Looking to be offended.

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about diversity: Ordinarily, I have not heard anything the least bit derogatory in our corner. Do you think my coworker and I should be concerned about this, or should we just ignore it

Our unit recently had diversity/inclusion training in January. Until that day, it seems all 4 of us coworkers sitting in sort of a corner arrangement got along ok. Since that afternoon, it seems that one of the female coworkers is listening more intently to all conversations in our area. Our unit is so busy that we do not have much time for casual conversation anyway. Ordinarily, I have not heard anything the least bit derogatory in our corner. Do you think my coworker and I should be concerned about this, or should we just ignore it?

Signed, Should I Ignore It?

Dear Should I Ignore It?:

Yes, “just ignore it.” What would you do otherwise; ask the woman coworker, I’ll call Alice, “Alice, why are you listening so intently to our conversation? Are you policing us to see if you can catch us in a derogatory remark?” And what might that provoke; an answer from her, “Mind your own business”?

Diversity training should make you sensitive to trigger words and nonverbal gestures and expressions, such are rolling ones eyes or staring that might be seen as offensive, but it shouldn’t make you look for that with the intention of calling someone prejudiced or politically incorrect. Diversity training can make one hypersensitive to that that could be interpreted as offensive. Taken to the extreme it can cause one to make a big deal over almost any remark that could be taken to denigrate minorities, those of various sexual orientation, certain religious faiths, those who are disabled, those who are too thin or too fat, too young or too old, of one political party or another, etc. etc. etc. Do you get my point?

We all want to be included as individuals and not discounted or demeaned. The wisdom of the training you took was that its label was half “Inclusion”. My advice is to focus on that part of your training. Conveying a friendly inclusive attitude doesn’t detract from your unit that “is so busy that we do not have much time for casual conversation.” Make civility the norm. Make inclusion the norm. Make engaging each other in getting the job done and done well the norm. And if those are the norms of your work environment, you will not worry about someone who might take a remark or look as derogatory. Does this make sense? I hope so. Let us then hear from you about how your work group has applied my signature sentence: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden