Updated: Apr 5, 2021
Following my recent reflections in Part 1: The experience of being different at work, these words poured out of me, like an open letter to HR and leadership, to managers and people; at work, within institutions and in communities.
It is time to change. To stop fearing difference. To stop resisting difference. In all its shapes and forms. Stop with the limited binary mental and ideological frameworks which you have built and use to judge yourself and others in your care.
Develop and accept different, complex and colourful ways of thinking and doing. Your fear of and your insecurity with difference is traumatising and breaking already overworked and over-scrutinised individuals, disproportionately. Stop this cycle of skewed destruction of other humans.
Consider your place, consciously, every day, in the impact you have and what you are NOT seeing, NOT listening to and are instead judging for flaws.
Stop looking for, and finding flaws; inside and out.
We dissect instead of include, with the intention to understand but consider that inclusion is a daily, conscious practice and rests on self-interrogation, self-heling and uncomfortable self-learning.
We spend our days and lives looking for flaws and the solutions to fix them, in ourselves and others. From makeup to diet pills to appraisals and reviews, living life from one self and externally imposed target to another - while at work, at home and in our myriad and complex communities.
We push down and aside things that we perceive do not '#fit'. We continuously judge to like or dislike in binaries. We can't find it in our conditioned brains to just accept what IS - not in ourselves and not in others. We create entire systems of judgement around this way of thinking then try and treat a problem we created!
What questions are you avoiding asking within every space you influence and exist in?
Can't you see how broken a system we have built and how many 'different to us' cultures we have destroyed out of abuse in a search for power and prominence over another?
Instead of learning from other discovered cultures and appreciating knowledge we do not yet understand, we deem complex and different cultural knowledge pseudoscience or some other label because we look through a colourless and limited lens, seeking out flaws to find through intellectual scrutiny. We do this across sectors deeming some more able than others rather than figuring how to leverage how differently abled we each are.
We design through an “I am or this is better than that” binary lens and exclude in the most subtle and complex of ways. Ways which cannot be challenged those that are excluded. Then we wonder why some people fail where others succeed. Enough.
We have designed a society around critiquing difference against a set colourless norm at work and in life as if change, growth, evolution are abnormal and to be suppressed and repressed! Our physical and mental health problems stay with us at work and in the life we go back into - we cannot leave these parts of ourselves behind when at work so yes, we need to talk about how #HR, leaders and the world of work needs to do better by us to create spaces we can be ourselves in without judgement and with full acceptance. This is not a demand, it is a right.
From performance reviews to one to ones to a year long probation for a 12-month contract and other absurd examples of opinion and snapshot-in-time based judgement giving - we don't rest until we have delivered judgement in each other in every aspect that makes and breaks us.
What many HR folk (and leaders) need to consider to do better:
HR overwhelmingly continues perpetuating a flawed system, playing it safe often at the expense of employees who are different and being slow to evolve; still operating conditioned by its colonial, war time and colourless origins. Our companies, communities and HR are slow to align and actually hear the call to change.
HR often fails to lead the way because they are quicker to go on the defensive and give explanations when questioned especially by BIPOC.
HR often fail to hear (and seek) voices of the unheard/ marginalised because HR often keeps itself trapped fire-fighting, working disproportionately towards the protection of an employer's reputation at the cost of the lived experience, representation, voices and feelings of those who are different, racialised and minoritised.
HR often fail to create physical and psychological spaces where human beings can feel safe at work, can exist and be allowed to grow through encouragement and alignment to their unique and innate strengths instead of judgement for fitment against another person's or system's skewed and temporary power, privilege and influence fuelled view of them.
HR is not alone in this disproportionate destruction of the self of those who are different and forced to self-censor at work, every.single.day because they are not safe to be themselves at work and often, also in their homes.
HR often supports incompetence because they are either perpetuating biases and stereotypes by being lacking in diversity themselves and/ or fearful of addressing difficult HR leaders and organisational leaders who are causing harm, trauma or are incompetent and/or HR are often part of the problem and do not self-interrogate honestly enough or listen to the BIPOC/ WOC within their teams to course correct and do better because many operate on the assumption that we cannot get it wrong or do not get it wrong or are on a power trip that is very visible to marginalised employees but who lack the privilege and safety to be able to speak up and call out such realities.
