If Chris Rock and Will Smith Were Your Employees: What HR Thinks

Take away the Hollywood, glamour, and awards, and say you have two employees–we’ll call them Will and Chris. Chris makes a tasteless joke about Will’s wife, and Will slaps Chris. What do you do?

I asked HR managers in my Evil HR Lady group what they would do. Let their answers help guide you through similar sticky situations in your business should something like this arise.

Take immediate action

If Will hadn’t stopped at one slap or Chris had fought back, you would absolutely need to get security, or the police involved to separate the pair. A suspension of both while you investigate would be a good immediate action.

Should you allow Will to remain at the event, or should he be escorted out? While the conflict between Will and Chris did not escalate, you need to immediately separate. Will should, at a minimum, have been removed from the room.

To keep reading, click here: If Chris Rock and Will Smith Were Your Employees: What HR Thinks

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13 thoughts on “If Chris Rock and Will Smith Were Your Employees: What HR Thinks

  1. I have a problem with disciplining Chris if it turns out he was unaware of Jada’s alopecia — which probably would not qualify as a disability anyway — or if management heard the joke in rehearsal and cleared it. In fact, I think it would be problematic to discipline him even if he WERE aware of the alopecia. Chris was hired to tell jokes, and is known for his edgy humor. Jokes at the Oscars are — traditionally — made at the expense of the celebrity attendees. Furthermore, the joke at issue was — relatively — tame, compared to, say, the jokes told by previous Oscar Host Ricky Gervais, for example. Unless Chris was specifically instructed not to tell jokes of that nature, and disobeyed, discipline wouldn’t seem to be in order. And, if management had already cleared the joke, and discipline was found to be warranted, the manager should be disciplined, not the employee.

  2. Considering all the facts would be the first priority in this case, because it occurred on national TV in front of millions. I would want to know why in this day and age of being political correct, a joke comment like that was deemed appropriate because every word said on the stage except for the thank you speeches are rehearsed and approved. If found that this was an approved comment, that means that they expected a reaction from Will Smith, or his reaction was also a planned action. He appeared restrained walking up and only slapped Chris Rock once, despite the appearance of anger for the negativity of the comment about his wife. Especially since he was awarded an Oscar soon after. Pearl clutching reactions just to make it look like someone was offended by Will Smith slap of Chris Rock after giving Will Smith an Oscar means nothing. Maybe issue a reprimand to Will Smith but nothing else because any action should have been addressed right there that night. In a normal workplace, all actions would have immediately occurred.

  3. In any normal work environment an employee hitting another employee is assault, pure and simple. The situation has crossed many lines of social behavior and I will just leave it at that. If this occurred in the workplace, Mr. Smith or either be disciplined and probably fired. Mr. Rock would also be disciplined and instructed not to make fun of someone’s medical situation and that is exactly what he did.

  4. Where the heck was security? If any ordinary everyday audience member had walked up on stage and assaulted the host, and make no mistake that is what it was… assault. UNPROVOKED ASSAULT, security would have been all over that guy like White on Rice! Please spare me the ” joke justified the action because it was cruel” Says who? I thought it was funny! And besides the point we have free protected speech in this country! Funny how no one was upset that Smith yelled out the F word twice! Smith is obviously unhinged and a public menace. He should be charged, His oscar revoked!

  5. Chris should have decked him. It was self defense, and according to Will Smith’s character the only time violence is acceptable. More Hollywood elite woke hypocrisy! They love to preach to the rest of us poor slobs about love and acceptance, but then don’t practice it. Will Smith is a bully and a coward. Glad his true character was revealed. His crocodile tear speech was bizarre and meant nothing. Sick of Hollywood and the Oscar train wreck

  6. There are an almost infinite number of classy things Will could have done instead of assaulting Chris – including taking Jada’s hand and walking out. But it seems like Will waiting around for a potential Oscar was more important than his self professed ‘family values’. Security should have immediately removed him from the Theater and I’m not so sure his tears were genuine cuz’ actors cry on cue.

  7. A good article as far as it goes.

    I would like to see at least some discussion of the case where management considers one of the opponents, but not the other, “untouchable” because he belongs to a “diversity” category.

    1. Everyone belongs to a “diversity” category, since everyone has a race, gender, national origin, etc.

  8. I’m disturbed that people are focusing on the physical violence of Will’s reaction while ignoring the psychological violence of Chris’s actions. This is often how it goes with bullying, and exposes how badly HR is with dealing with the issue.

    Who in the word would think it’s OK to target the spouse of someone? Is it OK to ridicule bystanders to get a rise out of your intended target?

    I think that there is also a gender issue here. Women (and especially women in Hollywood) are very much judged by their appearance. So what does Chris go for? The appearance of Jada. And not only the appearance, but something she doesn’t have control over.

    Focusing only on the slap ignores a plethora of larger and deeper issues.

    This is why people hate HR.

    1. This.

      And remember, it wasn’t just Chris. Will and his wife have been subject to these jests for a while now. This may not legally constitute a hostile work environment, but morally it does.

      If as a manager you see someone mocked and insulted for weeks, and watch it get worse as the victim doesn’t react, and do nothing to stop it, the blame doesn’t belong to the employee who reacted badly. YOU created a culture that allows such abuse to occur without consequences. YOU allowed it to escalate. YOU encouraged, through your inaction, the antics of the worst among your team. And then YOU defended the aggressor when someone stepped in to defend the one person who’s innocent in this (Jada). And if your immediate reaction is to focus on the physical side of things, YOU are the reason people don’t trust management/HR/whatever.

      Should Will have slapped Chris? Probably not (for my part I wouldn’t consider a slap assault, but I grew up in a rougher community than the norm). But if management abdicates the responsibility for establishing a culture where bullying isn’t permitted, this is what you get. This is an entirely predictable outcome of the situation.

    2. Psychological violence? Methinks thou do protest too much. Jada Pinkett Smith has made a big deal about shaving her head, and about how proud she is of it and doesn’t care what any one else thinks about it. She said as much on the red carpet going into the Oscars. Chris Rock’s joke was pretty tame, by Oscar standards. Ricky Gervais’ barbs a few years ago were much more stinging. And regarding attacking someone’s spouse, do you not regard Jada Pinkett Smith as a public figure in her own right? Someone with agency, who — in fact — has control over the fact that she proudly sports a shaved head, turning the “lemon” of alopecia into the “lemonade” of a bold, fashion-forward look? Over-the-top reactions like this are probably exactly the type of rationale Will Smith was entertaining as he steeled himself to commandeer the stage and slap Chris Rock. In that regard, he was not that far removed from Kanye West’s barging in to ruin Taylor Swift’s Grammy moment. Privilege run amuck or just plain crazy? You be the judge.

      1. Saying Chris Rock isn’t as bad as Ricky Gervais is a very, very low bar. BOTH are inappropriately mean.

        Awards ceremonies should be celebrating achievements. They shouldn’t be about attracting attention through any means possible.

        1. Obviously, you’re entitled to your opinion. I sincerely doubt though, that many people share your assessment that Chris Rock was “inappropriately mean.”

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