Session Title:  Able, Not Disabled, Not Differently-Abled

Introduction:  The following are my notes delivered at a global conference for disability inclusion held 27 October 2021 regarding how to improve disability inclusion in the workplace.

Description:  Increasing abilities by removing boundaries, discussing paths forward in ability inclusion, and building upon the great work Amazon and several other companies have done in pioneering disability inclusion in the workplace.

Welcome to a discussion on abled, not disabled, not differently-abled!  I am glad you’re here!  I am Dr. Dave Salisbury; I look to complete my Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology by April 2022; if you would like to participate in my dissertation, don’t hesitate to contact me outside this forum for more information.  I possess an MBA in global management specializing in human resource management, a master’s in adult education design and training, and have been a business consultant since 2004.  I am a dual-service US Army/US Navy disabled veteran.

My intent today is to help break down barriers so we can be comfortable around each other.  So comfortable that we can share jokes about my disability, we can look past the twitches, the spasms, and the stutters and find common interests.  Disability inclusion is precisely this, the inclusion into society of those with disabilities to the point that we do not see the disability, we do not recognize the handicaps, and we can then work in an atmosphere of ability.

I have several disabilities, most stemming from injuries sustained in military service; some include my voice, some include neurological issues, others are physical and mental.  Regardless, as these injuries have increased in severity, my professional intent began to be recognized for my abilities, talents, skills, knowledge, and potential, not for my disabilities.  Yet, I am often seen only as a disabled person or worse, a “token” disabled person filling a slot that another person could be occupying.  I ran into this thinking in the Federal government, New Mexico State, Bernalillo County, and Albuquerque City government hiring practices as recently as 2019.

Earlier in my professional life as a disabled person, I was told not to be thinking of myself as disabled but as “differently-abled.”  I am not differently-abled!  Differently-abled draws lines and limitations; it separates people and places boxes on potential.  Worse, it allows for the continued breeding of an “us against them” mentality, which breeds hostility and counterproductive beliefs.  Thus, I refuse to be differently-abled.  I do not particularly appreciate being classified as disabled either.

Please allow me to digress for a moment.  The transitive verb “dis” means to show disrespect, insult, or criticize.  As a prefix, “dis” is defined as the opposite of something, depriving someone of something, excluding someone, or expelling someone.  Thus, a disabled person is either being disrespected, insulted, or criticized, deprived, excluded, expelled or is the opposite of able.  Frankly, I believe that when we are made aware of the etymology of words, we are then more aware of why people choose to adopt or not adopt certain words and labels.  I repeat, only for emphasis, I do NOT particularly appreciate being classified as disabled, for I AM able!

Words and labels should not be the focus of our attention and efforts.  I prefer handicapped to disabled based on the etymology, even though I don’t particularly appreciate being considered handicapped.  A handicap can refer to a disadvantage in task completion, physical or mental disabilities, and can intentionally place a person at a disadvantage; there’s that “dis” again rearing it’s disrespect, insults, criticism, deprivation, exclusion, and expulsion.  Please, let’s stop focusing on word games and plastic phrases; instead, let’s invest efforts in finding solutions to existing problems.

How big is the problem of word focus; in the past few weeks, there have been several email chains based solely on a person’s word choice preferences.  I would venture to presume that not a single person intended to cause insult or denigrate a community member by using or not using a specific word, phrase, title, verb, adjective, etc. in describing a person or population in the community.  Yet, people chose to take offense, and others rushed in to ameliorate the feelings of the one choosing to be offended at a word.  Bringing up a fundamental aspect in disability inclusion, individual responsibility, accountability, or self-rule.

I am able!  I take a little more time, need a couple of extra breaks, and use additional technology and equipment to complete tasks.  I possess skills, talents, experiences, and knowledge valuable to situations, teams, and companies.  I bring to the table unique perceptions, insights, and benchmarkable skills worthy of consideration.  I bring formal and informal education and experience that is invaluable and immeasurably useful as an asset to the organization.  I am all this long before we ever discuss my physical and mental concerns or disabilities.

My first priority is my personal safety and security; my first job is to look out for myself.  Monitor what I am carrying, how far I must take it, doors, elevators, paths for egression in emergencies, methods for being warned, and what I can and cannot do.  For example, as COVID-19 began, I knew I could not wear a mask and asked about those of us who could not wear a mask.  I saw the confusion on faces. I witnessed the policy shifts, the harassments, the legal segregations, and suffered legal abuse and discrimination for not wearing a mask.  I realize that eventually, my injuries will require my independence to be curtailed, and I will become more dependent.  As such, I have to monitor what I can and cannot do constantly and clearly describe this to those I work with.  The same should be true and expected of all people regardless of handicap or level of ability.  Individual responsibility for safety, security, and health does not end just because they enter a building and should be stressed as a regular aspect of workplace safety.

Amazon has performed incredible work and is one of the few companies that has done pioneering work leading to real success in disability inclusion on a global scale.  The question before us is where and how do we build upon this work to improve the culture and potential of all employees, regardless of ability, in all industries and businesses, based upon the pioneering work of Amazon.  I believe the following action items can be the building blocks to successfully enhance the inclusion of people of all abilities, talents, skills, and knowledge.  I will revisit these questions when we get to the discussion portion; please consider these points.

  1. Conflict is good, beneficial, and a tool that is useful for building people, teams, and businesses. Douglas Malloch wrote a timeless poem, “Good Timber,” which is the quintessential discussion on why and how conflict is good.  Let us embrace conflict as the tool it is for improving people.  A handout is available for further consideration on these topics, and all bullets discussed, with reference materials for additional research if you desire.  Please send me an email if you would like these materials.
  2. Leadership begins with followership; followership begins with being lifelong learners, learning requires opportunities to teach, teaching is a prerequisite to learning, and learning requires the ability to lead and apply. – These are merely starting points to understanding. They are facts.
        • Do we encourage delegation and learning through experience?
        • Do we embrace failure as a tool for lifelong learning?
        • Leadership is not a title; leadership is first an attitude, then an action, and finally a method of learning and teaching. How do we apply these truths in daily activities?
        • Leadership as an attitude is witnessed in good followership, even when our followers practice loyal opposition; are we embracing the loyal opposition? Do we know how to recognize the loyal opposition?
  3. Flexibility and agility require open minds. Open minds need varieties in opinions, politics, beliefs, religions, and so much more.  Open minds begin with lifelong learning!  Lifelong learning requires self-reflection. – Again, we find fundamental truths, simply explained and expounded.  How are we embracing these truths in daily practice?  What actions are we supporting in the workplace to showcase support to and openness to variety in thinking and commitment to lifelong learning?
        • What book did you just read?
        • Did you share that book, recommending it to whom?
        • Were you excited about the book?
        • When was the last time you self-reflected?
  4. Do you believe?
  5. How will you act tomorrow?

