I was in the supermarket at lunch-time to get a few things as I’ve hardly been at home this week.

Make sure you send the right message
Make sure you send the right message (Image by bindermichi)

One of the assistants came up to me and asked me to read a label for her as she didn’t have her glasses. I imagine she was retired and working in the shop to get out the house. Good on her.

“Pork lunch meat,” I said.

Then she went on about the person that gave her the packet, “Why didn’t he just take it back to where he got it?”

I smiled and thought well it is your job and mumbled something, hmmm.

Then just as I thought she was going she swung back round and said, “Bloody foreigners.”

Racism is alive and well and living in your local supermarket.  I have to say I was quite shocked, almost felt like I was being punched. Why was  this woman, seemingly nice saying something like this to?  The fact that I’m white seemed to mean it was ok, so do lots of people come across this sort of thing?  I have never heard it at work and most of the time when I’m out at the weekend it is with the family.  So do people think this all the time?

Now she may have  thought it was ok to say that to me because I’m white and male but she is unlikely to know that my wife is one of those “bloody foreigners.” I’m not sure what she would make of our children.

My point

While all the attention has been on social media in business over the past 12 months or so, the risks, the danger of getting caught up in something, this just goes to show that it is the content with which employees interact with the public not the tools they use in that interaction.

Employers can block employees from Facebook but if they go and tell their friends that the management are useless, that message is still getting out – the issues still needs to be addressed – not the fact that the employees are saying these things to friends, but why do they think that management is useless.

Likewise if your employees are making racist remarks to customers you can expect someone to write about on their blog and tell their friends. The employer needs to make it clear that this sort of behavior will be dealt with.

I have no idea if this supermarket chain has a set of values and guidelines for it’s employees but it should start there. Then it wouldn’t need to worry about the tools it’s employees  use because it will be clear on what content is acceptable, no matter what.