WORDS OF WISDOM
WORDS OF WISDOM
Supporting Women in Business & Beyond. Bridging the gap between Ambition and Wellbeing.
True Diversity and Inclusion cannot exist without very honest and sometimes difficult conversations.
Diversity and inclusion are high on the agenda of many organisations, yet I’m still having conversations where women share with me the most inappropriate things that have been said to them both in one to one conversations and open forums.
I’m witnessing the fall out from behaviour that falls short of respect and acceptance for others. How can we as a collective promote a greater level of respect within organisations, so this behaviour becomes something that happens less and dare I say it disappear.
True, I’m only hearing one side of the story and as the saying goes there are three sides to every story yours, mine and the truth, but based on my own experiences and the upset I see being caused by what is being said, I find it difficult not to believe what has been shared with me.
Unconscious & Conscious Biases
Yes we all have our biases some of which are unconscious and some, very conscious.
Looking at the people around you what discriminatory or inappropriate assumptions do you make about them?
The problem lies when these discriminatory or inappropriate thoughts are no longer confined to the mind but are voiced out loud. If what is said is hurtful, harmful and inappropriate this needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
If you ‘think it’ and it’s inappropriate keep it there, in the mind or make a conscious choice to change your thoughts, it should not be put out into the public domain
It can be an uncomfortable situation for the person who chooses to ‘speak up’ against inappropriate behaviour but just imagine how uncomfortable the recipient of this behaviour is being made to feel.
Intervening in or confronting racist, sexist or any discriminatory language within your working environment will require tough and challenging conversations.
If we're not brave enough to acknowledge the valuable contribution women are making to the workforce this also means we're not brave enough to acknowledge the valuable contribution people of colour, with disabilities, transsexuals, different religions or other ‘Protected Characteristics’ under the Equality Act are also making.
A tough conversation?
Managing difficult conversations is falling lower and lower on the priority scale, it’s not a skill that’s being taught. If it’s not something you have a natural aptitude for the chances are it won’t become a skill, unless you go out of your way to explore how you can learn to improve it.
There are ways in which tackling difficult conversations rather than avoiding them can be prioritised within your organisation.
Effective communication when managing difficult conversations and a desire to make a stand against unacceptable behaviour must be elevated.
If Diversity and Inclusion is important to your organisation and you don’t know where or how to focus on improving in this area, there are enough industry experts who are more than willing to support you and your organisation.
Simply burying your head in the sand, throwing the problem over the wall and hoping someone else will deal with it, is not the answer.
The employees you say you treasure and value, deserve the right to work in your company without fear of being undermined and insulted by behaviour that is quite simply unacceptable.
The continued fear of difficult conversations on the subject, preferring to avoid confrontation or conflict means the conflict will remain in your organisation, silently and behind closed doors perpetrated by individuals who may not be aware of what they are doing or who continue to insist on inappropriate behaviour because they believe they will not be challenged on it.
Fearing and being impaired by the idea of having a difficult conversation on this or any other subject will only perpetuate the cycle of fear and avoidance. As with anything we fear, the only way to make progress is to find a way to move past the fear and improve the skills required for the task.
If you’re not addressing these issues, your staff will move on and be left with an unforgiving memory of your organisation and the culprit.
If you are on the receiving end of discriminatory, bullying language or behaviour:
Make a note of the date, time and what was said.
Speak to HR or someone you trust regarding next steps
You might be tempted to think you’re being sensitive, please be aware this type of behaviour is not acceptable, from anyone.
‘It’s just banter’ doesn’t cut it
Your organisation is responsible for putting in place a well documented policy for promoting dignity and respect at work and any extension of that environment, which might be off site where work activities take place.
Please ‘speak up’, if you are a recipient or a witness to this behaviour. We won’t break the cycle if we don’t speak on the subject more, just because we’re afraid to ‘rock the boat’ and instead accept the status quo.
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