Considering Recent Events: Having Hard Conversations At Work
Considering Recent Events: Having Hard Conversations at Work
It’s safe to say that it’s been a hard few months here on Earth. We’ve seen a global pandemic, a volatile economy, big and small business alike crumble, and now we’ve seen another black citizen murdered by a police officer – someone meant to protect and serve our community. I’ll repeat, it’s been hard lately.
Though I believe that this is a political issue at its very core, my intention here is not to implore you to agree with my political beliefs. I want to invite you to take action. I need you to take action right now in your everyday life and chances are that your everyday life includes the workplace. We have a unique opportunity and frankly, an obligation, to seize our everyday interactions with friends, family, and coworkers to enact the change we wish to see in the world.
I hate conflict. If you read my top 5 strengths or my personality profile (or heck, even my horoscope) you’d be able to realize that in 5 seconds flat. There have been several instances in my professional career that because of my fear of conflict, I’ve remained silent when I had the opportunity to speak up in defense of what is right, but I didn’t. Those days are gone, and I want to invite you to also commit to having these hard conversations. If you hear someone say something ignorant (whether it be about activists, protestors, police officers, etc.) that is your daily call to action, and I encourage you not to ignore it just because it’s between the hours of 8am and 5pm. We need to have these conversations every day! The longer we let these microaggressions slide, the longer we stay complicit in a hugely systemic problem. You can have these conversations respectfully and with tact. When faced with a situation like this, consider the ideas below:
The thing about privilege is that you likely don’t know you have it. Present the idea that perhaps that the ignorant statement you witnessed was rooted in an argument that leans heavily on privilege and how the oppressed group does not have that same privilege.
Don’t Get Discouraged
Nobody likes to be told that they have just done something wrong and it’s hard not to get defensive when it happens. If you’re met with a coworker who is suddenly now on the defensive, don’t feel like you’ve lost them. Stay with them in that moment until they are able to absorb instead of react.
Have Good Intentions
Reiterate your intent is not to argue or degrade but to educate. Some people aren’t ready for this conversation, but some people ARE and they just need a well-intentioned person to create a safe space for them to open their mind to a new point of view…
Somebody’s Got To Do It
…and on that note, don’t let the burden of having to educate others make you bitter or jaded. It’s honestly unfair that the burden of educating (intentional OR unintentional) oppressors falls on the oppressed or their allies but right now, it does. If you let that make you bitter, it will make it that much harder for you to have these conversations respectfully at work.
Nothing is going to make these conversations easy, but I want to encourage you to answer this call to action: have these conversations! Have these conversations no matter where you are! Have these conversations because they need to be had with your friends and family just as badly as they need to be had with your coworkers. Have these conversations because they need to be had and there are so many appropriate ways to have them even in a workplace! Maybe your conversation with a coworker will encourage a conversation at that coworker’s dinner table with their family…and maybe that conversation will spark a conversation between that coworker’s child and their friends at school…and then maybe one day we’ll stop having the same conversation.