Crossing the line.
We keep hearing about “crossing the line” these days, more often than not when it comes to what is now considered comedy and jokes. But whether you are a member of corporate leadership or the newest member of a work force, you MUST every single day confront this issue because it can mean the difference between a successful career and being out on the streets.
WHERE is this “line” that should not be crossed? Who sets “the line”? And how much time and sweat will you waste worrying every single second about what would happen to you or your business when that “line” is crossed?
We’re about to embark on what may be the single most difficult thing to recognize and understand in our 21st Century professional and personal lives.
“CROSSING THE LINE”: FINDING “THE LINE” ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT JOKES
Comic and TBS host Samantha Bee is another of the “bend but don’t break” that line of humor personalities. Let’s be real here. Lenny Bruce was doing the same thing decades ago, albeit with different subject matter. Comedians are supposed to make us laugh at the difficult issues in life. Hands up from anyone in the audience who hasn’t heard a stand-up comic, a humorous film or even prime time TV series that hasn’t walked right up to and more often than not crossed right over that “line” with ease.
So is using sexual harassment as the core of a joke funny?
Bee didn’t waste much time with an apology of sorts. Actually she probably got more mileage out of those follow up jokes than the original.
Bee is a professional comic and personality. She’ll get away with this because it fits the image she wishes to portray. YOU won’t last a millisecond in your place of business either as manager or employee if you said the exact same thing. You’ll be fired so fast it will be as if your feet never hit the floor as someone escorts you out.
Kathy Griffin, as an example, will never recover from her attempted joke featuring the severed and bloody head of Donald Trump. CNN wasted no time dumping her. Neither did scheduled appearances. It was crude and crossed a line of good taste and common sense. Then again, there are those who defend her and believe we’re all overreacting. That is their choice to have that opinion.
But remember, you work for someone. Your image becomes their image. The people that pay your salary have the right to demand certain things of you, so long as they are not illegal. And I cannot tell you how many companies I work with where I find middle and upper management would makes jokes such as this and see nothing wrong with it. In Bee’s case, TBS management has decided this fits her image and that of the show they wish to profit from. And here’s another honest statement. Her joke pales in comparison to some of what is heard nightly on prime time standard television, certainly on cable and Premium channels.
So ask yourself. Is this “the line” in your business?
“CROSSING THE LINE”: ET TU, DELTA AND BANK AMERICA? DECIDING THE LINE ON SERIOUS ART
More than 400 years since William Shakespeare wrote “Julius Caesar”, and to this day it evokes a visceral reaction. The play has been reinterpreted thousands of times, very often making it a contemporary work of art. It has been turned into a comedy, been portrayed in modern times, used as the backdrop for movies and television shows. In other words, it lives as a theatrical production that others will use in order to make a point, forge an opinion, or just sell as many tickets as possible.
In light of the current American political discourse, it would seem logical then that someone would take such a standard of the theater and tweak it to fit their modern means. New York’s Public Theater did just that, and a new “line” was drawn.
Delta and Bank of America exercised their right as sponsors to distance themselves from something they, and others who likely shaded their opinion, found offensive. It is interesting to note the play had been in production for a week before the sponsors pulled, and only after certain commentators and “news” outlets started to crow about how they believed it to be offensive to the spirit of the Presidency and to Donald Trump himself. But time makes no difference. It is still their right to make this decision.
Of course, the Public Theater wasn’t about to back down. This was their interpretation of the subject matter, and in this case, the publicity no doubt helped to sell tickets.
Let’s boil this down to the personal and professional side of this lesson. The theater knew what they were in for and went for it. They, like many other performers, seek to bend that “line” as often as possible and often don’t fear breaking it. They took a chance, one that was backed by their management and ownership. They stepped over a fuzzy line some might say isn’t even really there. It’s being fashioned for political gain and points.
Would you tell your co-workers you went to see the play? Would you be cautious to tell them, or management in such a case, that you liked or or hated it? Might your opinion either way increase your professional standing or bring your career working for that company crashing down around you?
Yes, to both scenarios. Which is why you have to know where “the line” is at your place of business and in your personal life. Then, it is up to YOU to decide whether you want to cross it. I, for one, always teach people they must be true to themselves. But in some cases, is it not better to save your career by keeping your mouth shut and just nodding your head?
You have to decide where YOUR line is, whether you WANT to cross it, or even WHEN you should cross it. No one can tell you what do in those cases. That speaks to your level of integrity, personal image and leadership.
Did they cross “the line”, or is this as Billy Shakespeare might call it, “Much Ado About Nothing”?
“CROSSING THE LINE”: WHO GETS TO SET “THE LINE”?
Recall I wrote about this not long ago, with an eye towards what people consider art and what they consider to be positive pictures and statements. In each instance, a case could be made that the individual gets to set “the line” in their comments. However, they must also be aware of how others will view their line, and the reactions from others can go a long way toward deciding how others will judge.
So ask yourself the following questions with regard to how “the line” impacts your corporate culture, your personal and your professional lives.
- What should you instruct your employees about “the line”? Where should you tell them it resides?
- What topics and/or issues would you use “the line” to illustrate?
- How much of your personal opinion should go into creating “the line” for your company?
- How would you use what an employee says about an issue where there is a “line” to influence your opinion about their professional standing in your organization? Should you even use it against them?
- If you work for someone, how fearful are you that yon don’t know where “the line” is? Does anyone bother to tell you?
- Does your immediate supervisor even know where this “line” exists, or are they clueless?
HERE’S THE “BOTTOM LINE”
“The Line” is constantly changing, and if you as the CEO or member of upper management don’t ensure that every single person working in your organization knows where it lives, then you are setting them and your organization up for failure. It’s YOUR responsibility to oversee it every single day. That’s called “corporate responsibility”, and also shows a level of respect for those who work for you.