HR isn’t alone in needing to change and do better by difference
The education sector, steeped in colonial or other limited ideals, around most of the world, continues to perpetuate and create workers for an empire long dead instead of evolving into a self-interrogating living breathing growth-mindset oriented system that values and allows individual gifts and innate intelligence to be discovered, flourish and find their place. I am appreciating India's ancient gurukul system of education a whole lot more and learning about the value of individual cultural knowledge and how to move away from elitist colonial, Whitx, ideologically limited binary and judgement-based ways of looking at the world.
We build systems that discriminate, then write books and develop courses to educate, where we still leave out those who look and sound different because our system taught us to do the very thing so many of us are trying to unlearn.
Disproportionality of impact and experience is real and needs to be considered critically. With anxiety and depression, with disabilities, being non-binary or different for any other reason (accent included) while stuck being a product of systems built around binaries - is it any wonder that those who are different struggle more than others, are scrutinised more than others, struggle to perform "as well" as others or are judged to be less able than the deemed colourless limited norm which fails to evolve and prides itself in lack of complexity, privileged costly access and neatly defined labels of what is and isn't acceptable?
Employers, HR, Leadership - wake up. DoBetter. Dismantle and question the systems you impose and feel compelled to follow. You often perpetuate problems you pay yourself and others to solve. You get in the way of and judge experts (esp. BIPOC/WOC/nonbinary) whom you bring in to solve the very problems you are causing because you are often riddled with a heady mix of privilege, fear, power, politics and being afraid of questions.
Enough of you meekly following and implementing a bad system or making token piece-meal changes. Change the broken system through questioning what works and what does not, who is included and who isn't, at work and in society. Go beyond what is comfortable and change the broken system of flaw-finding and marginalising difference and the different, marginalising and more harshly judging what you do not understand - difference is the surviving majority in nature and in the world. Stop living colourless lives and denying our true nature.
Incompetent HR & Leadership folk - Your comfort shows. Your discomfort is evident. Your lack of effort is destroying human beings at work and then at home when they leave work. Men, women, non-binary alike - people are tired and hurting and living unfairly questioning themselves because incompetence, unethical behaviours and individuals are allowed to progress and the politics of power + privilege + influence reigns and goes unchallenged by those in positions of responsibility, particularly in HR and leadership, in work and in communities.
Stop culture ‘fitting’ and start inviting difference with an open mind, unafraid to try something different and new and do things unlike how they have always been done. You might even be able to avoid more employee tribunal cases/ issues if you just start listening and stop performative-employer-protecting-language that people of colour and others who have been marginalised can spot a mile away and so therefore do not trust you or engage with you or apply to your organisations.
Our true nature is:
To be diverse, to mix and mingle and to evolve.
To be curious about difference like children are.
To be together no matter how different we are.
To fight against ideologies and structures that limit our growth and feel unnatural and stop us from perpetually seeking growth, like a seed from a sapling grows through soil, rocks and mud to adapt and survive against limiting odds.
For those who have been traumatised and misjudged or still are caught in self-doubt and gaslighted:
👉🏼 You are not your labelled flaws - not the ones you find nor the ones you deem others to have. You are not your performance reviews or the judgement of your bad or politically induced one to ones. You are not the negative opinions of your managers, especially the incompetent and less capable ones.
👉🏼 You need to grow, as does everyone. You are not perfect, and this is normal. There are things to develop - everyone has them - so do not judge yourself by some snapshot in time and then live with that judgement in your heart and mind.
Our true nature is to exist as we are, flaw-less as we were created.
NOTE: The opinions expressed here are my own and are a snapshot in time relevant to the real-life experiences I have had at this point. They may or may not change in the future as I learn more and grow more. I welcome readers to share their experiences and reflections on reading this article.
(originally published on Linkedin)