This has been a very troubling last couple of weeks for me. I thought that we had progressed as a society beyond the point where we were stereotyping individuals based on our views of the world. Along with the rest of the world we watched the events unfold in reaction to New York, Ferguson, Cleveland and Phoenix. I was following a thread on Facebook in which a fellow member of the National Speakers Association was denied the opportunity to bring his powerful message to a University Campus because he was considered an “abelist.” The basis of their argument was that this speaker was trying to move individuals out of what their perceived place in society is supposed to be, in this case the disabled.
When I move the discussion over to the workplace these reactions beg an even deeper question. When we make vital decisions about manpower planning or succession planning are we keeping an open mind? When we interview candidates for our critical talent needs are we open to the possibilities or do we enter the process with this closed image of what it is supposed to look like?
As the title of this post states it is easy to judge someone based on perceived notions. Several years ago I read a post in social media where a recruiter said she would never refer a candidate with gray hair to any client. Why? Is there something about a person with gray hair that means they can’t do the job? Is there something about a person with gray hair that says they are a detriment to the organization? Or in the case of my NSA peer, is there something wrong with telling someone who is afflicted with a handicap that it is our believe that you can become what you wan to be?
Our organizations need to be the very best they can be in order to be competitive and innovative in the workplace. To reach that goal we must be willing to look at the total person. We need to look at both their attitudes and attributes to determine where they can be the most productive employees. If we allowed organizations to make these erroneous decisions this civilization would be at a loss from no light bulb (Thomas Edison was learning disabled and hearing impaired). We would have no emancipation proclamation (Abraham Lincoln suffered from a mood disorder).
The point of our argument here is that we need to look at the individuals we encounter, based on reality not expectation or bias. We can’t in good consciousness determine that a handicapped person can’t do a job because he is disabled. We can’t determine that a person who believes in a different lifestyle then we do can’t do a job. We can’t determine that an individual who has a different colored skin does not have the right capacity to fulfill position responsibilities because of that color.
We are a crucial juncture within the global workplace, which manifests itself by dramatic changes on a daily basis. These changes require us to get the very best talent into our organizations regardless of their makeups or beliefs. It does our organizations no good or more important society as a whole to make false judgments about individuals based on what we think their abilities are. Human nature tends to make us come to these irrational concepts of what we think people can do. When we do make these judgments based on what we think is true rather than what is reality, our decisions affect a wide range of entities – we hurt the individual, we hurt ourselves, we hurt our organizations, we hurt the greater society in which we live. Operating based on misconceptions in the long run will hurt our planet as we are striving for sustainability based on false precepts.
Want to avoid the turmoil we have seen over the past several weeks? Don’t make judgments on others until you know all the pertinent information. Forget preconceived ideas based on our biases. Forget judgments that are based on rumor or innuendoes with out checking the facts first. Just because an African-American is in what you think is the wrong neighborhood, or you see two individuals of the same gender walking hand in hand don’t jump to the conclusion they are not a fit to our society or your organization. In most cases you are going to be plain wrong.
Making these wrong decisions in the long run demeans the person making the decision.
E-mail me at dan@dbaiconsulting with your thoughts on this issue.