Any tips for handling an offended employee?

Diana Thomas asked 1 month ago
An employee just told me she was very offended by what another colleague wrote in a company-wide email. What’s the right way to handle this situation?
2 Answers
Ember DeVaul replied 1 month ago
These situations can be very unique, so the way you should handle this can vary. However, I always first instruct the company to complete an investigation, how small or short it may be. If an employee sent an email, review this and the context. If they’re wearing something offensive, take a look at your dress code policy. If they spoke offensively directly to the employee, ask witnesses for their account of the incident. Gather as much information as you can to ensure you are getting the full story. Going through this process should help you determine if this is a genuine claim, or if the action was not against company policies.
Riia O’Donnell replied 4 weeks ago
If the email was company-wide you've likely seen it already and may not have reacted to it. What was it about the message that offended the employee? Did the employee feel the email contained discriminatory, sexual or harassing language? If they felt any of these applied, you have a legal obligation to respond to their concerns. Remember the "reasonable person" standard applies here. Content must meet a reasonable person's threshold to be offensive with regard to sexual harassment. So the use of the word "thigh" when talking about ordering chicken for lunch isn't relevant. With regard to harassment or discrimination, language is evolving so quickly today, you'll want to investigate just to make sure you're all on the same page and not offending, even unintentionally.

If the offense was not something legally prohibited, you may still want to discuss the terminology with the sender: cultivating a workplace of respect includes respecting other's sensibilities. They may not be aware their content included something that could have been interpreted other than they intended.