For many of us, recent events have provoked anxiety and sadness. Sometimes it’s been due to events such as the fallout from the niqab debate during the 2015 federal election in Canada. Or, going farther from home, it has involved hate crimes following Brexit in the UK or surrounding the US Presidential Election in 2016. In all cases, the targeted people, Muslims, immigrants, Blacks, Mexicans, people with disabilities, Jews, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, have been made to feel inferior and unwelcome. These events have been awkward to discuss because they have been linked to politics … and we’ve been conditioned to avoid talking about politics. We’ve been told that it’s impolite (and unwise) to talk about politics or religion.
OK, fine, politics and religion have no place at work. But what about values? Can we talk about values at work? Are we allowed to talk about tolerance? How about inclusion? Harassment? Fear?
We talk about all kinds of things at work including sports, the weather, our children/families, projects, etc. When we discuss these other topics but won’t acknowledge the fact that some of our colleagues are scared of work-related travel because of the hostility they anticipate, where does that leave them? When some of our coworkers have their holiday options limited because of travel bans and protests, what’s the hidden impact on them? What does that do to the trust and collegiality that our teams depend on?
Symbols Can Help
In 2016, I noticed some people started to wear safety pins on their clothing. It was intended as a visible signal or symbol that the person wearing the pin was a safe and kind person. “More than anything, it’s pro-kindness,” said Sabrina Krebs, 22, a Barnard student from Guatemala City. “I wouldn’t say its resistance towards Trump. It’s a form of resistance to hate and to negativity.” From what I’ve seen, the safety pin has been used as a positive visual “dog whistle” to represent tolerance, kindness, and inclusion.
Individuals and Leaders Set the Tone
In my role as an HR Consultant and Career Coach, I often talk about leadership – and how it’s an important quality regardless of our official job titles. As individuals and as people who have responsibility for others, our behaviour sets an example and it sets a tone. Our pro-social actions create a certain type of work environment and culture. Likewise, incivility breeds incivility and there are negative consequences that hurt productivity and profitability. Any failure to speak up or take actions that align with our values – especially at this delicate time will create an impression and memories that may be difficult to erase.
If you’re facing career or HR-related challenges, I invite you to contact me privately. I offer a free 15 to 20-minute initial consultation by phone. Or, if you prefer, you can contact me via by email, or via direct message on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
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I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.
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