David Poindexter's profile image, displayed in a round border
I'm David, a software engineer and cloud architect.
I specialize in serverless development, cloud architecture and implementation, and write about my experiences along the way.

Toxic talk in a remote world. This is not your locker room. And allies must actively call out and shame those who show disrespect and sexism, regardless if it’s a private chat, water cooler, or locker room. Stand up.

Uncomfortable Confrontations

So we’re, as of this writing, around 14 months into a remote working world for some of us. I am one. As are my colleagues. Let’s just say that I learned a LOT about some colleagues I otherwise had no interactions with. This story is just one of those.

Slack. Or discord. Or teams. Or in a Twitch chat. Or a phone call. Or whatever. It happened to me and if it’s happened to you, you need to speak up.

I’ve seen some terribly sexist, racist, homophobic comments as I’m moderating Twitch channels. That’s actually easy for me because I have technical permissions to delete messages, timeout users, ban users, or just outright lock down the entire chat while we get things under control. But your work comms are not like this.

I saw an increasing frequency of sexist comments being made in our work slack, specifically from an individual. You know the first one is like “oh you know, they’ll learn.” That is stupid, I should have immediately objected, publicly in that same channel. And you should too. But I didn’t, and that is why I’m trying to tell you to be better than me back then.

Uncomfortable Resolutions

So, finally after “having enough”, more on that later, I copied all of the offending messages from the company slack and compiled them into an email to our CEO, COO, and HR Director as a complaint. Luckily, my company was immediately responsive, setting up a group call to discuss the details. You may not be so lucky. Take note, you need to document EVERYTHING, just in case.

The result was as promised, the individual ceased and has not since made this violation. But what if they did again? What if I did something like this? I would hope there is a much more clear path to correction, but sadly at most companies, it is undocumented, at best. And dangerous at worst. Why? Why is it so career-threatening to call out sexist behavior in the workplace? I still wonder this.

Moving forward

Moving forward, I’m very mindful of the communities I enter. I validate that there is a code of conduct that includes distinct resolution paths and escalation measures.

And I’m still pissed.

My daughter is going to be entering this terrible mess I’ve helped make, and it makes me sick. Not of what I’ve recently done, not of what I’ve failed to do recently.

I’m sick of the fact that it took me till almost 40 years old to even care enough to be an ally. And that is a burden I’ll have to live with.

Don’t be me. Be better, and start today.