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Comment: Are you taking the pith?

Comment: Are you taking the pith?

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Comment: Are you taking the pith?

"There are some word combinations that are designed to make you shudder. No matter how genuine the purpose or generally accepted, they are the kind of terms that are meant to emphasise importance that someone who has been in an office on their own for too long has decided will otherwise be lost on the casual reader."

For Katherine Penhaligon, who knows every management speak phrase in the book, ‘Strategic Plans’ – or planned plans, if you will - are among these.

She explained just why SPs are so shudder-inducing in her latest column for Express...

"Beloved of CEOs and governments, this is a plan so very 'planny' in its intent to plan that calling it a plan simply doesn’t do justice to its planniness. It is the plan of plans.

Then there are the combos that are thrown out by the idealists in HR departments to describe the utopia that all workplaces should strive to be. These are combinations that are earnest and absolutely correct in their intent, but are then often repeated as mantras by people who don’t really care about the intention as long as the accompanying PR looks good.

people women workplace

Pictured: ‘Sustainable Diversity’ are becoming the most over-used and consequently ignored words of the decade.

So here’s one: ‘Sustainable Diversity’. To be fair, these are two words being levelled at pretty much everything at the moment, both together and separately, and are becoming the most over-used and consequently ignored words of the decade.

Single-use (or in fact any use) plastic, energy production, agricultural best practice, all of these are the subject of lengthy discussion about their sustainability, diversity, sustainable diversity or diverse sustainability. And increasingly, we can add boardroom politics to the pot of things that should be representative in a ‘for keeps’ kind of way. 

Like other places, Jersey has introduced the requirement to look at the effectiveness of boards and this includes a focus on making sure that they have a diverse and representative membership.


Pictured: "Boardrooms should reflect the workplace that supports it."

Boardrooms should reflect the workplace that supports it and that workplace should reflect the society that feeds it which seems very simple to achieve and to monitor and yet as you head up that pyramid, the make-up of the layers become increasingly filtered and less and less representative of the layer immediately below. 

It shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise. After all, no matter what we do in life, we tend to try and find the little clubs that make us feel comfortable and loved for the things that we are good at. 

There are men who think only a carbon-copy of themselves can do the job to fist-bumpingly adequate level. It is just so deeply ingrained that only someone has the pre-requisite body part to use a urinal could understand them well enough to complete a task to their satisfaction.

suit women work business

Pictured: Some women have swallowed "patriarchy for so long that they only like to have men in charge anyway. "

There are the women who think in the same way and then there are those who have swallowed patriarchy for so long that they only like to have men in charge anyway.

Add to this heady mix all of the many irritating little prejudices that we have all built up over a lifetime, some based on gender but many which we would struggle to identify for ourselves but can be about anything from propensity to breeding to religious beliefs. 

In workplace terms, we all know that active discrimination isn’t acceptable, but it is hard to see our own prejudices and failings – that is, after all, the nature of a blind spot. Solving this is not just a matter of throwing a couple women at the problem – don’t get me wrong, that would be a great start – but having a few more boobs around the boardroom table and being able to say transgender without smirking doesn’t mean you have ticked diversity off your list and you can now get back to the golf course. 

diversity group

Pictured: "True diversity doesn’t mean that you have to leave your personality at the door, quite the opposite."

This is where the tricksy sustainable bit comes in. True representation means finding out who is out there, who should be represented and finding the common ground that allows different ideals, different ways of life and cultural understanding to co-exist happily to everyone’s advantage. Getting people to the table was the easy bit. 

True diversity doesn’t mean that you have to leave your personality at the door, quite the opposite. What it means is that you’ve got to make sure that you’re not the only personality in the room and that you’re listening to what the others say.

 Achieving this kind of representation and equality now could save us so much pain later. The corporate world does have an opportunity here to lead the way where national government is currently failing by bringing polarised views to the table and doing so in an environment of trust and respect."

This column first appeared in Connect. Read the latest edition by clicking here.

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