Shoes off at Work

Find a quote: For evil to prevail…
It had become quite fashionable for people of a certain social and ethnic groups to rail against “political correctness”. These are people who think that they should be allowed to express any insulting epithets, gross mischaracterizations or stereotypes they wish with no repercussions. They take aim at people who are vulnerable to people who are in positions of entitlement. It’s almost always intended to degrade and disregard the needs and basic dignity of others. When a person of privilege claims he or she is just being “politically incorrect”, it’s a guise for being allowed to say something racist, bigoted or misogynistic. Political correctness can also be called being kind, respectful or just not being an asshole.
However, it is true that being too politically correct can have its drawbacks. People in the workplace are forced to navigate around many issues that really should just be addressed head on. It is hard when we don’t want to hurt people’s feeling or come across as insensitive. We don’t want to be labelled as racist or sexist. On a more practical note, we don’t want to be the defendant in a lawsuit. It is a minefield fraught with peril through which the office worker must tip toe on a daily basis.
Tom Anderson worked for a time on the trading desk at Morgan Stanley. It was a bunch of youngish white guys at these long tables with computers on them. All day they sat and looked at trades and did whatever financial people do. In a nod to progress, which Tom applauded, there was one woman of color, Miriam, who worked there. This was only the barest of nods of course. The company is about 99% white men. There had been some snide remarks about why she had gotten the job in the first place but, they all had to acknowledge that Miriam was good at her job and easy enough to work with. She didn’t hang out with the boys after work but she was fine in the office.
There was, however, one issue.
Miriam liked to take her shoes off after lunch. She would come at around one and kick off her pumps. Who cares, right? What the problem?
Her feet reeked. The office had no windows and was not terribly well ventilated. The place probably didn’t smell so hot anyway with all those guys in there. But Tom said that the odor was palpable. Anyone’s feet would probably reek at one in the afternoon but the stink coming from her dogs was intense. It was like dank Parmesan cheese in a sock drawer.
The best part was, no one could say anything about it. Who was going to approach Miriam and say, “You know, the thing is, we all love working with you and everything. It’s just that your feet stink. Could you please not take off your shoes?” How would you even approach such a conversation? They argued among themselves for days at to who would address the issue with her but there were no takers. No none could see an upside to being the guy to take it up with her. The fact that she was a black woman meant that anyone who broached the subject with her was skating out onto perilously thin ice. If she was offended, and she probably would be, the guy could be hit with a double whammy by Human Resources.
So, what did these intelligent, aggressive, take no prisoners young bucks do? They sent an intern out to the local CVS to get air fresheners, the kind that you put in your car to make it smell like a pine tree. He was instructed to get them in the morning and then wait until Miriam left for lunch. While she was gone, he went under her work station and spread them out on the floor. One wonders in which class these MBA holders learned such a strategy. I would imagine that people who have money invested with Morgan Stanley would love to know that their brokers are spending time tackling the stinky feet problem.
So, it’s back to the work station, after I go hang out in Starbucks for a while. The oxygen is much more pleasant there.