Will You Admit You’re Biased, Have Preferences And Discriminate?

Discrimination: the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.

Discrimination: the ability to discern what is of high quality; good judgment or taste.

Sure you discriminate; so do I for that matter. You and I we have our preferences and they are revealed when we pick up one brand over another in a shopping trip. Why sometimes we’ll pay more for something we see as having higher value. We might stand in a longer line than another if we feel we’ll have a better experience dealing with the ticket taker, the Airport Security or the Cashier at the check out. Why to be a discriminating buyer is a compliment isn’t it; you don’t just, ‘settle’ for things, you have impeccable taste and exercise discriminating judgement. So can we both agree that you and I discriminate? I think so.

Ah but then there’s our first definition of discrimination up there at the top of this piece. This is the definition of discrimination we are likely to want to distance ourselves from; well most of us. We could argue that someone like the current President of the United States is discriminating when he puts forward an, “America first” agenda, or proposes legislation that bans people of certain countries from flying and of course there is his plan to build a wall separating his country from Mexico. Discrimination? Absolutely, yet there he is at the very pinnacle of power and influence. So holding such a polarizing view can get you to the top and apparently allow you to stay there too; at least for a while.

Like you I hope, I’m not in favour of discriminating on the basis of race, age or sex. This being said, there are situations where I do agree one should. Take for example the staff who work in a safe house for women who have been abused. I could be the most empathetic, kind and supportive Crisis Counselling Support Worker out there, but for some woman who has just fled an abusive relationship, all she might see upon entering that safe domain is a male in a position of authority and that could trigger fear, alarm and prevent her from even wanting to be accepted in. No, I agree there are jobs that should still discriminate based on gender.

Now some jobs that in the past were exclusively reserved for one gender or the other have or are in the process of opening up. Nursing used to be a female-only dominated profession. Now of course we see male nurses and I applaud the men who have committed to the profession and aren’t necessarily angling to become Doctor’s; who have reached their goal of working in the medical health field and perform their work with skill and dedication.

Soldiers used to be exclusively male; women were once limited to working in factories to support the war effort, or as I say in the health care field, treating the wounded and dying. Now we’ve reached the point in many countries where women have the option to serve. If that is their wish, and presuming they can match and pass the standards that have been set to keep soldiers trained and ready for battle, than why not?

But it’s this other blatant discrimination that gets most people upset and rebelling against. You know, the employer who denies employment because their skin is of a certain colour, the applicant is too young or old, has no experience at all or is overly qualified. Maybe it’s a person’s sexual preferences, their lifestyle, religious denomination or faith, choice of clothing, height, weight, health etc. There are any number of things we find and hear about where someone is certain they’ve been discriminated against.

We hear hateful discrimination in comments like, “Why don’t you go back where you came from!”, and not only is it hateful, it’s hurtful. Ironically, the victim of such comments isn’t even from a foreign country as the person talking suspects.

Collectively, I believe we have to do better. Isn’t it all about inclusion and not exclusion? Isn’t what we’re striving for really is to be better at choosing to hire people based on their skills and experience? And as for experience, how do people acquire that valuable experience unless somewhere along the line someone gives them that first break; that first opportunity to gain the experience we’ve come to value?

Yet, I know as I suspect you do, that there are employers who favour local experience over experience gained elsewhere. While that can mean a Canadian employer prefers Canadian experience, on a micro level, it can mean an employer prefers to hire someone with work experience in the same city, town or who went the to same school they did. We often hear that people like to hire people who look like them, talk like them, act like them.

Be careful though I say; there is a risk that some excellent people with different backgrounds and different experiences could bring an infusion of energy, better ideas, more innovative methods and practices. If you or I discriminate against these same people, then the opportunities are lost.

So think before we speak, consider before we reject, pause before we act, and make sure we treat others as we’d wish to be treated ourselves.

That’s how I see it anyhow.



Appreciating Co-Workers

May the 16th isn’t, “Co-worker Appreciation Day”. Come to think of it I don’t know that there is such a day, although if there is I’m confident someone will point it out to me. Good thing actually in my opinion; I mean do we really need a day to remind us to appreciate the good in those we work alongside throughout the year?

Maybe the answer to that question is yes. I mean we have a day for Administrative Professionals called Secretaries’ day in some jurisdictions. That’s often when the various Supervisors in organizations get the Administrative team members out for lunch in our organization and an email goes out reminding us all to show some gratitude for the support we receive.

Seems to me that real gratitude should come from people without reminding or prompting, and it should come throughout the year not just on a specific day on a calendar. However, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it’s a day of celebration and I’m certainly not going to suggest we abolish any of these. Some people do need a reminder to say thanks, whether it’s for a parent or those in the workplace.

I wonder though if we do enough of a good job thanking those we work with for being the people they are; for making our own workplaces more enjoyable places to work. Our co-workers do make our places of employment more enjoyable don’t they? If you can’t think of anyone where you work who deserves a word of thanks, could be its high time you moved on. Good co-workers are first and foremost good people and good people are a treasure to surround yourself by.

It’s these people who ask how your day is going, who mean it when they say you seem different from your normal self and ask if there’s anything wrong or something they can do. These are the ones that celebrate your birthday, tell you to go easy on the days you’re not at your best, and cover for you as best they can when you’re away. If you’re lucky, you come back after vacations to find less work on your plate than you might have otherwise accumulated.

Your co-workers are the ones who support you and compliment you on the quality of work you do. Count yourself fortunate if you share your personal workspace with someone who you see as integral to influencing the kind of worker you’ve become. They might mentor you officially or not, but the way they go about their business surely rubs off on you to a lesser or greater degree. When it’s them on their holiday, doesn’t your work area miss them? Isn’t there a big part of you that truly hopes that they are really enjoying their time no matter what it is they are doing? You know how much they put in when at work and so you wish them sunshine, good weather, lots of reasons to smile and laugh. Most of all you hope they come back feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and you’re one of the first to ask how they enjoyed the time off.

