I was born of Mexican parents in an era long before Latinos
were initially well accepted, as in the 1990's, and then rejected
because of the illegal immigration problems we currently see
being debated in the media and in Congress.
I tell you this because there have been many times when being
an ethnic person was a little difficult, when people who only
speak English feel threatened in hearing a foreign language.
The more paranoid of those folks think someone is talking
about them in the foreign language, and they imagine terrible
things are being said about them.
Some people can become very bold in expressing their displeasure
of a melting pot society. My youngest daughter works in a
book store near the college she attends, and last week a woman
who seemed nice enough commented on how beautiful my sweetie
looks. She thanked the woman and when the customer saw my
daughter's name, she asked what nationality the name represented.
When my daughter told her she was part Mexican, the woman
was taken aback and she told my daughter in a loud voice,
"Mexican? You are very lucky you don't look Mexican because
they are dark, ugly people." This came from a very wealthy
woman who carries one of those extremely rare black American
Express cards that only a couple of thousand people in the
entire world have received.
My daughter told her that her Dad was a rather good looking
fellow (thank you, my Dear, $100 is on its way to you) but
the woman insisted that if my daughter bore any resemblance
to me, it would make her awful looking.
Then there is a matter I have been dealing with on behalf
of a friend as I transition into a new corporate position
and tie up loose ends on transitioning out of my 20-year-old
crisis public relations agency. This friend is a female Latina
and well regarded by her colleagues. I tried to steal her
away a few weeks ago and I was told by her management that
she is the most popular and well-liked person in the company
and there was NO way they would let her leave.
I accepted the decision because I respect the management
leadership and always want to the best for good employees.
This weekend, I got a call from one of those managers telling
me they are going to fire this worker because she has what
was described as a "hot Latin temper" and she's
taking up too much of management's time "putting out
the fires she's creating."
Interesting. I guess when you have a "hot Latin temper"
you're more likely to start fires. A few weeks ago she was
the Queen of the Ball and now she's just a Latin troublemaker.
I asked the manager why he characterizes her in ethnic terms
and got no answer. I should have known better. This is a guy
who refers to a stalemate as a "Mexican standoff"
and referred to a rather difficult deal settlement as being
like "Chinese water torture". When will people learn?
As we transition into the New Year, I continue to be amazed
at how insensitive people can be in this great country of
ours. Here's another example: The end of the year and Christmas
are usually the time when we see bonuses handed out to employees
to thank them for a job well done throughout the year. Many
people have come to work extra hard because they expect those
bonuses and count on them as part of their holiday and year-end
A friend of mine works for a company with about 50 to 70
employees and they have revenues in excess of $15 million.
The company depends on about two dozen of those employees
to bring in new business and the rest of the workers either
deliver the service and product or they are administrative
and support staff. My friend brought in about $1.8 million
in business and was excitedly looking forward to the handing
out of the bonuses.
When the envelopes were handed out, along with the effusive
praise from the top management, the anticipated moment finally
arrived and people began opening their envelopes. The first
to react to her bonus was the receptionist whose job it is
to answer the phone and greet visitors. Her bonus was $163
BEFORE taxes and a net check of $100. TRUE STORY!!
Then my friend, the $1.8 million account executive opened
her envelope and voila, her bonus was EXACTLY the same as
the receptionist. The rest of the crew, from top line managers
to the accounting group - EVERBODY - got the same lousy $163
gross bonus with a $100 net check.
Wow!! Talk about taking advantage of people. Talk about insensitive!!
I began to wonder what in the world would possess the principles
of a company to so shamefully give their employees a so-called
bonus of a hundred bucks, especially to the very people who
made them all the money by bringing in multi-million dollar
Why even bother to offer the employees a bonus. Isn't it
better to just lie and say you had an off year and maybe things
will get better next year? What possesses someone to be so
unappreciative of the very people who help you make a living
and prosper on a long-term basis?
I work hard every day and have never expected a bonus. If
I happen to get one a year from now in my new position, it
sure as hell better not be $100 or you will read about it
on the front page of your newspaper or hear about it as a
breaking story on the 6 o'clock news.
If you can't thank people and motivate them for the future
with a bonus that has meaning and substance, don't bother.
Let's all hope that 2006 has more meaning and substance than
the year now on its last leg, and try to treat the people
around you as a bonus to your life, not just as some target
for a cheap, useless, irrelevant throw-away.