Stand­ing up for val­ues worth the trou­ble

Boston Herald - - CAREERS -

A per­son in author­ity in my or­ga­ni­za­tion has a per­sis­tent habit of mak­ing sex­ist and de­mean­ing com­ments. As a white man at my com­pany, I feel it’s right to stand up against in­jus­tices like this, but it’s com­ing with some neg­a­tive con­se­quences from both him (not sur­pris­ingly) and my col­leagues, who seem to like and ad­mire him. How can I do the right thing?

Think of the peo­ple who are afraid to speak up and are ap­pre­ci­at­ing all you do — use that to help you stay the course. At the same time, your pri­mary an­chor needs to be your in­ner val­ues. Re­flect deeply on this, think­ing about his be­hav­ior and the im­pact it has. Mov­ing past the su­per­fi­cial, con­sider why it mat­ters to you. I would chal­lenge you to think, “Who am I if I’m not both­ered?” and then con­front whether you re­ally have a choice. If you stay silent, what does it say about you as a per­son? This deep com­mit­ment will also help you en­dure any dis­com­fort that you ex­pe­ri­ence as a re­sult of your stand. Ide­ally, if you are tempted to do less for oth­ers out of in­con­ve­nience to your­self, your in­ner voice will also re­as­sure and pro­vide sup­port. I also think that, from the way you have phrased your ques­tion, you know that you have some pro­tec­tion and priv­i­lege that comes just from be­ing white and male. This is use­ful aware­ness on your part, and also comes with re­spon­si­bil­ity, know­ing that you are less likely to ex­pe­ri­ence eco­nomic or le­gal reper­cus­sions for tak­ing a stand, and if you do, you will have an eas­ier time re­cov­er­ing from it. Now cast an eye on the out­ward ac­tions you have taken so far. The most ob­vi­ous steps are to re­act in the mo­ment, chal­leng­ing a com­ment, for ex­am­ple. This is use­ful and im­por­tant and cer­tainly re­quires courage. It sends a mes­sage to oth­ers that not every­one feels the way he does. You are also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the light­ning-rod ef­fect it can have. It’s not the only type of ac­tion. Con­sider steps at a more struc­tural level. For ex­am­ple, have you brought this to the HR de­part­ment, per­haps lodg­ing for­mal com­plaints about the be­hav­ior? Have your ev­i­dence in or­der. Take con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous notes, or even video com­ments if that’s a rea­son­able op­tion. Also seek out other peo­ple who wit­nessed the in­ci­dents who will cor­rob­o­rate your story. None of this dis­counts that it’s no fun to be a pariah at work. Peo­ple like this guy can some­times be charis­matic and draw a fol­low­ing. Take steps to main­tain your own equilib­rium. Avoid ru­mi­nat­ing and get­ting caught in the drama. Tend to your well-be­ing through ac­tiv­i­ties you en­joy and be­ing with peo­ple who give you pos­i­tive en­ergy. Ex­er­cise, eat well and get enough sleep — the usual steps to sus­tain your­self. And, again, re­mem­ber that there are a lot of peo­ple out there who have been harmed by th­ese types of be­hav­iors, my­self in­cluded. On be­half of all, I thank you and count on you to stay the course.

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