Silence means consent.

We teach our children to stand up to injustice.

We protest when we see injustice elsewhere.

But how many of us speak-up when we see or experience injustice in our work-place?

I have been guilty of not speaking-up when I have experienced injustice, and I too have not spoken on others’ behalf when I should have. I’m more aware-of and intolerant of this now.

One thing I specifically struggle with is when I see new leaders placed into teams where there has been ongoing and long-term dysfunction and intolerable behaviour. I see them struggle to the point of ill-health and despite the support from their seniors, they continuously blame themselves for their teams already present behaviour. You see people often say “Oh that’s just their personality”, or “That’s just how they are” when they are abrupt, rude or even purposefully dismissive, but if it is ongoing and affects those around them and their ability to work and feel safe, then that is not ok.

When incivility and abrasiveness is consistently persistent, then turning a blind-eye just doesn’t cut-it. It’s a bit like the advert on TV where the person emerges from the beach in their togs and continues into the town until the togs are seen as undies. When does the abrasive or dismissive (etc) behaviour become undies in public? When is it unacceptable? Where is the line?

Studies suggest that between one in five and one in three New Zealand workers report bullying or harassment annually.

Too right we have a problem! And guess what? The problem starts with us!

We teach people how to treat us. Through our silence, we not only teach them how to treat us, but we are also saying that it’s ok for them to treat others in an unjust way. No more!

The incredible Brene’ Brown says that we need to embrace “Courage over Comfort”. This is all well and good, but we can’t go from zero to hero overnight, it takes training. As someone who has done a few body-shaping shows in her time, I know that training calls us to be persistently consistent and consistently persistent. If we want to be courageous, we need to practice it every day in a mindful way. Maya Angelou states

Courage – you develop courage by doing small things like just as if you wouldn’t want to pick up a 100-pound weight without preparing yourself.

Courage begins with ourselves. Start to notice what you are saying to yourself. How are you self-defecating through your inner-critic? I used to use a rubber band around my wrist and ping it every time I caught myself in self-depreciating thoughts.

When we grow our inner courage, it also strengthens us to call others-out on their behaviour. We can ask the question or make the observation “Hey I noticed you….”, or “I experienced you…”, then we wait for their response. Keep it factual and succinct. Depending on their response, you can state how it affected you , the values compromised and what you wish going forward. Non-violent methods of communication are also really helpful.

We get what we tolerate, so isn’t it time to call-it?

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