A lot of people ask me about political correctness and how it affects the workplace. I tend to think in terms of what behaviors will get us the best results instead of getting stuck in the who-can-say-what-and-when approach. What seems to work best for highly effective people and workplaces is to practice behaviors that build people up and encourage them to succeed.
Think of the results a leader gets from her people if she says certain things that bring them down versus how they will perform if she encourages them. Imagine yourself in a situation where someone is constantly “joking” at your expense and then tells you to get over it. How motivated would you be to do your best work?
If you think about it, people simply see things in different ways and come from different backgrounds. There’s not a right or wrong to this concept, people just aren’t all the same. This diversity of ideas, values and skills can help us build stronger workplaces or destabilize them, it’s up to us which path we take.
So ask yourself the following questions to see where you stand on political correctness. Remember that the questions are not about being right or wrong, they just lead in different directions in the workplace.
- Do you say things that seem to hurt other people?
- Do you find yourself in conflict with others frequently?
- Do you have to stop yourself from saying certain things?
- Do you see all people as equal?
- Do you treat yourself well?
- Do you consistently walk a mile in someone else’s shoes?
- Do you say certain things only around certain people?
- Do you consistently look for people’s strengths?
- Do you believe someone always needs to be on top?
- Do you wish others were more like you?
Your answers to these questions generate predictable results in the workplace. For example, if you frequently say things that seem to hurt others you will achieve a certain type of result on morale, motivation, productivity, cohesiveness, collaboration and any number of other factors. If you do the opposite you will have another set of outcomes. Notice that it’s not about good and evil, it’s just that certain behaviors will make you more effective in the workplace.
Ultimately, political correctness isn’t about other people, it’s about you. You get to decide how effectively you interact with others and what kind of results you get. This gives you a lot of power to go out there and create a successful workplace.