Do You Know Someone As Offensive As This Guy?

On Tuesday, the Navy removed Captain Owen Honors from his post as the head of the aircraft carrier Enterprise for producing offensive videos. But this article isn’t really about him. It’s about you and the people you work with.
First, Captain Owens. In an effort to entertain his crew, he produced several videos in 2006 and 2007. From The New York Times:

“The videos include scenes of simulated masturbation, simulated eating of feces, a simulated rectal exam, antigay slurs and a pair of men and a pair of women showering together. They were produced by Captain Honors and shown to sailors and Marines aboard the Enterprise, which has a crew of some 6,000.”

Charming. I’m proud to have funded this idiocy through my tax dollars. Here’s a portion of the video:

Captain Honors is far from alone. ESPN announcer Ron Franklin also lost his job on Tuesday after saying the following to an on-air female colleague:

Ron Franklin: “Why don’t you leave this to the boys, sweetcakes?”
Jeannine Edwards: “Don’t call me sweetcakes. I don’t like being talked to like that.”
Ron Franklin: “Okay then, A-hole.”

Owen Honors

Owen Honors in the Video That Cost His Career

This blog post isn’t really about Captain Honors or Ron Franklin.

As a full-time media trainer, I have the rare privilege of working with dozens of companies, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies each year. I have an insider’s view of many different corporate cultures. The differences among the many groups are staggering.

The vast majority of trainees with whom I work are true professionals. But a few times a year, I encounter a corporate culture – usually dominated by men – that embraces the type of hazing more typically seen at the wildest fraternity house on campus. Their “jokes” are often explicitly homophobic, occasionally misogynistic, and borderline racist.

As someone who will only be in their lives for a day or two, I don’t view my role as someone who should try to change their approach to the world. But I do try to convince them that the jokes they view as “innocent” can come back to bite them – and that they’d be wise to abandon them for their own protection.

In one recent training, I watched a group of men make jokes that targeted women. The women in the room laughed along. It’s impossible to know whether they were “going along to get along” or whether they were really full participants in the joke. But here’s what I know: if any of the women are ever fired, they have grounds to bring a suit against the organization for creating and tolerating a hostile workplace. And the media circus that often accompanies such suits will damage – if not destroy – the reputations of the offenders.

Here’s my plea: If you think race, gender, or gay jokes are funny, fine. I’m not going to try to change your mind. But as a media trainer who knows what these “jokes” do to careers, do yourself a favor: murder and bury that part of your sense of humor when you’re in a professional setting – even one you think is safe.

The truth is you’re only as safe as Captain Owens.