If you haven’t really given much thought to the one who shares your space, just imagine walking in and learning they or you will be relocating to another part of the building. Even if you enjoy change and the idea of working in close proximity with someone new is appealing, hopefully part of you acknowledges the good times you’ve shared together and is grateful for those moments.

In my case, I’ve shared my two-person office with the same person for 10 years now. Wow! 10 years! I’m very appreciative of him and know the positive impact we have on each other’s performance. Even when we swing our chairs around and talk of our families, sports news, plans for the weekend or vacation plans, it’s all productive time. It might not seem productive of course to others, but building and nurturing a relationship with someone you spend this much time with has to improve your working relationship tremendously.

The time will eventually come when one or both of us moves on, either to another place in the office we work at or to another site completely. While the change will be good and the new office mate welcomed, the relationship we have together will never be truly replicated. I’m grateful in the here and now and I know he is too; and that’s significant to note.

The others I work with, be they on my team, at reception, my Supervisor, those on other teams of course are all important too. If I were building my, ‘dream team’, I’d count many of these people among those I want on board. Of course it’s not that every single person has to be a, ‘best buddy’ or a close working associate. I imagine I’m not on every single co-worker’s list if they assembled their dream team either. That would be unreasonable to expect. However, what is important is that each person get their due of credit for what they do contribute.

Consider thanking those you work with not just for a day but each day. What might you point out that you appreciate in your co-workers. Could be the word of thanks you pass on is just what they needed to hear. These people you work alongside make your workplace what it is.

Not Fitting In? This Could Be Dangerous

No matter whether yours is toxic, harmonious, creative or chaotic, you’ve got one at work. You are also responsible in part for the way it is and more importantly the way it could be. It may change slightly or greatly with each employee departure or addition. What is it? It’s the climate or atmosphere you work within.

Every so often you may hear of someone who loses their job or quits and says, “I’m actually glad it happened. I was suffocating there”. You can substitute the word, ‘suffocating’ for any number of adjectives such as: dying, withering away, frantic, isolated, overwhelmed, steamrolled, etc. The point they are really making is that the person they became was increasingly at odds with their authentic self, and the stress and anxiety they were under as a result of not being true to their nature was wearing on them.

Aligning yourself with the proper workplace atmosphere is more important than you might think. Some job postings make crude attempts at describing the atmosphere with phrases such as, fast-paced environment or sales-driven atmosphere. The problem with these phrases is that they are so over-used, applicants don’t really understand what they mean anymore; the words are almost invisible. How fast is fast-paced anyway? One company’s fast-paced isn’t another’s.

If you find on a Sunday afternoon or early evening that you are edgy or downright agitated as the thought of going to work on Monday morning pops unexpectedly into your conscious thought, it’s likely that the atmosphere you will enter as you walk into work is at odds with what you’d optimally like to experience in the workplace. If you find yourself having to be someone you’re really not to fit in at work, over time this can become easier to do on a daily basis but you run the risk of waking up one day and realizing you don’t really like the person you’ve become. If that happens, you’ll be unhappy, unfulfilled and disillusioned. Wait too long to decide you need a change, and you might find yourself feeling trapped by your seniority, the pay and benefits, the number of weeks you’ve got coming as vacation. Then you’re really facing a sentence of sorts; dragging yourself off to a job you don’t feel anything but loathing for, and hating yourself for being afraid to do anything about it.

In today’s economy where jobs are seemingly more and more difficult to come by, those of us with good paying jobs and seniority are increasingly aware that to jump ship and start with another organization comes with increased risks. If we quit one job for another and that new company cuts back its workforce, we might be number one on the chopping block as the newest hire. Then we’re out of work entirely and job hunting again. On the other hand, sticking around in a job within an organization where the atmosphere is eating away at us can cause us tremendous personal anxiety. Health problems may start appearing more frequently resulting in absenteeism, medical leaves and burn out.

It is for this reason that one of the questions many people ask at a job interview has to do with gauging the working atmosphere or chemistry of the workplace. It can be difficult to get at the information you want to really know however. Imagine the tired old question, “Can you describe a typical day?” and getting an honest reply like this:

“You’ll wake up agitated from a troubled sleep, rush around taking short-cuts to compensate for then sleeping through the alarm. As you inhale your last breath of fresh air in the parking lot and walk in to the office you’ll be greeted with unfinished work on your desk and a fresh new pile of invoices to deal with. Your co-workers in other cubicles will play their daily symphony of annoying sounds from flatulence, nail filing, sniffling, snorting, grunting, sighing and cursing. The tapping of keys on keyboards will only be interrupted with the popping of lids on antacid pills and headache medications. Eventually you will be given the combination to the chain around your leg – once at noon and again at the end of your shift. The combination will change daily. You will repeat this process for the next 6 years until you are mentally fried and your increased wages no longer make you an asset to the company. You will unceremoniously be removed and replaced by a leaner, hungrier version of yourself.”

Ouch! Well let’s hope this description doesn’t ever apply to you. However, what if this is exactly your reality and you’re sitting there saying, “Oh my gosh, you nailed me to a tee! But I’m stuck and can’t afford to quit!”

Perform a self-check with your work happiness. How well does both the job and the culture or atmosphere of the workplace fit with your personal preferences? If things don’t align up to your liking, update the resume – now. Look for other opportunities while you have your present job and start mobilizing your network of contacts. Outside your work hours, look into organizations that appeal to you, talk with people there and ask about the chemistry and climate of the workplace. Leaving when it’s your choice is preferable to leaving by termination; or worse yet, staying when every fibre of your being has come to hate your job.