Are there activities I cannot engage in?  Yes.  To my disappointment and chagrin, there are many activities I can no longer engage in.  Stairs are a tremendous activity I have to avoid; yes, this includes sidewalk curbs.  Standing and sitting for long periods have to be monitored and curtailed.  Walking is another activity I have to be conscious of and monitor closely.  I regularly mistake how long I have sat or walked and wind up in trouble breathing, or my legs give out from exhaustion.  But, I should not have to get into some vast dramatic affair just because my abilities are curtailed physically or mentally.  COVID-19 hit, I cannot wear a mask due to breathing issues; the mask mandates have been so embarrassing and challenging while also being segregationist, separatist, and legally expensive.  Why are disabled people still challenged on their disabilities when we are already disrespected, insulted, criticized, deprived, excluded, and expelled for merely being less physically and mentally able?

Ask yourself this question, “When I see a maskless person, do I condemn them first or think maybe they have a reason?”  That single decision is the key to the choice between building people and building disability thinking!  I do not need your answer voiced; please consider your response now and think about when you will witness a maskless person the next time.

Has anyone taken a look at the processes for obtaining work accommodations?  A work adjustment for a disability?  A mask exemption?  With all the differences in abilities, one would think the process would be straightforward to understand.  Yet, the opposite is often the truth because we refuse to embrace that we are all able and are programmed to first separate into able and dis-(disrespected, insulted, criticized, deprived, excluded, expelled)- abled.

The last two questions are not included for any reason other than to spark a conversation inside you.  Do you believe in a difference existing between disabled people and non-disabled people?  What will you do differently today and tomorrow to reflect your belief structure?

I learned a long time ago everyone has a disability, a blind spot, an issue they keep hidden from the world.  Sometimes it is a missing eye, an arm, a leg, an embarrassing laugh, depression, anxiety, trauma, childhood abuse, adult abuse, the list is endless.  Yet, some of those “blind spots” are more severe and become listed as “disabilities.”  The government stepped in to classify people, draw lines of segregation and separation, which did a lot of harm to people of all abilities.  I met a man recently who lost several fingers and partially lost several other fingers.  His lost and partial fingers never came up in conversation.  His abilities as a typist were terrific, and his talents on several musical instruments were extraordinary, but his missing and partial fingers were non-topics!  As a point of fact, I did not notice the fingers until I shook his hand in congratulations for his accomplishments.

Drawing lines, classifications, separations, segregation, it never works.  Until we can look past, work past, and choose to live past the disability, we will never be equally able, and everyone suffers.  What keeps disabled people from being able; our choices.  What keeps able people from working together; our choices.  See the connection; how we choose is the single greatest determining factor in moving forward as an individual, a team, a group, and a company.  We choose to either be abled or disabled.  We choose to allow our comfort zone to define us or not to define us.  We choose to work together first or separate each other first.

Often a person lacking an ability due to misfortune of some kind will develop and magnify other abilities, an often-overlooked advantage to their value because seeing past their loss has become a lost art of possibility and consideration.  In other words, our humanity needs restoration.  Those who do not have a fulness of ability know the realities of unreasonable and unfair judgment rather than the realities of potential and are thus prevented from entering the world of abilities and possibilities by the much too often impenetrable establishment of discrimination.  We can lift people from where we are and change the paradigm of ability and advancement to a higher level of accomplishment and respect.  We can do this!  Do you believe?

How will we act tomorrow?  A similar question was posed by Brian “The Brain” Johnson in the movie “The Breakfast Club,” and new attitudes, new thinking, and new potential were born.  Are we willing to see past the outside wrapping, shun society’s labels, and choose a different path forward through action, learning, leadership, and healthy conflict?

Let’s discuss!

    • Conflict is good, beneficial, and a tool that is useful for building people, teams, and businesses. Douglas Malloch wrote a timeless poem, “Good Timber,” which is the quintessential discussion on why and how conflict is good.  Let us embrace conflict as the tool it is for improving people.  A handout is available for further consideration on this topic and all bullets discussed, with reference materials for additional research on these topics if you desire.
    • Leadership begins with followership; followership begins with being lifelong learners, learning requires opportunities to teach, teaching is a prerequisite to learning, and learning requires the ability to lead and apply. – These are merely starting points to understanding. They are facts.
            1. Do we encourage delegation and learning through experience?
            2. Do we embrace failure as a tool for lifelong learning?
            3. Leadership is not a title; leadership is first an attitude, then an action, and finally a method of learning and teaching. How do we apply these truths in daily activities?
            4. Leadership as an attitude is witnessed in good followership, even when our followers practice loyal opposition; are we embracing the loyal opposition? Do we know how to recognize the loyal opposition?
      • Flexibility and agility require open minds. Open minds need varieties in opinions, politics, beliefs, religions, and so much more.  Open minds begin with lifelong learning!  Lifelong learning requires self-reflection. – Again, we find fundamental truths, simply explained and expounded.  How are we embracing these truths in daily practice?  What actions are we supporting in the workplace to showcase support to and openness to variety in thinking and commitment to lifelong learning?
            1. What book did you just read?
            2. Did you share that book, recommending it to whom?
            3. Were you excited about the book?
            4. When was the last time you self-reflected?
      • Do you believe?
      • How will you act tomorrow?

Additional Questions, Comments, Concerns, feel free to reach out to me via email or chime.  Thank you!

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.

