'I will fire you on the spot': Biden's warning for staff

It's a timely reminder that there's no room for disrespect in the workplace

'I will fire you on the spot': Biden's warning for staff

Disrespect others – and you’re out the door.

US President Joe Biden has made his rules clear to all of his associates at the White House: he expects honesty and decency from public servants with “absolute certitude”. The president is calling on members of his administration to help him “restore the soul” of the country, and to treat others with respect and dignity. Anyone who fails to meet that standard will immediately be dismissed.

“I’m not joking when I say this: If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another with disrespect, talking down to someone, I will fire you on the spot. On the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts,” Biden said during the virtual oathtaking of his staff Wednesday.

“You’re engaged in and you’re working with the most decent government in the world. And we have to restore the soul of this country, and I’m counting on all of you to be part of that,” he said.

“People don’t work for us. We work for the people. I work for the people. They pay my salary; they pay your salary.”

Read more: How Biden's presidency will impact HR and talent mobility

Diversity in government
As part of the renewal, Biden has also institutionalised diversity training programmes for federal employees and contractors. On his first day at the Oval Office, he signed an executive order aimed at “rooting out systemic racism and other barriers to opportunity from federal programmes and institutions”. The order reverses former president Donald Trump’s mandate which restricted government offices from offering diversity training to their staff.

Read more: 42% of employees would quit over political disagreements

Biden’s EO, however, instructs federal agencies to review the composition of their teams and address roadblocks to diversity and equity.

“We ran on a promise that this administration would look like [how] America looks. That taps into the best of our nation. That opens doors and includes a full range of talents,” Biden said at the swearing-in ceremony. History is going to measure us, and our fellow Americans will measure us, by how decent, honourable, and smart we’ve been in terms of looking out for their interests,” he said.

“We’ve reached a point, in my view, where the American people had to, sort of, have their blinders taken off. They’ve been taken off, and [Americans] realised what they didn’t realise before – just how much systemic racism still exists.”

HR leaders often have to contend with colleague conflict – with heightened outside tensions just adding fuel to the fire. It’s essential that HR works quickly and calmly in confronting and diffusing awkward situations. HRD recently compiled some staller advice for struggling practitioners looking to stop co-worker calamity. Read our advice here.

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