Defending a Racial Slur is Bad Strategy

oopsAn elected official in Kansas used a racial slur in a meeting last week. It was wrong. He apologized. And different people or groups are still suggesting he resign.

But the most interesting development in this chain of events is his wife stepping into the public spotlight to defend his use of the term. She also emphasizes what a great guy he is. And of course, they have a “colored” or “black” friend.

This is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of what NOT to do when responding to criticism or feedback related to a cultural collision.

County Commissioner Jim Gile (Kansas)Should Jim Gile resign from his elected position? Should he (and his wife) be required to go through “diversity training?” These two questions are getting a lot of attention. If you look at this as just a public relations crisis you’ll handle it one way. If you consider it a reflection of your leadership values and organizational culture your response might be very different.

In your organization, what would you do if a prominent and visible leader made a completely inappropriate comment related to race, gender, sexual orientation or other dimension of diversity? What training do you have in place to reduce the likelihood of this happening? And what systems do you have in place to manage the process if something like this did occur?

Having a strategic diversity plan can help you avoid – and respond to – the real-world challenges in a multicultural, multigenerational, multiethnic workplace.