Buzzwords and Canned Phrases – More Tyranny From Plastic Language

Stretched WordsPlasticized words make the most trouble.  Unfortunately, public education in America does not appear to care; public educators are some of the worst abusers of words, disconnecting words from meanings to achieve an agenda, which is practicing mental terrorism.  Poerksen (1995) discusses this phenomenon in some detail, and the need to be more cognizant of the problem is a small part of the solution. For example, Poerksen (1995) brings up the term ‘strategy’; the context might not be clear. Without specifying the intention and meaning, the audience becomes lost quickly but lost with confidence and lost doing what they understand.

Hitler’s Germany was famous for plasticizing words to make socially unacceptable actions acceptable with no negative consequences. For example, consider how cattle cars were used in the transportation of Jewish Citizens and other humans deemed useless, by plasticizing the term “cattle,” the Jews could be eliminated, society could believe what they were doing as acceptable, and the political agenda of Hitler was pushed forward, because a human of different religion, handicap, and so forth has been dehumanized to the level of cattle.Non Sequitur - Plasticity of Language

Poerksen (1995) is correct in labeling those who intentionally destroy language through plastic words as tyrants and tyrannical actions.  Mao was an excellent speaker, but his deceiving methods included making words plastic to cover abuses of people, destruction of lives, and to help his followers feel good about what they were doing. Likewise, ex-President Obama used a TelePrompTer because extemporaneous speaking is not his forte and because of the plastic words which were bent, twisted, and molded to deceive.  We all remember the promises of Ex-President Obama where ObamaCare is concerned.  However, what is fading from the collective public memory are the plastic expressions lauded upon Bergdahl to justify nefarious actions.  Bergdahl is a tiny example of how Ex-President Obama manipulated language to hide, obfuscate, denigrate, and deride the American People.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)3-direectional-balance

If you are going to work in a department with such an auspicious title as “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department (DEI), one might imagine that you have a clear and present understanding of the power of words. But, apparently, those working in DEI either have an agenda and desire to be tyrants or are uneducated in the power and ability of words.  Draw your own conclusion, but I present in totem an email received earlier this week while I was out of the office.

12 Things You Should Never Say… And What To Say Instead

It’s easy to say the wrong thing when you’re under stress or a problem arises. Take a pause to reframe your response:

        1. That’s not my problem. ‘I recommend you speak to_____’
        2. But we’ve always done it that way. That’s a different approach, can you tell me why it’s better?’
        3. There’s nothing I can do. I’m a bit stuck, can you help me find other options?’
        4. This will only take a minute. ‘Let me get back to you on a timeframe.’
        5. That makes no sense.I’m not sure about that one – can you give me some more details on your thinking behind it?’
        6. You’re wrong. ‘I disagree and here’s why ______ what do you think?’
        7. I’m sorry, but…. I’m sorry about that… next time I will _____’
        8. I just assumed that. ‘Could you clarify what your expectations are for me?’
        9. I did my best. ‘What could I do better next time?’.
        10. You should have... ‘It didn’t’ work – here’s what I recommend next time…’
        11. I may be wrong, but... ‘Here’s an idea…’
        12. I haven’t had time. ‘I will be able to get this done by…’

And if you have said something you regret, here are three steps to quickly recover:

        1. Apologize. Be sincere for any upset or confusion you might have caused
        2. State what you didn’t mean. Admit your error, explain what you did not intend to do or say.
        3. Say what you actually meant. Explain what you really intended to say or do.

Please note, no grammar changes were made in copying and pasting this email; I changed the format to emulate the original. So now, let us carefully examine, without judging the grammar, the canned phrasing presented here along three lines: applicability, usefulness, and value.

ApplicabilityDetective 3

When discussing applicability, we are looking for situations where the canned phrasing offered is better than being natural, admitting error honestly, and moving forward from the current position in a constructive manner.  I fully appreciate that the 12 bolded phrases might not be the best way to state something.  However, the lack of applicability for the canned replacement phrases does not improve the situation.  Imagine a situation where the offered canned phrase would work, and I will show you a real-life scenario where it was tried and failed miserably.

Drawing upon more than 20 years of experience in and around call centers as a subject matter expert, as a customer relations expert, and published author, I can certify that canned phrases do not improve situations, nor can they cover mistakes.  Canned phrases stick out like a red dot on a white cloth!  The customer can hear the canned phrases, and the canned phrases will result in negative consequences!  Hence, this information from DEI fails the smell test before ever launching as a potential solution.

UsefulnessLook

When discussing the usefulness of a tool, the first aspect to always note is that any tool should feel comfortable, almost as if it was an extension of yourself.  Tools are intention incarnate; we select tools to perform tasks we cannot perform without the tool.  For example, hammering nails into house framing requires a hammer.   Not just any hammer, but a framing hammer, specifically designed for the job, framing, and because all framing hammers are not manufactured equally, should feel like an extension of your arm and hand.  The same is true for words; words are tools employed to communicate and should feel like an extension of yourself, be personal, and be helpful for the intent of delivering a message.

Again, we find the DEI email and canned phrases not passing the smell test.  Take any single item in the list above and try to use the exact phrase in a sentence with a friend or co-worker, and you will find yourself struggling to personalize that phrase.  Worse, saying it aloud makes you struggle with the offered grammar. So again, try personalizing that phrase; can you find any variation that feels natural to your method of speaking?  If so, you have used the offered phrase, but does it add or detract to the conversation when applying that phrase?  Herein lay the problem, some of the proposed phrases might work with individual variation but still cannot be used for a positive result.

ValueAndragogy - The Puzzle

Value is the sum of the application and usefulness of a tool to create opportunities to advance the situation to a solution positively.  More to the point, the value remains in the hands of the tool user, not the suggester of canned phrases. Thus, the tool’s value is not found in what has been created but in the usefulness and application to the tool’s user.

For example, while working in a call center, the agents were instructed to fit as many “keywords” into a conversation as possible.  The Quality Assurance Department (QA) was counting how often these keywords were used, so the pressure to perform was on the agent.  QA found that the offered words were often used in a single sentence to begin or end the call, and more often than not, when used during a call, led to call escalation.  Hence, the value of the terms was lost on the customer and worsened customer relationships.  Instead of releasing the agent from using keywords, the business managers doubled down.  The management team had no clue about the usefulness of the words as tools for communication and disregarded the need for tool personalization.  When negative results occurred, they compounded their error.  10-years after this disastrous decision, the agents are still forced to use tools that do not fit, the customers have continued to leave in droves, and the management team still struggles to understand why.

