** Welcome to our new micro-blogging series, where occasionally 2 or 3 of the PIC contributors will write a short paragraph or two on a hot topic in the news. We will try to keep it business/HR related but if something else pops up we may add our .02 cents to the pot. Sometimes we’ll agree, sometimes we won’t, but either way it’ll be interesting. Here’s our introductory article, it’s Sarah “Buzz” Williams and Chris Fields, talking Paula Deen.**
I can tell you a lot about old southern cooks. My grandmother and her sisters were housemaids and cooks their entire lives. Oh, and they were black. The stories they told about working in the kitchens of southern women were quite eye opening. So the stories about Paula Deen don’t surprise me – at all. This isn’t her 1st offensive. Read more here. On the Today show, Matt Lauer asked her did she know that the N-word is offensive to blacks and she said that when she goes in her kitchens and hears the things that those young people say to each other, “it’s distressing.” Well, it’s your kitchen Paula, you set the tone – what kind of culture do you tolerate?
I question Paula’s integrity. She sells unhealthy food which leads to diabetes while taking money from a diabetes drug manufacturer. Many people – black people – have come to her defense – especially the ones that eat her food. But DYK this whole discrimination case is brought on by a white woman, who was tired of working for such a brand? As an employee, you want to know that your employer will take a stand – if it’s a matter race, gender equity, age discrimination or sexual orientation. The companies which have dropped Paula Deen have an obligation to ensure all employees and customers feel respected, valued and important. It’s about sending a message, corporate integrity (something Deen knows nothing about) and protecting the INTERNAL and external brand.
I’ve always liked Paula Deen. I found her personal story interesting and compelling. I found her hustle to advance her brand inspiring. When she announced her struggle with diabetes last year, I defended her decision to keep her private heath issue under wraps while she figured things out (Read that here).
Recently, she confessed to using the N-word and having knowledge of discriminatory practices in her restaurants and organization. And she admittedly failed to act to correct it or stop it from continuing. She cited her Southern roots as justification … Networks and endorsers started dropping her like a hot pan of butter!
And I think they did the right thing.
I’m not going to waste time speculating on whether or not Paula Deen is a racist. I don’t really care whether she is or isn’t … But as a human resources and business professional, her actions are unacceptable and unlawful. Period. And, unlike what Paula did, the network and endorsers are taking action to correct the behavior and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Paul Deen is suffering the consequences of her own actions, the same way anyone who behaves that way in their workplace as a decision-maker should suffer. Because regardless of our upbringings and personal beliefs, it is not OK to mistreat people. Especially at work where the people around you generally do not have choices about whether they can interact with you or abide by your instructions.
I hope Paula Deen takes full responsibility and accountability for her actions so her career can eventually rebound. Until she’s ready to do that, she should just sit down somewhere and stop talking cuz she’s only digging her hole deeper.