Sunday, March 11, 2012

Love is the Answer at Work

"Love is the answer, and you know that for sure; Love is a flower, you've got to let it grow."
- John Lennon

I was trained as a Diversity Facilitator at General Electric.  Back then, the focus was just on gender and race diversity and inclusion, which continue to be large opportunity areas at work and in the larger society to this day.

One of the most important concepts I learned during that training was the concept of transforming the reaction as marginalized individuals to ignorance, bigotry and discrimination from anger and retribution to compassion and education.  "When you come from a place of compassion,  instead of anger," our instructor Carol Brantley taught us.  "Then you can create an opening, a conversation:  where you can potentially engage the less-informed as students, teaching compassion because you're modeling it.  And in it that opening, you have the opportunity to teach inclusion, too."

After church today, I observed and participated in a panel discussion supporting The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.  Today's discussion focused on preventing and intervening on bullying in our schools:  the leading driver of crisis and suicide for our youth today. The wonderful panel members - advocates, students, teachers and members of my own FUSS congregation (FYI, we are a Welcoming Congregation, proud supporters of the recently enacted Marriage Equality Act in New York state), also echoed that earlier training of approaching the issue of bullying through compassion, education, and in the case at Mohanasen High School, Peer Mediation.  What a wonderful new tool:  healing bullying through peace:  the source of all human conflict are needs met and unmet.  As a mediator myself, I was heartened.

I was further encouraged by the impending July 1, 2012 enactment of the NYS Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) which states:

...that NO student shall be subjected to harassment or discrimination by employees or students on school property or at a school function based on their actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex.

Frankly, for as I have explained to my son Noah:  if students don't learn how to treat each other respectfully at home and at school during their childhood and teenage years (and in their adult relationships with friends, relatives and spouses):  they will be much less successful as adults at work.  I've witnessed it my entire career:  disrespectful, bullying, demeaning and/or dominating / controlling behavior does not win friends or influence people in the long term.  No matter how talented or smart you are:  if you cannot consistently and authentically demonstrate mutual respect and inclusion at work (to peers, subordinates, and even more puzzling, managers and customers), it will eventually bite you and your career squarely on the ass. Your timing and mileage may vary, but what comes around does indeed go around.  Your attempts to marginalize others, intended or unconscious, to give yourself status, attention and power will in fact and eventually marginalize you.

And if you must suffer those losses in order to learn this lesson:  be the student and embrace this lesson of failure as the gift it truly is. Ask for feedback and coaching.  Take a searching and fearless inventory of yourself.  Take responsibility. Forgive yourself and the adults who misinformed and neglected you, placing you on this erroneous path. Learn, especially compassion for yourself and those around you. Grow. Transform. Model and teach what you've learned:  encouraging the growth and standing on the side of:  love at work.

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