‘Terry, I’m (gasp) an atheist!’ There was not a hint of anger in her during the entire time “Mary” and I talked that afternoon in the crowded sandwich shop. In fact, it was just the opposite. “Mary” laughed, we laughed, so hard and so much that out of the corner of my eye I could see icy stares from booths nearby “telling us” to pipe down so that they could get back to their business dealings, grandkiddos, tuna sandwiches, chips and lattes. Here’s the email “Mary” sent me the Friday before that prompted that late Monday meeting:
“Biggest bang for the buck!”…..”Firing on all cylinders”….”Let’s bury the hatchet”. “Let’s raise the bar”.
“Think out of the box.” “They need to ramp up soon.” “Level the playing field!”
Ever notice how metaphors – figures of speech in which one concept is used in a place of another to suggest an analogy – have etched themselves into everyday conversations?
Toxic employees are trying to “take over” and create toxic workplaces. As a diversity trainer, sexual harassment prevention trainer, consultant, executive coach, and expert witness, for twenty five years now, so much of my work points to one emerging phenomenon – toxic employees, toxic workplaces, are on the rise!
There was a time when flexibility was all about time. Flextime, part-time, job share, compressed schedules enabled the capture of time for less work and more life outside work. When Hewlett-Packard first rolled out flextime in 1972, the term “flexibility” was used almost interchangeably – if narrowly – with flextime. The term “telecommuting” was coined in that same period, although the practice of flexibility as place was in its infancy.
Most people don’t change, or willingly go along with change, because the change is “the right thing to do.” They do it if there is an important reason to change. Businesses don’t change their corporate cultures so that they retain women because doing so is nice for women. They do it if there is a compelling business reason to do so. The bottom line reasons to achieve gender diversity in leadership are exactly that—compelling.
If the truth be told, I wasn’t considered to be a diversity expert until I wrote a book, Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain, which touches on the subject. I am, however, a Black British female of Nigerian origin who happened to live with a white working class family during my foundational years. Not only have I lived in both Britain and Nigeria, I’ve travelled extensively to different parts of the world. I have friends from varying backgrounds as well and I’ve also had the opportunity to work with people from varying backgrounds and countries and I’ve learnt a lot from them, too.
A query by a general contractor whose workplace had been infected by racist comments was the topic of a recent article in The Houston Chronicle. At issue was the worker making these statements and, when confronted by another employee, getting very volatile (“almost violent”). The worker’s defended his statements by claiming the right of free speech. Since this is probably a common experience by many in the workplace, it’s fitting to ask how far does free speech go in what people say on the job in a public setting? The employer and boss has the right, in fact, is under the legal precedent of insuring that all workers can work in a safe environment free of racial discrimination and harassment. How does one resist this negative kind of hate speech, and interrupt this behavior from occurring?
We’re all fed up with the reported incidents of bullying that have been dominating the headlines lately. And we have every right to be. I just hope that we’ve reserved a portion of our dismay for the workplace bullies who may lurk in our midst wreaking havoc on folks in the next cubicle, lab or conference room, or yelling, screaming and cussing on the other end of the phone, or from another culture. And well we should because bullying is anathema to who we say we are from the duality of respectful and ethical behavior.
Still not convinced?