Knowledge Check!Application, usefulness, and value are how you measure tools, any tool.  From a tape measure to a hammer, from a computer to computer software, from words to headsets, the tools must meet these three criteria. Unfortunately, buzzwords and canned phrases do nothing to build value, enhance enthusiasm, or build cohesion into an impetus to motivate.  Often, buzzwords and canned phrases do the exact opposite, and failing to understand applicability, usefulness, and value is the problem of those insisting upon terminology, not the audience.  It cannot be stressed enough, plastic words lead to mental terrorism, and terrorism always leads to tyranny!

Reference

Poerksen, U. (1995). Plastic words: The tyranny of modular language (J. Mason, & D. Cayley, Trans.). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

 © 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE: “Constructive Criticism” – Killing The Lie!

Bird of PreyPoerksen (2010) provided sage counsel regarding how language plasticity leads to tyranny. Unfortunately, when discussing criticism, the tyranny of “constructive criticism” is displayed, and it is time for this lie to end, permanently!  Let me state, for the record and unequivocally, criticism never constructs positive behaviors!  Criticism doesn’t change simply because an adjective attempts to make criticism less harmful.

Criticism

Criticism defined, provides key insight from the common definition, “The expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.”  Disapproving based upon perception and expressed through words, looks, actions, and behaviors; this is criticism, and the best people in the world to criticize are the British.  IIf I call the British extremely critical and claim that is a compliment to the residents of the British Isles, those in Scotland and Ireland will understand, and no adjective in the world can make this criticism “constructive.”  As a point of reference, I draw this conclusion about the British from history, but knowing that does not make the criticism less accurate or less painful. On the contrary, I think the British have come a long way in changing their critical behaviors, actions, and manners and applauding them for their growth.

NO FearThe remaining definitions in the term criticism expand nicely upon the point that criticism and being critical can never be “constructive.”  “The analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of work.”  “A person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something.”  The etymology of critic, which is the root of criticism, comes to us from Latin criticus, from Greek Kritikos, from kritēs ‘a judge’, from krinein ‘judge, decide.’  Never forget criticism, or the act of being critical originates from personal perception, a choice to be judgmental and critical.  The intent is to pass judgment upon something, someone, or someplace with the intent to cause personal harm or sway the opinions of others.

Constructive

Being constructive is “serving a useful purpose, or tending to build up.”  As noted above, criticism cannot be constructive because the adjective “constructive” is the polar opposite of criticism, which tends to tear down, demean, and depress.  Yet, when business leaders begin to write annual reviews, they are told to constructively criticize their employees, to sandwich criticism between praise to make the criticism less painful, and to construct comments in a manner that showcases strengths while not dwelling on the criticism.  Why; because this is the “scientifically approved” method for leadership, provide “constructive criticism.”  Except, criticism is a personal opinion and can never construct anything!

Why are we discussing criticism?Why

09 June 2021, in my company email box, I received an email, considered a “Thought of the Day,” from no less an auspicious source as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department (DEI).  If anyone knew the damage of tyrannical language, I would think those in DEI would have a clue.  Yet, by their email, it is clear that DEI continues to drink the Kool-Aid and act the tyrant where language is concerned.  The email attempts to define destructive criticism and constructive criticism and then provides steps for distinguishing between the two forms of criticism.  Completely forgetting that criticism can never be constructive and will always be destructive.  From the email, we find these two fallacious concepts:

      • Destructive criticism: is undermining and can cause harm. There is no upside or way to positively spin what is said/written because the critic does not have your best interest at heart. It is destructive criticism that gives people fear of criticism in general.
      • Constructive criticism: is designed to be helpful and is based on valid facts/observations. It’s meant to help you grow and become stronger. It’s not always positive, but it can help you to see things in a new light. The critic almost always gives it based on their experience and genuinely wants to help out.Anton Ego 4

Using the definitions provided, can you see the tyranny?  Are the problems with plasticizing criticism behind the adjective “constructive” evident?  Do you understand the term plastic language and how plasticizing a word can destroy a person? Finally, ask yourself, does the professional critic write to “help the subject” of the criticism out, or do they criticize for another purpose entirely?

undefined1960, Doris Day’s movie, “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” has a character who moves from being a professor of acting at a college to being a theater critic.  The movie is a comedy and delightfully shows the problems with criticism.  Better, the film underscores how criticizing never leads to constructing a person, a reputation, or an industry.  A more recent example of the problems with criticism can be found in the Disney/Pixar animated movie “Ratatouille.”  Anton Ego is the critic of restaurants, and his name strikes fear and dread into the hearts of the cooks and chefs in a restaurant.  Anton Ego is a tyrant who employs criticism as a tool for his own ends.  The final criticism of Chef Gusteau’s Restaurant near the end of the movie is a stunning example of how criticism can never be constructive!

Bait & SwitchFrom the DEI email, we find something very interesting in the Constructive vs. Destructive questions; the lack of the term “criticism” in the constructive criticism questions. Instead, criticism has been subtly changed to “feedback” in every place the term criticism should reside. So, for example, the first item under constructive is stated, “Feedback and advice from others are essential for growth and success.  Look at criticism as a learning opportunity.”  Better still, the third item in the constructive list states, “Detach yourself from criticism.”

Your ability to understand and refuse to play word games promotes operational trust in an organization, brings stability to teams, and establishes you as a person willing to learn.  Learning thwarts tyranny, and the tyrant has to give ground.  Never lose the moral high ground!

Knowledge Check!Fighting tyrannical modular language, or the plastic word games people play to control an audience, I suggest the following:

        1. Question terms used—demand logical answers.
        2. Know words and definitions; if unsure, ask SIRI, look the terms up in multiple dictionaries, but don’t rely upon one source for an explanation.
        3. When in doubt, practice #2, then #1 until you are less confused. I have found those working to plasticize words cannot stand scrutiny.
        4. Sunshine disinfectant works when tyranny is found; put the tyrant in the sunshine and watch them emulate a vampire in the sunshine!

