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Topics: Communications Management, Ethics, Organizational Culture
Is the workplace becoming a non-free speech zone?
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In this age of political correctness that borders on drudgery, are you finding that free speech is slowly dying? I mean, on the one hand, we are told as managers that transparency, integrity and honesty are key. Yet, on the other hand, the current political climate suppresses the tongue and dampens the spirit.
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We should strive for transparency. It gets tricky when transparency causes friction because the recipient is either hearing something they don't want to hear, or is handed information that is not up to their expectation.

This is where our relationship building, trust, and influence comes into play. It's about messaging and optics. It's about sharing it out early along with a plan for remediation (if needed).

In short, honesty can cause friction, the truth can hurt, and doing the right thing is not always easy. But that is okay. We do it anyway.
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2 replies by Sante Vergini
Nov 23, 2019 7:54 PM
Sante Vergini
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Thanks Andrew. I was in a meeting earlier this year, reporting to a project committee. When a question was asked about one of the business customers (whom I had never met, only communicating via email and phone, but I knew her name to be Nikki), my reply was "She received the Statement of Work and seemed very happy with it". To which someone at the meeting replied: "Are you certain that is the correct pronoun?" I replied: "Are you referring to She or Statement of Work"? It was a university after all, so I should have been prepared for the Twilight Zone. I agree, transparency can cause friction, but that transparancy now has so many lenses to it. If one is constantly watching their words for fear of tripping up on the latest trend in obectionism, free speech is the loser.
Nov 23, 2019 9:06 PM
Sante Vergini
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Unlike the USA, we aren't protected by a First Amendment. True free speech shouldn't be concerned with political correctness, although appropriate speech (i.e. in front of minors) should be observed. I didn't have minors at that meeting, but I did have some Millenials; far more triggered! ;-)
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Nov 23, 2019 7:28 PM
Replying to Andrew Craig
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We should strive for transparency. It gets tricky when transparency causes friction because the recipient is either hearing something they don't want to hear, or is handed information that is not up to their expectation.

This is where our relationship building, trust, and influence comes into play. It's about messaging and optics. It's about sharing it out early along with a plan for remediation (if needed).

In short, honesty can cause friction, the truth can hurt, and doing the right thing is not always easy. But that is okay. We do it anyway.
Thanks Andrew. I was in a meeting earlier this year, reporting to a project committee. When a question was asked about one of the business customers (whom I had never met, only communicating via email and phone, but I knew her name to be Nikki), my reply was "She received the Statement of Work and seemed very happy with it". To which someone at the meeting replied: "Are you certain that is the correct pronoun?" I replied: "Are you referring to She or Statement of Work"? It was a university after all, so I should have been prepared for the Twilight Zone. I agree, transparency can cause friction, but that transparancy now has so many lenses to it. If one is constantly watching their words for fear of tripping up on the latest trend in obectionism, free speech is the loser.
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2 replies by Eric Simms and Stéphane Parent
Nov 24, 2019 2:23 AM
Eric Simms
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Here in the States a few people intentionally claim offense over minor points of speech as a way to exert dominance over others, turn attention to themselves, or some similar reason. The intent of such individuals is usually obvious to all by the pedantic nature of their claims.
I have found the best way to deal with people like this is to not back peddle and justify my statements to them, which is what they desire. In the example you gave with Nikki above, I would have simply replied 'Yes.' to the individual who posed the question, then continued with the meeting.
Nov 26, 2019 10:25 AM
Stéphane Parent
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In these days of gender multiplicity, I have found that referring to persons by their name avoids the issues of pronoun correctness.

Stéphane
he/him/il/ello
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I wouldn't confuse 'politically correct' with 'free speech'. Although, I do see where you are coming from (and going), there is opportunity to draw a distinction b/t the two. As individuals, when we think about things or speak to others, we have a sense that others will perceive what we are saying in the same context as we are thinking. Unfortunately, this is just not how it works, We do need to be cognizant of what we are saying, what the message to deliver is, and how best to present it based on the audience.

As we garner more respect, trust, influence, etc., we do gain some additional flexibility as others have more insight into what the presenter is saying and thinking without reading in between the lines or how they may 'hear' it.
Network:16217



Nov 23, 2019 7:28 PM
Replying to Andrew Craig
...
We should strive for transparency. It gets tricky when transparency causes friction because the recipient is either hearing something they don't want to hear, or is handed information that is not up to their expectation.

This is where our relationship building, trust, and influence comes into play. It's about messaging and optics. It's about sharing it out early along with a plan for remediation (if needed).

