Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Passivity in the Workplace

Will Rogers said he'd rather have been the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it.

A noble sentiment, but you'll encounter a surprisingly large number of individuals who act as if those are the only choices.

An unwarranted fear of litigation has promoted a culture of passivity. Voices must be kept low and humor dulled lest someone get upset. A bland environment is presented as a superior alternative to the Neanderthal days of bullies and gropers. When examined though, it is almost as disrespectful. A person who regards you as so fragile that you cannot hear a dirty knock-knock joke without falling apart is not an individual who takes you seriously.

There is a large territory between being a rogue and being a wimp. The Greenbrier hotel's slogan on its anniversary, "One hundred years of ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen" was respectful without being weak. Ladies can be tough and gentlemen are both gentle and men.

A vapid environment in the workplace is not only weakening to our natures, it also reveals that a crucial ingredient to team success is missing. Individuals who must constantly be on guard do not fully trust their co-workers.

Employers should recognize that the culture of lawsuit avoidance so often touted by their attorneys is not a positive one. Courtesy and respect should be demanded, but if trust is desired, they must also be tempered with equal elements of tolerance and toughness. That is not too much to ask of ladies and gentlemen.

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