What I have noticed in these sessions is that there are glaring examples of inappropriate behaviour that most of us can agree on, but that it is often difficult to understand that something we are doing, that wouldn’t bother us, can be causing someone else to feel uncomfortable.
In the world of acronyms, it is not surprising that there is one for this concept as well. My colleague Rhonda Hight introduced me to IBI – which sums up the reality and challenge of respectful workplaces and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The bottom line is that regardless of our intent, it is the behaviour we choose – and its impact – that is taken into consideration in determining whether what we did is appropriate or inappropriate.
This can be challenging. What I see in workshops, is that while people may “get” that jokes or comments about race, culture, gender, sexual orientation etc are hurtful to those whom they target, it is often much more difficult to “get” that (for example) calling someone “sweetie” (or some other term of endearment), could be uncomfortable.
We may think that this last example is a shame – or too over the top – but that’s likely because we too think “sweetie” is a term of endearment. Perspective is everything. And in an increasingly diverse workforce we need to continuously find ways to learn about and appreciate the different perspectives of those we work with. So that we can all contribute to creating and sustaining respectful and safe workplaces.
Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion