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The Alabama Dock Brawl Offers Insight into Toxic Corporate Culture

The recent Alabama Dock Brawl piqued my interest as a business strategist who examines corporate culture. For those who are unfamiliar, a video reveals an individual performing his duties and being questionably challenged by patrons at a dock. The situation escalated to an environment where spectators and community members engaged in battle on opposing sides.

As I viewed the video, my mind traveled to stories (including my own) of corporate environments where privilege and presumed power caused an avoidable ruckus. In particular, I saw three parallels between the Alabama Dock Brawl and toxic corporate culture.

Threatened While Doing Your Job

While the verbal exchange was unclear in the video, the body language suggested escalated dialogue between the parties. In the workplace, microaggressions come into play when employees experience hostile or negative communication consistently in everyday interactions. For example, as a woman, I’ve been told I’m “too emotional” for shedding tears about blatant racism in the workplace and being labeled an angry Black woman for addressing such injustices.

In a survey conducted by Survey Monkey and Forbes, 68% of Americans reported that microaggression represents a serious problem in the workplace. Unaddressed microaggressions engender employee isolation, decreased productivity and turnover. Many employees refrain from reporting microaggressions due to fear of retaliation by leaders.

Privilege Exerted, Even When People Are Watching

The patrons’ aggressive stance, as captured in the video, mirror leaders who negatively exert privilege and feel empowered to defy the rules and reinforce negative stereotypes. They are often emboldened to make decisions that benefit themselves at the expense of others, with no regard for who witnesses such infractions.

Gen Z Values and Skills Underestimated

According to E&Y, 49%or more of Gen Zers surveyed deemed issues such as racism, gun violence, climate change and economic equality as large problems to be addressed. They are willing to courageously stand and speak for their beliefs with passion and unity. In the video, a 16-year-old co-worker swam, fully clothed, to the dock to aid the embattled dock attendant. Witnessing the injustices empowered him to take action, even at the expense of putting himself in physical danger and potentially losing his job.

Designing the Firm of the Future

In my November 2020 Wealth Management article, Why Diversity and Inclusion Reaches a Screeching Halt, I expound on the notion that the workplace reflects the conscience of the leaders and the culture they create. Firms of the future foster hospitable workplaces anchored in physiological safety, where employees feel safe and respected. They recognize the risk of losing valuable talent and clients paying attention to a firm’s culture and values. Their policies and procedures denounce microaggressions and reward people encouraging a healthy, vibrant workplace. They analyze and engage generational work differences and preferences to attract and retain employees and consumers.

Financial services leaders, I encourage you to review the Alabama Dock Brawl as a relevant case study on avoiding toxic workplaces and designing the firm of the future.


Lazetta Rainey Braxton the founder/CEO of Lazetta & Associates and co-CEO at 2050 Wealth Partners.

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