Every workplace has a Gruden. It’s not OK.
“I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”
With those words, Jon Gruden walked away Monday evening from the Las Vegas Raiders and the NFL after emails he authored surfaced castigating female referees, a gay draftee, a Black union executive and players kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice.
Give Gruden credit: At least he’s an equal opportunity bigot.
I’m not naive enough to be surprised that racist, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic ideologies exist in the NFL – both decades ago and today. In fact, Gruden’s deplorable behavior mirrors an ingrained corporate and workplace culture that continues to condemn, criticize and ostracize people of color, women and LGBTQ+ individuals.
We know about the supposedly stealth emails and instant messages shared among colleagues and supervisors.
We hear the slick comments made during virtual or in-person meetings. We feel the disdain as diversity, equity and inclusion policies are discussed and implemented.
Trust me, we know. It’s not paranoia – it’s the burden we bear each and every day.
But there is – and should be – a higher standard in corporate America.
Emails are an extension of a person, a written statement of personal beliefs. Gruden said what he said – and he meant it. No, we can’t always regulate reckless behavior and reckless speech – written or oral – in the workplace. But examples can be made of people like Gruden, examples that will hopefully educate others and root out bigotry in all areas. Because such vitriol is unacceptable in the NFL or any place of business. It shouldn’t be acceptable anywhere.
Don’t defend Gruden. Don’t look at him as a scapegoat. His workplace might have been a football field, but there are many people occupying front offices who need to learn from his fall from grace.
Take note: This is what accountability looks like in the business world. Gruden is not a victim of the cancel culture; he has proved that he doesn’t have moral aptitude or humane empathy to remain a leader in a multibillion dollar industry. Now he is forced to deal with the consequences of his actions.
Remember what Gruden said in his statement Monday night as he walked away? “I never meant to hurt anyone.” Well he did; his hate hurt a lot of people. And now he has no job. I bet he is sorry.