Freedom requires a willing mind and a courageous heart; you are never alone when you take a stand against tyranny. So stand and watch the tyranny begin to fall like a rock slide.  Be the tiny rock that starts something big!

Reference

Poerksen, U. (2010). Plastic words: The tyranny of a modular language. Penn State Press.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Diversity, Equality, Inclusion, and Assimilation

Public Service Announcement:  The following article is probably longer than desired.  However, I am trying to cover a lot of basics where tyrants have invaded and are attempting to gain control.

LookLet me be perfectly clear; I do not care what you look like, your handicaps, abilities, or disabilities, or frankly, anything other than how you do your job and live your life to not interfere with other people’s freedom.  Hence, when the discussion inevitably turns to diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, I fully believe that you are the number one driver of equality and inclusion in the workplace and society.  You choose to become offended if you feel not included at work.  You decide to feel marginalized, and in choosing to feel marginalized, your choices and consequences are solely yours.  Except, you demand your consequences be the problem of the business and community.  That behavior is childish, selfish, and reveals your ignorance!

Does discrimination occur, absolutely; but discrimination does not disappear magically when a diversity, equality, and inclusion workplace initiative is launched!  Discrimination does not disappear because someone passed a law.  Your attitude, actions, and decisions are all choices you make that come with natural consequences for you.  You drive your ability to be included the majority of the time.  Individual choice and consequence are the reality never spoken of during DEI initiatives.  Failure to include personal choice, assimilation, and consequence remains a glaring hole in DEI training topics.

quote-mans-inhumanityAssimilation

Assimilation is the act of assimilating, and assimilating is all about taking in and understanding something fully.  The Borg from Star Trek gave assimilation a bad name.  Worse, some people erroneously proclaim that when you assimilate, you give up pieces of yourself.  Assimilation is all about taking the best of you, adding to the best of us, and making the whole stronger than the individual parts.  Yet, every DEI training I have been forced to attend has been pessimistic about assimilation and assimilating into a stronger whole.  Assimilating is also about absorbing and integrating into a wider society or culture.

For example, a balanced diet includes non-favorite foods, but those foods are good for you.  Your body assimilates the good and the bad foods consumed, eat enough poor nutritional foods, and the body suffers physical and mental health problems.  Eat too many good foods, and your body will assimilate foods differently and possibly begin to reject certain foods.  Hence, balance is needed to properly diet and strengthen the body.  Extremes in food, like attitudes, are bad for the body as a whole.  The same choice and consequence cycles that drive the assimilation of foods into the body are the same choices and consequences when applied to workplace assimilation into existing cultures.  Extremes are hazardous to health!

Editorial - Educational TruthDiversity

Diversity is all about variety and including variety in a social environment.  Diversity has been stretched to become a practice of including people of various backgrounds, ethnicities, and other societies into a greater community.  The problem with the plastic second definition of diversity is the assumption that a variety of different people are automatically not wanted or desired in the social environment currently.  History has never been kind to different people in a society.  This is true of ethnicities, cultures, disabilities, and abilities, and nothing will change discrimination in any organization made up of human individuals.

A friend invited me to a bar; I was not accepted into that bar’s culture as I am a veteran and do not share other lifestyle choices of the bar’s dominant culture.  Discrimination happens; if you choose to become offended by the selection of diversity in a community, that is your problem.  I did not become offended at the other patrons in a bar and demand that they accept me, it did not matter to me one way or the other if I was accepted or not, and this should be the same stance everyone should be taking!

Life ValuedEquality

Of all the terms we are discussing, equality is by far the most plasticized, twisted, deformed, and dangerously laden with unnecessary baggage!  Equality is all about a state of being equal.  Equality comes from the “Rule of Law” and the application of “The Rule of Law” for all in society.  Except, equality is not what is desired in the term equality when speaking of DEI, but “Social Equality.”

Social equality is a state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status in certain respects, including civil rights, freedom of speech, property rights, and equal access to certain social goods and services.  Essentially, social equality is all about twisting “The Rule of Law” into exceptions for specific socially acceptable groups; instead of equality, social equality is all about bringing all onto unequal grounds before the law.  There is no equality in social equality, ever!

Andragogy - The PuzzleInclusion and Discrimination

Inclusion is all about the practice of being included.  That’s it, the whole enchilada; inclusion is all about being included.  However, what does it mean to be included; here is where ideas like fit, temperament, desire, and choice and consequences enter a social group, community, or organization.  Where DEI is concerned, inclusion is all about shifting the margins, dropping the individual decisions, and forcing all to be lumped together regardless of personal desire.  Worse, inclusion is forced with the power of law without regard; hence all are injured in an attempt to be “socially inclusive.”

Discrimination is the unfair or prejudicial treatment of people and groups based on characteristics such as race, gender, age, or sexual orientation.  Except, discrimination happens all the time, and efforts to be more “inclusive” have done nothing to reduce discrimination.  I was hired for an inside sales position with a 90-day trial period.  My wife dropped off some equipment I had left at home one day.  The bosses learned my wife is older than I am; from that day to the end of my trial, when I was released without cause, the attitude towards me was significantly and tangibly different.  Skin color, ethnicity, gender choice, sexual bedroom choices, and every other possible thing can be the source of discrimination, and nothing will change this facet of human behavior.

Admitting that discrimination is happening is not being defeatist, nor am I suggesting that discrimination laws should be scrapped.  I am relating a truth about human behavior and why the law cannot dictate moral behaviors!  Demanding inclusion does nothing to reach the core roots of the problems with discrimination in society.  Which is another truth for certain that must be recognized and discussed.

Andragogy - LEARNExclusion

Exclusion is the opposite of inclusion but also represents a risk.  The risk of exclusion is found in the legal arguments from discrimination, not the risk of being omitted.  More, exclusion has stricter requirements than elements of inclusion ever will.  For example, insurance policies have specific criteria that exclude coverage as a means for controlling risk.  The same thinking on insurance policies is the same as what occurs in social environments when a person is actively excluded.

