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1160 Being Reprimanded at Work

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,160 – Being Reprimanded at Work.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,160. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

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This episode is a dialogue between Tanya and James about making mistakes at work and getting in trouble. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Tania: What time is your meeting with Ted?

James: It’s at 3:00. Why?

Tania: You don’t seem worried. If I were being accused of misconduct and up for disciplinary action, I’d be on edge.

James: It was a minor offense. I’m sure I’ll just get a slap on the wrist.

Tania: I heard about it and it didn’t sound that minor.

James: People blow things out of proportion. It’s not like I’ll be up for dismissal or anything.

Tania: I hope not, but you might get a written reprimand placed in your personnel file. That could affect your chances for a raise or promotion.

James: I don’t have much of a chance of getting either one, quite frankly, so why sweat it? I’ll deal with whatever punishment I get.

Tania: I’m glad that’s your attitude.

James: What I say is: Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time!

[end of dialogue]

Tanya begins by asking James a question: “What time is your meeting with Ted?” James says, “It’s at 3:00. Why?” Tanya says, “You don’t seem worried.” You don’t seem concerned. “If I were being accused of misconduct and up for disciplinary action, I’d be on edge.” Tanya says that if she were “accused of misconduct,” she’d be “on edge.”

“To be accused” (accused) means that someone has said that you have done something wrong or perhaps even something illegal. If someone accuses you of stealing something, that person is saying that you stole something. You did something, in this case, wrong and possibly illegal.

James is being accused of misconduct. “Misconduct” (misconduct) is breaking the rules, doing something wrong. “Misconduct” is a more formal term for doing something wrong or behaving in such a way that your company or organization thinks that you need some sort of punishment. Usually that’s what it means. The word “conduct” simply means behavior. It could be good behavior or bad behavior. “Misconduct” is always bad behavior or poor behavior, or breaking the rules and regulations.

Tanya says that James is “up for disciplinary action.” “To be up for” something means to be considered for something. It could be a good thing or it could be a bad thing. If someone says, “I’m up for a promotion” (promotion), meaning getting a better job in your company, that’s a good thing. “To be up for disciplinary action,” however, is certainly a bad thing. “Disciplinary” (disciplinary) comes from the word “discipline.” “To discipline” someone is to punish someone, to do something bad to someone who has done something wrong.

A parent may discipline his child for doing something wrong by, oh, I don’t know, sending the child to his room or telling the child he has to sit in the corner and not play with the other kids for 10 minutes or five minutes. If your child does something wrong, you may say to the child, “You’re not going to get any dessert tonight, or any sweets tonight. That’s my way of disciplining you.” “Disciplinary,” then, refers to some sort of punishment.

“Disciplinary action” would be something the, in this case, company will do to you for breaking the rules. Tanya says that James is “up for disciplinary action.” If she were in that condition or that situation, she would be “on edge.” “To be on edge” (edge) means to be worried about something, to be nervous about something. You could also be on edge if you were perhaps uneasy. You’re not sure what’s going to happen. “I’m waiting to get the results of my exam. I’m on edge.” I’m uneasy.

James, however, doesn’t seem to be worried. He says, “It was a minor (minor) offense (offense).” Something that is “minor” is not important, not significant – “small,” we might say. The opposite of “minor” is “major” (major). Of course, “minor” and “major” are also musical terms. But here they refer to the importance or significance of something. An “offense” is a violation, when someone breaks a rule or breaks a law. James says that whatever he did was a “minor offense.”

He says, “I’m sure I’ll just get a slap on the wrist.” A “slap (slap) on the wrist (wrist)” is a very mild, almost insignificant punishment. It’s when you don’t get disciplined very much. It’s when the punishment you get doesn’t seem very significant or very serious. If you kill someone, if you murder someone, and then the police tell you, “Well, you’re only going to have to pay a $10 fine for that,” that would be a slap on the wrist. That’s not normally going to happen in most places.

Your “wrist” (wrist) is part of your body. It’s where your hand meets the rest of your arm. A “slap” (slap) is a hit. “To slap” usually means to take your hand and hit someone on his or her face, but “slap” could also mean a very light or not very painful hit with your hand. A “slap on the wrist,” then, would not be a very painful experience, and therefore not a very significant punishment. I’m not saying that you should slap anyone hard in order to discipline them. It’s an old expression that means a very, what we might describe as, “mild” or even “minor” punishment.

Tanya says, “I heard about it,” meaning I heard about what you did, James. “And it didn’t sound that minor.” Noticed the use of the word “that” here to mean “very.” It didn’t sound very minor, meaning it didn’t seem to her that whatever James did was a minor offense. James continues, however: “People blow things out of proportion.” The expression “to blow (blow) things out of proportion (proportion)” means to treat a situation or to consider a situation as if it were much more important and serious than it actually is.

If you come home and your wife asks you if you brought the groceries home – the food – home from the store and you say, “Oh no, I forgot.” If then your wife takes out a gun and shoots you, that would probably be blowing things out of proportion. Your wife is getting more angry then she really should. So, “Honey, I’m sorry I forgot the groceries today – don’t shoot me.” That’s blowing things out of proportion.