In short, honesty can cause friction, the truth can hurt, and doing the right thing is not always easy. But that is okay. We do it anyway.
Unlike the USA, we aren't protected by a First Amendment. True free speech shouldn't be concerned with political correctness, although appropriate speech (i.e. in front of minors) should be observed. I didn't have minors at that meeting, but I did have some Millenials; far more triggered! ;-)
Network:649



Nov 23, 2019 7:54 PM
Replying to Sante Vergini
...
Thanks Andrew. I was in a meeting earlier this year, reporting to a project committee. When a question was asked about one of the business customers (whom I had never met, only communicating via email and phone, but I knew her name to be Nikki), my reply was "She received the Statement of Work and seemed very happy with it". To which someone at the meeting replied: "Are you certain that is the correct pronoun?" I replied: "Are you referring to She or Statement of Work"? It was a university after all, so I should have been prepared for the Twilight Zone. I agree, transparency can cause friction, but that transparancy now has so many lenses to it. If one is constantly watching their words for fear of tripping up on the latest trend in obectionism, free speech is the loser.
Here in the States a few people intentionally claim offense over minor points of speech as a way to exert dominance over others, turn attention to themselves, or some similar reason. The intent of such individuals is usually obvious to all by the pedantic nature of their claims.
I have found the best way to deal with people like this is to not back peddle and justify my statements to them, which is what they desire. In the example you gave with Nikki above, I would have simply replied 'Yes.' to the individual who posed the question, then continued with the meeting.
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 24, 2019 12:30 PM
Sante Vergini
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@Eric, perhaos I should have said: "No, but in the absence of contrary evidence, that is what I went with."
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Dear Sante

Since when are companies and organizations systematically included in the decision-making process?

Since when are people asked to plan their work (as a team) and do it according to their priorities?

How do you define this new approach to work and the way you work?
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 24, 2019 12:37 PM
Sante Vergini
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@Luis, I'm struggling to relate any of those questions to the topic.
Network:2565



Not in my workplaces.
If there is trust and respect and honesty (and it is my responsibility to support it), open communication will prevail. Not saying it is easy, it requires (morale) courage.
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 24, 2019 12:32 PM
Sante Vergini
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That's surprising Thomas, I thought most of Europe had lost the free speech fight also.
Network:1706



Sante,

I'd agree that there is a tipping point at which respect for diversity and encouragement for inclusiveness goes to the "Dark Side". The ostracism of radical thinkers and comedians at universities is one unfortunate example of this.

This is another case where we see the benefits of a long standing team. If I know who you are, I see beyond what or how you say something. On the other hand, if I have little understanding of your true intent, I am more likely to be sensitive to what you are saying or how you say it.

In Canada, we've had a very publicly visible example of this recently in sports. There are those who'd say that the person in question is bigoted and meant what he said and how he said it whereas others are willing to see beyond the words to their perception of the true intent underneath.

Kiron
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 24, 2019 12:35 PM
Sante Vergini
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@Kiron, I would definitely say that our universities are totally on the "Dark Side" now. Well, actually they have been for decades, but now it's out of control. Thank goodness, I got out of there. If I ever do finish my PhD, I know one thing: I won't be working for a university if a muzzle is part of the job description.
Network:16217



Nov 24, 2019 2:23 AM
Replying to Eric Simms
...
Here in the States a few people intentionally claim offense over minor points of speech as a way to exert dominance over others, turn attention to themselves, or some similar reason. The intent of such individuals is usually obvious to all by the pedantic nature of their claims.
I have found the best way to deal with people like this is to not back peddle and justify my statements to them, which is what they desire. In the example you gave with Nikki above, I would have simply replied 'Yes.' to the individual who posed the question, then continued with the meeting.
@Eric, perhaos I should have said: "No, but in the absence of contrary evidence, that is what I went with."
...
1 reply by Eric Simms
Nov 24, 2019 8:22 PM
Eric Simms
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That would have been a perfect response. :-)
Network:16217



Nov 24, 2019 5:23 AM
Replying to Thomas Walenta
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Not in my workplaces.
If there is trust and respect and honesty (and it is my responsibility to support it), open communication will prevail. Not saying it is easy, it requires (morale) courage.
That's surprising Thomas, I thought most of Europe had lost the free speech fight also.
...
1 reply by Thomas Walenta
Nov 24, 2019 12:49 PM
Thomas Walenta
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Not talking about Europe in general, one of my current workspaces is the PMI Board and we strive to be open, honest and some can be blunt. As any Board we show divergent thinking, and convergent to come to conclusions (basicly design thinking).

As a German I follow the principle honesty before respect (but both are important).

Are there setbacks? Yes. Resilience is needed, I was also mobbed in my career.

In the end, as a leader, I am responsible for my team‘s culture and to protect them from atrocities. I am teaching at a university too and do not need much dealing with the system. My team are my students.

There is characterization by Adam Grant putting team players along the axes giver/taker and agreeable/disagreeable. What a team needs are disagreeable givers. One example is Dr. House from the TV series. If you have too many agreeable takers you have to work on the team and culture.
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