For example, in the US Army, my platoon sergeant and my squad leader had a group of people they were comfortable with both on and off duty.  I was not welcome because I hit more of the exclusion criteria than the inclusion criteria.  I did not enjoy sports, wasn’t a drinker, a womanizer, and several other items.  Off duty, this wasn’t that big of a deal.  On duty, this exclusion caused me tremendous problems as I learned to be a soldier.  Still, the choices for inclusion or exclusion came down to preference and accountability.  As the First Sergeant and the Commanding Officer allowed these discriminatory practices to exist, I had no right to complain, and my mistakes were my own.  It was a difficult period in my life, but I survived and was stronger for the challenge.

Literary FiendIndividual Identity

Who are you?  What makes you an individual identity in a socially expanding group?  The United Nations has declared your culture, gender, sexual preferences, and race are all personal choices as part of a unique identity created, changed, and designed for and by the person making the choices.  What the UN fails to mention are the consequences.

In the US Navy, I served with a woman who was as white as the freshly driven snow, but she identified as black.  According to the United Nations, this is acceptable.  This sailor spoke, acted, and identified culturally as black even though she was white, blonde hair, blue-eyed, and the antithesis of cultural black identifying characteristics.  I am not one to judge and, frankly, could have cared less how she identified herself.  But the command through a total fit when she showed up to morning quarters with dredlocks.

Remember, your identity is your choice.  I care less about your identity than I do about a fly.  How you work, what you do, and your respect for others’ rights matters to me.  But, do not make your choices to be an individual affect my life.  Do not thrust your identity into my world and demand respect; I do not care about your identity!

CourageGroup Identity

Group identity is the melding and assimilation of identities and behaviors needed to work together effectively.  That’s it; the whole casserole!  Take any sports team, any sport, and you will find the same in winners and losers, those who choose to assimilate the group identity gain success.  Those who refuse to assimilate will lose every time.  Pick a sports movie; here are a couple of suggestions where you will see for yourself the truth of the power in assimilation:

        • We Are Marshall
        • Friday Night Lights
        • Glory Road
        • Hoosiers
        • Invincible
        • Miracle
        • Radio

Group identity requires sacrificing individual identity for a cause bigger than oneself.  Yet, for DEI training, when is this ever discussed?  Winning business organizations cannot be successful without individuals sacrificing their individual identity for group success.  How have we forgotten this rule of nature?

Lever UpSubordinate Culture

Subordinate cultures, micro-networks, ol’ boys network, whatever you call it, subordinate cultures are designed around those who refuse to assimilate and make their choices the problems of managers and leaders.  Consider those who hyphenate their cultures, Indian-American, Russio-Chinese, Irish-Israeli, etc.  You will find someone who refuses to assimilate and cannot understand the need to be whole culturally and who could be more without the hyphen.

In the US Navy, I met more than ten first-generation Americans from Jamaica, Africa, Cuba, Brazil, Puerto-Rico, and other places.  Not a single one of them would consider hyphenating their status as American.  Yet, too often, people who have been in America for multiple generations feel a need to hyphenate to identify themselves.  Why establish a subordinate culture?  A subordinate culture is assumed to be lower in status than a dominant culture.  The subordinate culture is treated of lesser importance, deemed under the control of something else, and all because of the hyphenation.  Is being subordinate desired; if so, why?

President AdamsDominant Culture

The dominant culture is the most powerful or influential culture in an organization.  Essentially, more people assimilated and sacrificed for the success that the organization is enjoying than refused.  Yet, in DEI training, dominant culture carries negative baggage and is not allowed as it could be misunderstood.  Seriously, the concept peddled in this training blew my mind.  What happens if the LGBTQ+ community became the dominant culture in a country; would it be accused of the same claptrap the LGBTQ+ community currently claims they suffer?

Why did Rome fail; they lost the “Rule of Law,” and the subordinate cultures took power and could not unify the majority of people when invaders came.  One of the greatest Republics in the history of man is responsible for improving millions of people’s lives.  Failed and fell an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle over the same issues every single business and democratic country in the world is facing right now.

Grit is a MarathonIndividual Choice

I was part of a first-day introduction activity for new hires (2016), and one of the new hires made an individual choice to identify themselves in the following manner, “I am John Smith, I am non-binary queer with a passion for anal sex.”  What does this have to do with the position they were hired to fill?  Which audience member in a professional setting needed or wanted this information?  The declaration automatically put the entire audience on the defensive; the Human Resources representative was placed into a difficult position and called a 10-minute break to regain composure and finish the introductions.

How you choose is your business!  I will respect your ability to choose as you desire; keep your choices to yourself, as I will keep my preferences to myself.  Believe it or not, we can work together really well without disclosing our personal choices and lifestyles outside of employment.  But, when you make your preferences my problem, I will deal with them the same as I deal with that pesky fly, ignore!

Content of their CharacterConsequences

Self-awareness, curiosity, and empathy are what I was told today that will make DEI work, and through learning and unlearning, DEI can make an organization stronger.  I agree the learning is vital, curiosity is always a valuable tool, self-awareness is important, but empathy is dangerous, divisive, and deadly!  Failure to recognize the need for assimilation and sacrifice places the burden onto people who have enough on their plate with their responsibilities in their work.

quote-mans-inhumanity-2Imperative to the improvement and liberation of thought and the power of people is the eradication of litigated moral behavior.  We, the individuals who make up our communities and businesses, must recognize the 800# gorilla in the room, mandating inclusion, refusing assimilation, denying the need to sacrifice individual identity for group success; these must be enshrined into our cultures, again!  Let us embrace these truths and design our “Liberty FIRST Cultures” around a single “Rule of Law,” where people are respected and freedom blossoms!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Assimilation: A Plea to All Immigrants and Americans!

American Flag Etiquette (Care and Display Guidelines)America continues to open its doors to a large group of new immigrants from countries worldwide, but especially from war-torn and ravaged lands.  Welcome; I am glad you are here!  A Mayor of London previously came to America and derided, denigrated, and demeaned America for asking immigrants to assimilate.  Yes, America will ask you to assimilate; yes, this request includes those legal and illegal immigrants; yes, assimilation is hard, but the effort is worth it.

What is Assimilation?