James says that his situation has been blown out of proportion, apparently. He says, “It’s not like I’d be up for dismissal or anything.” James is saying that he’s not going to be dismissed. “To be up for dismissal” (dismissal) means that you are going to be fired. You are going to lose your job. That’s the meaning of the verb, in this case, “to dismiss.” Tanya says, “I hope not, but you might get a written reprimand placed in your personnel file.” A “reprimand” (reprimand) is a written notification that you did something wrong. Usually a reprimand says something about what will happen if you do that same thing again.

So, a “written reprimand” would be something that a company would put in your “personnel file.” “Personnel” (personnel) – notice there are two “n”s in “personnel” – refers to people who work for an organization. Your “personnel file” (file) would be information about you that, at least in some companies, is still kept in a physical thing, called a “file” or a “folder,” in which you put pieces of paper that are related to each other. Nowadays, of course, the word “file” usually refers to an electronic file, a document.

Tanya reminds James that this written reprimand that would be put or placed in his personnel file could affect his chances “for a raise or promotion.” A “raise” (raise) is when you get more money for the work you do at your company. A “promotion,” as we mentioned previously, is when you get a better job at your company.

James says, “I don’t have much of a chance of getting either one, quite frankly.” The expression “quite (quite) frankly (frankly)” means I’m telling you this in a very honest way; I’m telling you in a very direct way. When someone uses the phrase “quite frankly,” he’s saying, “I’m being honest with you.” I’m being 100 percent honest with you even though it might be embarrassing or even though it might perhaps anger you. In this case, though, James is saying that quite honestly, “quite frankly,” he doesn’t think he’s going to get a raise or a promotion, “so why sweat it?”

“To sweat (sweat) it” means to be very nervous or worried about something. If someone says, “Don’t sweat it,” he’s saying don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal. James says, “I’ll deal with whatever punishment I get.” A “punishment” is, of course, something done to you when you do something wrong. It’s a negative consequence of your actions, we might say. Tanya says, “I’m glad that’s your attitude,” meaning I’m glad that that is your viewpoint – the way you think about things.

James ends the dialogue by saying, “What I say is,” meaning my opinion is, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” That’s an old expression: “Don’t do,” or commit, “the crime” – that is, don’t break the law – “if you can’t do the time.” “To do the time” here means to take the punishment, usually to be placed in a jail, to be put in a prison. If someone says he’s “doing time,” that person means he’s in prison. Or if a person said, “Yeah, I did time back in the 1980s,” she’s telling you she was in prison back in the 1980s.

“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Don’t do it.” That was a song. Actually, it was from a television show called Beretta. “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” was part of the theme song, the song that they would play at the beginning of the show. I believe it was written by the great Sammy Davis Jr. Interestingly, the actor who played the character Beretta in the TV show himself was accused of murder. He, however, was not found guilty, though many people said that he did do the crime. He just didn’t do the time. Who knows?

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Tania: What time is your meeting with Ted?

James: It’s at 3:00. Why?

Tania: You don’t seem worried. If I were being accused of misconduct and up for disciplinary action, I’d be on edge.

James: It was a minor offense. I’m sure I’ll just get a slap on the wrist.

Tania: I heard about it and it didn’t sound that minor.

James: People blow things out of proportion. It’s not like I’ll be up for dismissal or anything.

Tania: I hope not, but you might get a written reprimand placed in your personnel file. That could affect your chances for a raise or promotion.

James: I don’t have much of a chance of getting either one, quite frankly, so why sweat it? I’ll deal with whatever punishment I get.

Tania: I’m glad that’s your attitude.

James: What I say is: Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time!

[end of dialogue]

If anyone deserves a raise and promotion here at the Center for Educational Development, it’s our very own Dr. Lucy Tse. Clap if you think that she deserves a raise and a promotion. Come on, everybody! Thank you.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening, as well as clapping. Come back and listen to us again one more time – well, at least one more time – right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to accuse – to state that someone has done something wrong or illegal; to blame someone for doing something wrong

* James was accused of theft, but he was never arrested because there wasn’t enough evidence.

misconduct – poor behavior; actions that break the rules

* The teachers are tired of dealing with student misconduct in the classroom.

up for – being considered for, especially when it is one’s turn or time to have or do something

* How many of the lower-level managers are up for promotion this year?

disciplinary action – punishment or other negative consequences resulting from following policies stating what must be done after someone has broken a rule or law

* Students who are caught cheating on exams will be subject to the university’s disciplinary action.

on edge – nervous, uneasy and worried about what might happen

* Everyone felt on edge as they waited for the hurricane to approach.

minor – not important or significant; small

* You might experience some mild discomfort after the injection, but it should last for only a few minutes.

offense – violation; when someone breaks a rule or law

* On her first offense, she received a written warning, but on the second offense, she had to pay a fine.

