During the morning of February 19, 1945 my father was about to drive a United States Marine Corps amphibious tractor onto the beach at Iwo Jima. This was his third beach assault under enemy fire. As the “amtrac” neared the beach an explosion (mine, mortar, artillery, who knows?) took place under the bow of the vehicle. It flipped over dumping everyone into the surf. Those who surfaced on the left or right side were killed immediately by automatic weapons fire from shore. My father and two others somehow surfaced behind the trac, where they were pinned down until after dark. They waded out to chin-deep water and moved parallel to the beach until they could hear English being spoken. As they shuffled, soaking, hungry and chilled, onto the beach they were told to “Pick up a rifle and get back to work.”
If my father were here today I wonder what he would say if I told him about:
- the “pronoun police” – those who are overly concerned about the ratio of male/female/gender neutral pronoun usage and who never seem to miss an occasion to draw attention to some infraction
- the vice president of a telecommunications company who cancelled the participation of 17 people in an executive education seminar on corporate strategy execution because there were “no female faculty members.”
- the man who stopped a management team discussion in it’s tracks because he felt the use of the “black” markers only represented the negative information on the “white” board
- where does this stuff end?
I think my father would – once he realized I was serious and that the list of absurdities could go on at great length – simply ask, “What are you people keeping track of? Don’t you have work to do?”
Generally, political correctness is wasteful. It’s wasteful in two ways: first, it doesn’t add anything of value. Secondly, it consumes resources by denying, delaying or deflecting management attention from real and substantive issues that we should be working to resolve or exploit. Don’t misunderstand my point here: I’m all for an equal starting line, but no one is guaranteed an equal finish line. Business moves forward because people focus on making the business better, not by being overly concerned about one’s self-esteem.
I’m told that human cancer starts with a single cell. It’s development pattern is “growth without purpose,” other than to perpetuate itself. Cancer cells are generally inefficient. They burn fuel (glucose) in such a way as to produce extraordinary amounts of waste, such as lactic acid (lactose). The human body works hard, using lots of energy, to convert this waste into… glucose, which is devoured by the cancer cells. Wasteful. The disease is consuming the fuel that would otherwise nurture the organism, so it can create more inefficiency and waste. Sound familiar?
I believe a large part of the answer to such wasteful behavior in business lies in the credo of the Ritz-Carleton hotel chain: “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Respect, something that most of us appreciate a great deal when we get it, requires honesty not special treatment and “officially approved” (by whom?) language. When did we get so thin-skinned? When did we forget who we are? When did we give other people the power to “hurt” us with pronouns? When did we value waste so much?
As my father would have said, “Don’t you have work to do?”
In Other Words…
“Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic.” – Stephen R. Covey
“There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.” – Jim Hightower
“The ultimate judge of your swing is the flight of the ball.” – Ben Hogan
“People who have time on their hands will inevitably waste the time of people who have work to do.” – Thomas Sowell
“Accept that no matter where you go to work, you are not an employee – you are a business with one employee, you.” – Andy Grove
Sign on the door at a counseling center: Low Self Esteem Support Group Will Meet Thursday. Please Use the Back Door.
In The Word…
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” – Matthew 7:12
In Linked Words…
A politically correct “Tarzan” audition