It seems to me that in recent times, we are becoming less and less tolerant of difference, and we are becoming less and less empathetic to the issues facing people with difference. From racist shootings of black people in America, to trolling of women with an opinion on social media, to abuse of people in LGBT community, to the unexplained incarceration of individuals based on their religion, there are simply far too many incidents of such activities.
I just don’t understand any of it.
If the workplace is a reflection of society, then what we should be observing is a more tolerant society. But while blatant discrimination may be a lesser form that we observe, this doesn’t mean that we are becoming any better at accepting difference and appreciating the value of others. Why do I say we should be observing a more tolerant society? Because, allegedly, the workplace is meant to be a more diverse and inclusive environment. We’re all required to complete equality and diversity training of some sort – regardless of its efficacy – and we’re all expected to display collegiate behaviours at work.
But there are too many daily occurrences of people just not being these appreciative and inclusive beings.
I just don’t understand it.
A lot of what we believe and think is shaped by the media. When we hear our politicians describe certain populations in certain ways, it influences what we think about the same. When we hear ‘celebs’ make outrageous statements, it influences what we think about the same. When the news tells us about attacks on certain communities, it influences what we think about the same. If anything, our capacity for tolerance is greatly reduced because we’re being hit too much too often with opposing views.
Messages of compassion, inclusion and of tolerance only seem to come from those bleeding heart lefties, or those with difference themselves. There are too many times I hear comments from people who simply haven’t taken the time to understand and appreciate.
But in truth, we don’t have the time for this. We’ve got our own shit we’re all dealing with, our own pressures and our own ambitions. It’s always been this way, and the use of social technology doesn’t help – there’s just more and more pressure to live up to the expectation of what’s being shared on the social web.
As individuals, though, we’re fully capable of better thinking and being empathetic with individuals. We don’t need to solve the world’s problems, we just need to better support those we come into contact with. Strangers, people we don’t know, those facing harm, they’re all sharing their stories – how many of us are listening to them? How many of us care?
There’s an affliction we have in the modern age, and that’s to provide commentary on everything we come into contact with, provide advice on how to make it better, and be the expert of all the known problems in the world. Everyone is an expert on everything all of the time. If you don’t accept the words of wisdom, you’re seen as not needing the help, and of being more in wrong because you haven’t done what you were told to do.
So I come across daily articles about things like:
– a woman who is being trolled by a man just because she expressed herself (and not like Katie Hopkins who purposefully seeks to provoke and be offensive)
– a black person who receives racist behaviour for no other reason than they’re black
– a transgender person who is facing difficult transition because well-meaning people are being unwittingly offensive (and just because you’re being unwittingly offensive, doesn’t mean you’re not being offensive)
And I just don’t bloody understand any of it. How are there so many people with such a lack of tolerance of difference? How are there too many people just not saying anything in support of others when they face abuse? How are we turning a blind eye to what’s happening around us?
So I’ve had enough of it all. I’m going to share more examples of people being dicks because turning a blind eye isn’t enough.
At the same time, I’m going to be sharing more examples of stories of understanding and good stories of inclusion because they help provide balance and insight into what this looks like.
Is there an organisational, learning and development angle to any of this? Of course there is. And this is aimed squarely at all HR/L&D professionals. You know all that equality and diversity training we put all our staff through? You know all that training on biases and prejudices managers go through? You know all that self-awareness training we make available for people? You know all those case studies on companies with great inclusion activities? For the most part, it’s ineffectual and not causing behaviour change. For the most part it’s teaching people how not to be obviously offensive. And that’s not the same as being inclusive. That’s just being lazy.