slap on the wrist – a very mild, almost insignificant punishment

* A $50 fine is just a slap on the wrist for drunk driving. There should be a much heavier punishment.

to blow things out of proportion – to treat a situation as if it were much more important, significant, and serious than it actually is

* Yes, it was inappropriate for your uncle to wear jeans and a t-shirt to our formal wedding, but if we say something about it now, he’ll become upset and it will blow things out of proportion.

dismissal – firing; termination of employment; when one is asked to no longer work for a business or organization

* Nobody in human resources every explained the reasons for the CEO’s dismissal, but he must have done something terrible.

written reprimand – a written notification that one has done something wrong, especially with a statement about what will happen if that action or behavior is repeated

* The driving instructor received a written reprimand for asking students to drive to specific places so that he could run errands.

personnel file – a folder filled with papers related to one’s employment history with a particular organization, including one’s personal data, job application, and performance evaluations

* When customers write a letter to let us know about exceptional customer service they’ve received, we place a copy in the employee’s personnel file.

raise – an increase in the amount of money someone receives for doing work

* Heather has been working at this company for almost six years, but she has never received a raise. Don’t you think it’s time to increase her salary?

promotion – an upward movement in an organization into a position with greater responsibility, higher pay, and a better job title

* I didn’t realize accepting the promotion would mean moving to Nashville.

quite frankly – in a honest, direct, blunt, and straightforward manner, without hiding anything

* Quite frankly, we were all surprised that the client agreed to our proposal.

to sweat it – to be very worried, nervous, and agitated about something

* Why are you studying so much? The test is going to be easy. Don’t sweat it!

punishment – the negative consequence of one’s action or behavior; the penalty for doing something against the rules

* Our punishments for our children are typically things like skipping dessert, taking away TV time, or assigning extra chores.

don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time – a phrase meaning that one should accept responsibility for one’s actions and be prepared to be punished if one does something wrong

* Why are you complaining about getting an F? You knew that cheating would result in a grade of F. Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.

Comprehension Questions
1. Which of these would be the greatest punishment?
a) A slap on the wrist
b) A dismissal
c) A written reprimand

2. What does Peter mean when he says, “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time”?
a) He is prepared to accept the consequences of his actions.
b) He thinks the punishment is too severe.
c) He will be in jail for a period of time.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
on edge

The phrase “on edge,” in this podcast, means nervous, uneasy and worried about what might happen: “Blake is really on edge, because he’s trying to figure out how to break up with his girlfriend.” The phrase “to take the edge off (something)” means to make a bad or painful situation a little better, or to make a situation less stressful or worrisome: “Drink this, and rub this cream into the wound. That should take the edge off the pain.” The phrase “to be on the edge of (one’s) seat” means to be very excited about something and entirely focused on what will happen: “That movie was so suspenseful! We were on the edge our seat the whole time we were watching it.”

quite frankly

In this podcast, the phrase “quite frankly” means in an honest, direct, blunt, and straightforward manner, without hiding anything: “Quite frankly, I think this is a horrible idea and I won’t participate in it.” The phrase, “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn” is a well-known line from the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, meaning that one doesn’t care at all: “Please don’t tell me anymore about what you bought while shopping. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” In general, the word “quite” is used to add emphasis: “It’s quite exciting to fly in an airplane for the first time.” Or, “The thought of speaking in public is quite terrifying.” Finally, the phrase “not quite” means not entirely, or not completely: “The book wasn’t quite what I expected after seeing the movie.” Or, “When I asked Sara if she had finished the paper yet, she said, ‘Not quite.’’

Culture Note
Workplace Misconduct

People like to say, “The punishment should fit the crime,” meaning that minor offenses should be punished in minor ways, and “major” (big; important) offenses should be punished in major ways. Most large businesses categorize their employees’ workplace misconducts in terms of minor and major offenses.

Typical minor offenses include “tardiness” (arriving late), taking “excessive” (too many or too much of something) breaks (short periods of time when one is not working), taking longer lunch breaks than “permitted” (allowed), and poor “timekeeping” (reporting how many hours one has worked). Other minor offenses involve interactions with customers and/or other employees, such as “rude” (not polite) or “aggressive” (threatening) words or behavior. “Still other” (additional) minor offenses involve “violations” (not following of rules) of policies, such as violations of safety procedures, misuse of equipment, or refusal to “obey” (follow the instructions) of managers or supervisors. In most cases, these minor offenses result in an “oral” (spoken) warning and/or a written reprimand.

Major offenses, also known as instances of “gross misconduct” usually result in harm to people or property and often are violations of the law. For example, “assaulting” (physically attacking) another employee or making someone feel unsafe would be considered a major offense. Stealing property from the company, or committing “fraud” (lying and stealing) would also be major offenses. Likewise, coming to work in an “inebriated state” (under the influence of drugs or alcohol) is unacceptable. Businesses may have their own policies for dealing with such major offenses, or they might “bring in” (involve) “law enforcement authorities” (police and related agencies).

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - a