I’m really learning to love Omaha native Roxane Gay’s writing, particularly her office etiquette column in The New York Times. The May 23 edition has Dr. Gay giving advice to a woman who is tired of looking at a co-worker’s politically offensive office decorations (apparently without those office decorations being offensive enough to be actually breaking any rules):
I work in a small firm and we recently had to hire some new people. We received very few applications. One of the applicants had what seemed like a few red flags to me, including attending a conservative leadership institute and volunteering at a far-right state rep’s office. No one else in the firm noticed or mentioned these during the hiring process and we don’t all have the same political views, so maybe I found these more troubling than others.
Now we’ve hired him, in part because we had so few options. Soon after he started, he placed a large wooden cross on his desk, which I find odd and unprofessional. Recently, he brought in some photos for a bulletin board in his office, which include a picture of himself and three other men holding rifles. I find this picture offensive and inappropriate.
The woman continues in the same general direction, to which Dr. Gay responds:
You need to let this go. Your colleague has every right to his affinities, however repugnant you find them. I get where you’re coming from, but his personal beliefs are none of your business, unless he makes them your business. And how he decorates his work space is not really making them your business. Displays of spirituality are not unprofessional. It would become unprofessional if he proselytized in the office or otherwise foisted his religious beliefs on his co-workers.
As for the pictures he displays, again, what you find intolerable is probably one of his chosen pastimes. There may well be cause for asking him to take down images of firearms; perhaps you can ask your human resources department if there are any guidelines about that. But if you go that route, do so hypothetically. There is no need to snitch on this colleague who hasn’t done anything to you except have different political beliefs. Just stop looking at this man’s desk and obsessing about what he’s doing. If he is as mediocre as you suggest, the problem will, indeed, resolve itself.
Right on, Roxane. Right on.
So much of what ails this country could be solved by people on the Left, on the Right and in The Middle just minding their own business. I’m not saying if your co-worker puts a picture of a noose or an aborted fetus on his wall you should ignore it.
But if it’s just run-of-the-mill politically offensive stuff, ignore it as best you can.
On a related note: I’m happy to say that on my street during elections we’ve had both conservative and liberal signs in yards and not once has anybody, to my knowledge, had their signs vandalized or stolen.