"If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect then you need to get out.
"If you can't treat someone from another gender whether that's a man or a woman with dignity and respect then you need to get out.
"If you demean someone in any way then you need to get out.
"If you can't treat someone from another race or a different colour skin with dignity and respect then you need to get out."
Lieutenant-General Jay B. Silveria didn't mince his words. I like his straight talking. Says what he means and means what he says.
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He is the Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. His air force career spans 35 years including serving as a Deputy Commander of the United States Air Force Central Command, Vice-Commander of the 48th Fighter Wing and Commander of the United States Air Force Warfare Center. He has flown combat missions over the Balkans and Iraq.
Someone scrawled racist slurs on student's lockers. He started an investigation but didn't sit around waiting for the results. He launched into it, gathering his leadership team; facility, staffers and the 5000 academy students together.
His message was straightforward and challenging. He even invited everyone to take out their phones and video his message. He told them to use it and play it to anyone who might need to hear the message. I was sent the video link.
He made it clear that under his watch prejudice, bigotry and racism will not be tolerated. Leadership in action. He is sending a direct challenge - that to belong in the air force there are standards of behaviour that are expected to be seen and demonstrated.
If you don't aspire to or can't support these standards "then you need to get out".
The Lieutenant-General has set the behaviour bar high and he expects students to strive to reach it. He acknowledged it would be naive to suggest the academy was not without problems but racial slurs, bullying and harassment had no place there.
It's always concerned me that New Zealand organisations appear to pussyfoot around when they encounter allegations and incidences of blatant racism, bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace.
No one wants to believe this could be happening in their organisation but leaders and their management team can't "sleep on it". They have to respond quickly, let those who made complaints know they've been taken seriously.
By all means undertake the necessary investigations, reports and reviews. But you don't have to wait for the findings and recommendations before you make their thoughts known. You can do what the Lieutenant-General did. Make it clear what you and your organisation's expectations are.
We have seen reviews coming thick and fast in New Zealand over the past couple of years. The climate is right for people to speak up. It should always have been but that's another story.
DHBs, Cycling New Zealand, NZ Defence Force, National Party, Labour Party, Russell McVeagh and Partners, Parliamentary Service and now Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
They have all undertaken reviews and reports. These were commissioned by the organisations to look into allegations ranging from sexual assault, sexual harassment and bullying to health and safety risks, racism and behaviour that was threatening, intimidating or otherwise inappropriate, including assault.
The FENZ review found that "there is no doubt that bullying and harassment is a feature of the FENZ workplace at all levels across all regions".
No wonder the chief executive, Rhys Jones, finds the report confronting. It highlights "unacceptable levels of racism, sexism and homophobia".
He has his work cut out. FENZ is not a small business by any means. It has 14,000 people, across 40 different firefighting organisations.
The leader sets the climate and culture of an organisation. He or she sets the standards.
Rhys Jones, a retired Lieutenant-General in the New Zealand Army, might want to be just as forthright as Silveria in his message to his leadership team and all those who work in the organisation.
"If you can't treat someone with respect and dignity then you need to get out".
A confronting message maybe but it leaves no one in any doubt the tipping point has been reached.
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is a Rotorua district councillor, Lakes District Health Board member and chairs the North Island Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart political correctness.