Incognito, Discrimination, and the 1 question you must ask yourself.

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I hope Hispanics continue dying at this rate! The immigration problem will solve itself!


The foreman who said it then laughed uproariously.

A few of his co-workers nearby did also.


The Hispanics present did not.


The comment came from a slide I present to every Client. It notes Hispanics are nearly two times as likely to be injured or killed on the job.


Because of communication barriers and cultural differences. Red Angle’s mission then is to bridge the language gaps to improve safety and productivity while raising the collective cultural IQ of the group.


After my presentation, I approached the general manager. I advised him to discuss the comment privately with the foreman. Obviously, the foreman’s public views on Hispanic injuries are not a positive contribution to the team’s goals.


The GM hesitated.

I’m not sure…. That mentality is part of the culture here for a lot of guys. I’m not saying it’s right, but it is what it is.


Was it harassment?

Was it racism?

Was it simply the culture?


You can decide.

Undoubtedly – it was unprofessional.



It is what it is.”

Listen carefully when you hear this ubiquitous nouveau cliche.

It’s an indicator, an admission of the acceptance of the status quo.

And this tagline often precedes inaction.



Doing nothing is always an option.

Is this what the Miami Dolphins did?


As the Richie Incognito / Jonathan Martin story continues to unravel, two C-words keep recurring: Communication & Culture. The two very same words driving Hispanic injuries and deaths on the jobsite.



While the facts are still emerging in Miami, it’s safe to say the Dolphin culture could use a re-examination. Communication amongst teammates could also stand some improvement.


Was it bullying?

Was it racism?

Was it simply the culture?


You can decide.

Undoubtedly – it was unprofessional.


Here is how Richie Incognito explained it:

But what I want people to know, is the way Jonathan and the rest of offensive line and how our teammates, how we communicate… it’s vulgar. It’s not right.”



“That’s how we communicate.”

“That’s the culture.”

“It is what it is.”


The one question we all have to ask ourselves is this: Is it right?


Whether it’s in the locker room or on the jobsite, if it’s not right – do something about it.

Your actions – as well as your inaction – contribute to the communication and culture.


Communication & Culture.


The words matter.

The words we choose to communicate matter.

In aggregate, our words contribute mightily to the culture we build – the culture we allow to grow around us.




I don’t know if the late comedian George Carlin said it best, but he said it memorably:

Because we do think in language. And so the quality of our thoughts and ideas can only be as good as the quality of our language.




Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.    

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Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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3 replies

  1. Good post, I’m not a fan of “it is what it is” either….CHANGE what it is if it’s wrong…

  2. So true, I HATE “it is what it is.” It’s overused in construction.

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