Choosing the Right Side, Not Your ‘Side’
As I was leading a training on Sexual Harassment Prevention earlier this month, I made a few observations that really highlighted some flaws with the state of our society.
I told the group that I was going to ask them to challenge their perceptions, pre-conceived notions, and unconscious bias. Sometimes those things can cause inappropriate behavior, and sometimes they can make you justify the same.
As we talked through different scenarios to help the staff understand what is and isn’t sexual harassment, the group had some healthy debate. However, I found that some of the comments were not objective and were frankly very one-sided. I needed to point out that when you are assessing someone’s behavior you must resist the temptation to justify that it is “no big deal.” If you find yourself saying that, please ask yourself “why do you think it’s ‘no big deal’?” – is it because that’s ‘your boy’, or that’s ‘your girl’, or that’s your ‘side’?
I told a story to illustrate the point, using an easily understood situation:
A few years back, watching my son’s baseball game I watched a 13-year old boy get up to bat, argue with the umpire on the strike calls, and angrily throw his bat as he walked off. The umpire gave him a warning, and when he came up to bat as the final hitter of the game, he once again struck out which ended the game. He – yet again – threw his bat as he walked off. The umpire said “Since he did it again, in your league he should have a 2-game suspension.” As the coaches were mortified and gathered the kids to address the behavior, I watched in horror as some of the fellow parents sitting next to me were excusing the boy’s behavior, saying the umpire was a jerk, and that he wasn’t being fair, and on and on.
All I could think was: Really?? You know that if a kid from the other team did the same thing, these same parents would be calling for that player’s suspension or punishment. But because the player was our team, and it was our side, they were seemed to be ok with dismissing the inappropriate behavior.
There are times that we mistakenly give someone a pass not because we think what they did was right, but because we are on their ‘side’. It’s important to understand whether the reason you are dismissing the behavior is because of that allegiance, and if so, challenge yourself to be honest and put that aside. With anything, it’s important to be objective — but too many people are used to picking a side, instead of calling out, and dealing with the inappropriate behavior.
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