Project Description

Good, bad, naughty or nice. It’s not just Santa who’s judgemental.

January 22, 2021

The experience of a black woman in construction? Discrimination is about age.

Separate the person from the behaviour. Parents are now encouraged to discipline their children by saying, “that was naughty behaviour” as opposed to “you are naughty”, the difference being that the behaviour is treated in isolation rather than defining the child’s personality.

Branding children as good, bad, naughty or nice, other than its utility for Santa to decide his present allocation, can affect the way a child perceives themselves. Separating the person from the behaviour, particularly when it’s a negative behaviour, can help maintain confidence and doesn’t act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The same is true of adults in the workplace.

Separating the behaviour is often easier said than done of course, especially when your son has just emptied a tonne of tiny polystyrene balls onto the kitchen floor while naked, resulting in you having to not only hoover the kitchen but also hoover him in order to get the tiny polystyrene balls out of every crevice. Or, to return to the workplace, when you’re stressed, tired and frustrated with repeated patterns of behaviour.

This new parenting style draws easy parallels with the workplace.

These phrases are commonplace in office vernacular and even if they are not said directly to the individual, brandishing people as the personification of their worst behaviour is sweepingly judgemental and the antithesis to supporting self-esteem. It also reflects more poorly on the person making the statement than the one it is directed at. Yet leaders, and employees, make these throw-away comments often, as we’re emulating what we’ve heard in the past and we perhaps haven’t stopped to consider the impact of our language or the unconscious bias that leads us to these judgments.

Our judgments of others are really indicators of what we value. Recognising that it’s rather unfair to judge someone only by the qualities we deem important (and against our super high expectations on these values) is key to starting to appreciate differences and opening our eyes to the other qualities people do bring to the party, that perhaps you do not. Not being a carbon copy of you, can be a very good thing.

However, I’m not evangelising everyone’s qualities being right for a particular organisation – sometimes people are in the wrong place. If performance expectations are crystal clear, as are values and behaviours in a business, and someone is constantly falling short, then this must be dealt with.

After all, this person will flourish somewhere, and will do so more easily if they haven’t had their self-esteem destroyed by their ‘oppressive’ manager….. (tongue in cheek).