their minds. I've also run into this over religion (Head of HR conducted a women's Bible study lunch.). During the exit interview, I suggested they be careful.

You have to deal with people you disagree with in your way to the level of what you can tolerate. If you don't want to engage, then don't. If constantly hearing this bothers you and/or hinders your work, say something. At some point you may have to ask them to hold off on the topic if you're around.

If they feel you don't fit in because you don't hold these views, I'm not sure what you can do about it. Hopefully, you have some legal recourse if they go too far in creating a hostile environment for you or try to push you out.

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    Conducting a bible study lunch isn't racist. – alanf Apr 12 '17 at 15:24
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    @alanf - Well then it's a good thing that JeffO didn't say it was. – Matthew King Apr 13 '17 at 1:15
  • @alanf - if someone gets terminated, it opens the door for a discrimination lawsuit. I don't know where you live, but racial, religious and gender discrimination are grouped together in the US. – user8365 Apr 13 '17 at 11:18
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    @JeffO Holding a bible study lunch isn't discrimination. – alanf Apr 13 '17 at 12:50
  • @alanf Was the religious event mandatory, did it involve company assets or time in any way, or was it somehow oppressive to those who disagreed with it? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. – can-ned_food Apr 13 '17 at 18:05
2

To answer your question

How could I keep my job being at the same time honest?

You have to weigh what is more important to you. Your pay check and passion for the work you do, or an office culture that you don't fit into. Do you have a family to provide for ect... The answer to this is completely subjective, and I feel these are the only two factors involved in your specific scenario, of which no one on these forums can answer that for you.

I feel really uncomfortable

This is not a valid reason to put yourself at financial risk. As one other has mentioned, the term "racist" is thrown around pretty lightly these days. You don't have to argue with them or even express your opinion on the matter, you can simply avoid it. I will say though, especially in a small startup environment, if you were to respond with your opinion without playing the victim card or the bleeding heart mentality, they would probably respect you for it.

Essentially you are working with a group of friends. Assert yourself in a masculine manner and you will find your place in the group. Life has no safe spaces.

Edit: Your boss may be the definition of a racist, but the fact that people are encouraging you to quit your job because you think your boss is racist is actually surprising. "Racist" used to be a very objective term, now it is flung around without warrant or reason, simply because someone criticizes a certain aspect of a culture. That does not make someone "racist".

  • On the other hand, which is more valuable? Paycheck or morality? Admittedly the question is sparse on exactly what the asker's coworkers are advocating or discussing. – can-ned_food Apr 13 '17 at 18:08
  • Many people have given up morality for a paycheck, if their individual circumstances depended on it. But yes, their is a lot of detail missing. – Lanet Rino Apr 13 '17 at 18:44
  • This is a great answer... I am disappointed it is not more highly voted. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 18 '17 at 15:52
0

"Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away. " - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

You can't change the people you're working with. It's possible you might influence one or two with your own words, but it's more likely you'll alienate them. If you wish to stay at your current job, among these racists, then you'll have to control your reaction to them. Internalise Marcus Aurelius' words. You don't have to agree with them, just ignore if you can & move on. If asked a straight question about this, just say you don't devote much time to thinking about it, and move on quickly. When you get home, have a shower if it makes you feel better.

-2

You might feel uncomfortable for the discussion but that is really none of your business. The point of the employment for you is to make money and contribute the society. As long as the business is solid and profitable, there is nothing you should do.

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    How is it none of your business? I disagree wholeheartedly. Is it only not his business because he happens to not fall into the categories that they're talking about? That makes no sense. Discrimination is my business regardless of my diversity(or lack thereof) niches. – Cruncher Apr 13 '17 at 13:40
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    Would you willingly work for <insert name of some morally objectionable person>, knowing that you are effectively buying your paycheck at the cost of providing them financial affluence also? That is not necessarily the case in the asker's situation, but it is a valid argument. – can-ned_food Apr 13 '17 at 18:13
  • "This is none of your business" is wrong. You are free to say and to feel that you personally don't care about what others in your company do, but if someone cares then it is their business. – gnasher729 Apr 16 '17 at 19:54
  • Wrong, from the USA perspective. If the employee has to work in that atmosphere, the company has to make sure it's not one that is a hostile work environment. But this is in Europe, so perhaps national work laws are different there. – PoloHoleSet Apr 17 '17 at 16:25

protected by enderland Apr 12 '17 at 15:22

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