Assimilation is only taking the best of your old culture, ideals, values, and beliefs and adding them to the best America has to offer.  America is not a perfect country; we ask for your help to improve our country by adding the best of your experiences to our best experiences and building America into a greater nation.  Why does America ask you to assimilate, even though it is hard; the answer lies in the principles of unity, responsibility, and achieving the “American Dream.”

What is the “American Dream?”

A composite illustration with text and the headline “What Is the American Dream Today?” Including an illustration of the Statue of Liberty with buildings in her hand with the text: “Acceptance of government protection of free enterprise.” An illustration of two cities across an ocean with the text: “Belief that other nations should replicate America’s development.” An illustration of storefronts with the text “Faith in a free market economy.” An illustration of a cloud of information with the text: “Promotion of free flow of information and culture.” Illustration of money flowing between two sets of hands with the text: “Support for free trade agreements and foreign direct investment.”The “American Dream” is to realize freedom, all the benefits of liberty, shouldering all the responsibilities of freedom, and achieving these freedoms through work, education, and self-discovery.  Many Americans need to be reminded that the “American Dream” has nothing to do with acquiring stuff.  The “American Dream” has nothing to do with spending money, although great freedoms are found in earning money and spending that money according to your desires.  The “American Dream” has nothing to do with purchasing a home, even though owning property is a cherished freedom.  The “American Dream” is realizing freedom in all its glory and all of its reality.

The “American Dream” means failure, struggle, hard work, loss, gain, understanding value, and so much more.  The “American Dream” has tragedy and heartache, misery, and the ultimate joy of achievement.  Some of the hardest struggles in understanding the “American Dream” are found in sending loved ones marching to war and not seeing those same loved ones marching back home, and it is the “American Dream.”  Understanding and embracing freedom, to see the best and worst of humanity and realize that freedom through a constitutional republic is still the best form of government available, even through all the imperfections.  The “American Dream” means unifying around a single standard.

What is the single standard to rally around?

The US Constitution and the American Flag are the standards to rally around.  Does rallying around this standard mean suddenly easy street, riches, and smooth sailing; absolutely not!  Rallying around this standard means unifying, dropping the labels, the hyphenations, the separations, and realizing that we are better together than we are separate.  Again, the “American Dream” is all about understanding freedom in all its glory, majesty, and terribleness.

21 Things You May Not Know About the U.S. Constitution | Mental FlossThe principles of unity are many, but also very few.  Unity is all about choice; having a choice is all about freedom.  Freedom is all about shouldering the consequences of making choices to become more unified or less unified; simple and complex, easy and difficult.  Unity is not a paradox; unity is a learned principle.  Consider the young child. Being a child is challenging, learning a language, culture, basic education standards, and growing.  The same is true for immigrants.  Many come here and are overwhelmed.  Like children, simply asking for help becomes a great challenge, and many times that challenge is because immigrants do not realize that support is available and merely requires asking for help.  Hence, the responsibility is all on you, not everyone else; this means the consequences for asking or not asking are also all on you; this is freedom.

The principles of unity are found in a common language and based upon the “Rule of Law.”  America is the only country on earth where you can keep your tongue, and the national language, American English, can be a second or non-primary language.  Yet, the choice to learn American English has consequences, and those consequences come with a cost.  Learning American English is hard, requires work, and will not make sense until time and experience are added to learning.  Not learning American English is harder and restricts freedoms:  the ability to enjoy all America has to offer and forces you to forever remain outside America’s embrace.

Like language, the “Rule of Law” has consequences that allow more freedom or constricts freedom, all based upon your individual choices and how you evaluate the consequences.  For example, break the law in coming to America, and you are not welcome even though many politicians will say differently to abuse and use you.  Come to America legally, and you are expected to assimilate to become a citizen.  Come here temporarily, as, on a visa, we will expect you to adhere to the “Rule of Law” and eventually return to your original country.  Fail to return to your original homeland, and you are here illegally, which has consequences.

Should English Be the Official Language of the U.S.?The principles of unity include understanding, learning, and choosing to plot your own path.  No one is going to run your life for you.  Choosing to run your own life requires learning, understanding value, and shouldering the consequences of good or ill choices.  In America, you can choose to be homeless, and this is perfectly acceptable.  You can choose to chase money; acquiring great riches is possible and completely acceptable in America.  Acquire those funds legally, and America rewards them greatly.  Acquire those funds illegally, and eventually, American Justice will prevail, and those funds will be lost in a very public trial.  Again, we see unity combined with choices, leading to coming together under the same standard and enjoying positive consequences or refusing to come together under the standard and enjoying negative consequences.

Andragogy - LEARNThe principles of responsibility go hand in hand with the principles of unity—many of the principles of unity overlap with responsibility principles.  For example, fail to rally under the US Constitution’s standard, break the law, and watch how quickly the consequence leads to being forced to shoulder the responsibility to yield to unify affects you personally with the full weight and scorn of the American people.  Do illegal actions, and you may sometimes not get caught and punished.  Eventually, all of society will know how deplorable you are, and justice gets served in myriad different ways.

Consider dishonest politicians.  Sometimes they do not get caught and exposed to the harsh reality of the American justice system.  Still, they lose all the respect of voters, lose their title, and remain outcasts and pariahs in American society through the media retelling their stories, through a loss of income, and American society continually chastising them for their misdeeds.  American culture can be very harsh for those choosing not to assimilate because the refusal to assimilate means a refusal to unify under a single standard, which requires everyone to do their part to make America better.

ToolsMaking America better is not a job that can be neglected, evaded, shirked, forgotten, ignored, or refused.  America is all about working together.  Work requires sacrifice, learning, and correctly using freedoms to achieve more freedoms.  Working together requires a common language; the common language signifies a common bond amongst those striving to achieve freedoms as a symbol of desiring more freedoms.  Please, take the best you have, add it to the best America offers, and assimilate into America.  Unify with us in a beautiful patchwork quilt of diversity and togetherness.

Diversity should never be sacrificed for unity, and unity must never be sacrificed for diversity and individuality.  It takes both diversity and unity to make America.  It requires sacrifice and responsibility to make America.  It requires a willing mind and open heart to achieve freedom and understand that more freedom is possible with assimilation than without assimilation.  The choice is yours, and the consequences are yours, choose carefully.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Organizational Diversity: Is Your Business Diversity Commitment Only Skin Deep?

I absolutely agree diversification of people improves organizations, communities, and society. I agree that including many minds makes a better professional and personal environment, organizations can become more flexible in thought and action, and ultimately better members in a society are trained and built. Increasing diversity, improving inclusion, and inspiring multiculturalism all wrap around the same three principles, trust, agency, and freedom. Inherent to agency is the ability to choose, the freedom to choose, and the responsibility for the consequences of the choice validated or judged by societies, even when choosing wrong according to one person or another. People must be able to choose wrong and suffer the consequences demanded by society without government insistence to build diversification programs that possess intrinsic value to a business.

Having seen organizations that pride themselves on being culturally diverse and skin-tone accepting, the management more often than not tend to be very exclusive of new thinking, new ideas, and loyal opposition. I have experience with several organizations that claim inclusion, and practice exclusion at every opportunity while preaching, marketing, and advertising their diversity. Thus, the question remains, “Is your business diversity commitment only skin deep?” An example of “skin-deep diversity” is on display when reading Bruno’s (2008) article on bias covering The Chicago Tribune. Labor unions pride themselves on marketing their inclusivity and diversity; The Chicago Tribune also prides itself on being multicultural, but both organizations represent the worst kind of exclusion while promoting in word a spirit of inclusion. This is witnessed and exemplified by Bruno (2008); the claims made towards The Chicago Tribune and many Labor Unions remains justified and applicable as learning opportunities.

The first question regarding deeper diversity a company should ask is, “Why the reliance upon legal requirements to force multiculturalism and diversity if diversity and multiculturalism are so good for the organization (Greenberg, 2004)?” People, all people, regardless of age despise being told what to do; but advocating the removal of laws specifically designed to force judicial and legislative fiat in diversifying an organization encourages rejection, scorn, and disparagement towards the advocate. The two sides of the same coin are the legal demand to diversify while being told it will make your organization stronger and a refusal to diversify beyond skin pigmentation and personal lifestyle choices. A sealed and closed mind is more damaging than an undiversified organization; surface level commitment to diversity embodies a sealed and closed mind.

Legal or governmental fiat of forcing people to work together is most detrimental to the morale, confidence, and disposition of the workforce; yet, governing bodies all insist upon using force to achieve that which logic and free markets can regulate but have not been tried. Nowhere, in any country, where free market principles attempted to change the hearts and minds of companies to embrace diversity. The power of judicial action and legislated demands forced diversity as “… yet another program to add to hiring agendas for businesses forced upon business decisions.” While I believe and support the power of organizational conflict as a means to improving engagement, I also realize that good organizations must be honest and forthright in addressing concerns and eliminating conflict among stakeholders, including employees. Like rampant undirected change, conflict, has the power to overpower and destroy because of a lack of self-control. The same is true for rampant diversification programs that scratch the surface, e.g., pay lip service to diversity but never actually diversify minds and thinking.

The second question a company seeking deeper diversity should ask is, “Why are governments and judges not good at diversifying businesses?” Boler (1968) provides wise counsel on the application of individual and personal agency and the power of agency in organizational design and leadership. When people choose to embrace diversification as a personal commitment, instead of being forced to embrace diversity required by a judge or legislator, the personal investment and individual interest increases the likelihood that the change in thinking will be more than surface deep. By being more than surface deep, a diversified workforce can then unleash the powerful effects of diversification as promoted by Greenberg (2004).

Agency alone is not enough; trust becomes the next greatest factor an organization can embrace (Stawiski, Deal, and Ruderman, 2010; & Tan and Liddle, 2011). Trusting first in the self to act ethically and for reasons beyond the individual desires and personal values, Bjorn (2011) provides guidance on building the moral courage as a foundation to trust by trusting in the persons dealt with on a regular basis to do their job to the best of their ability (Bjorn, 2011). To reciprocate trust within the organization, empower people to build relationships built upon trust and drive that trust relationship into time. Finally, trust the competition to compete fairly, including honorable action, to build a better future. Agency and trust go hand in hand in this endeavor, and through agency and trust, the freedom to act does not have to be litigated, legislated, or lost for the forced acceptance of obscure principles or to honor legislated diversity programs.

Freedom to choose embodies the accountability and responsibility to act, building upon the moral fiber of the individual to be seen and doing that which society claims is “right and proper.” People, all people, regardless of culture and country, want to be seen by their peers and fellow professionals as acting appropriately. The shift from barbarism to civilized society means force is not needed to ensure compliance, and the individual being left to act will naturally act in a manner that will be recognized by free market principles and rewarded. Hence, government fiat and judicial action were not only erroneous but continue to impede diversity programs. Unleashing the power of diversity releases the individual and the organization from acting out of fear and acting for honor and respect from society; through trust, the power of agency and freedom to choose determine a prevalent and cohesive workplace environment.

Taking the prescribed action does presume people are honest and free of prejudice or are willing to release themselves of fear and prejudice out of a desire to be seen as honorable. Although that is an ideal presumption, reality proves it can be problematic from top-down mandates in organizations. Assuming the ideal, the principle of hiring only those, who are qualified by education, experience, character, and ability to work with others at any level, settles the issue whatever diversity the applicant represents. It will automatically happen from top down. Respect shown for others should be included, however, and respect must be earned from top-down with leaders engaging in exemplifying the desire to diversify thinking through action, not simply words printed on a diversity mandate.

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved

References

Bjorn, K. (2011, March 03). Moral courage: Building ethical strength in the workplace. Character First: The Magazine, Retrieved from http://cfthemagazine.com/2011-03/moral-courage-building-ethical-strength-in-the-workplace/

Greenberg, J. (2004). Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges and Solutions. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/diversity/diversity-in-the-workplace-benefits-challenges-solutions.asp

Stawiski, S., Deal, J., & Ruderman, M. (2010, April 1). Building trust in the workplace: A key to retaining women. QuickView Leadership Series – Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).

Tan, J., & Liddle, T. (2011, March 31). Board diversity the key to rebuilding trust and improving governance: Women Corporate Directors. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.kpmg.com/sg/en/pressroom/pages/pr20110331.aspx