|In a world gone nuts with political
correctness, almost everything I
think, do and say these days can
be taken the wrong way.
Have you ever found yourself working for someone
who oozes insensitivity? Their sensitivity, or lack
thereof, often appears to be a deep-seated trauma
from childhood or a mental condition which indicates
that I'm biased against their disposition.
What's more, you can't mention their nationality
without being accused of stereotyping, even if it
relates to a trait of almost everyone from that
country. I am, though, at fault for realising the
Go so far as to mention their homeland and there
are shouts of demographic homophobia and political
correctness these days. Apparently I can't imitate
the accent either for fear of being harangued for
engaging in ethnic discrimination. In fact, who am I
to even assume I might have been traumatised by
So, what are we supposed to do in this crazed world
of the unspeakable?
When I was a child at school I was renowned for
being able to spot the quirks and idiosyncrasies of
other students. Today when I do the same, a large
cast of senior management half laugh and the
remainder just cringe. But if we can't laugh at
ourselves who can we laugh at, right!
Even when I'm being serious I seem to be in
trouble. I'm a white guy in a fruit salad world. I work
with multiple ethnicities. My new senior manager is African-American, yet when he enters the office and
I state that he seems to be in a dark mood I find
myself kicked under the table and reprimanded after
When I was young I was called the black sheep of
the family; is it wrong to use the same term in the
office these days? I can't win! If I ignore my boss I'm
being intolerant, ignorant and insensitive. If I mention
the issue, I'm being racist.
Later the same day we head to a meeting of
consultants where I spontaneously greet the room,
"Good afternoon guys." Abruptly I am informed that
women are not guys. Has everyone lost their sense of
humour? Must everyone be addressed individually?
Are we that insecure in the 21st century?
Then again, what to address as well? If I assume a
woman over a certain age is married and greet her as
Mrs I am told she is a Miss. Why do men have just
one prefix? Why is it my problem what likes and
dislikes a person has in their personal life, when it
comes to how I treat them at work anyway?
Should I greet the next meeting I attend with, "Good
morning all persons of individual persuasion?"
Work and business are hard enough, but I truly feel
like dying when I get caught in the politically correct
tidal wash and spun into circles for my words. The
meetings continue throughout the day. Who says
being a consultant is fun?
One training room has a blackboard, another a
whiteboard, but I feel ill at ease to use either or to tell
the participants in the group where to write in case
I'm perceived to be ethnically offensive. Write on the
floor for all I care! Boards don't exist; the floor is
universal and trodden on by everyone - which is just
how I feel by lunch time!
In the cafeteria, issues continue. The lady serving
the food is cross-eyed. When she asks me if I want
some food, I'm not sure if she is referring to the beef
on the left or the potatoes on the right. So, I just
smile and say yes and end up with a plate of
In my childhood my father used phrases and words
such as mental home, handicapped, retarded, but
these days we are meant to be the blind ones, not
noticing differences. In future I won't look at other
people at all. If I'm asked what am I looking at, "An
angel" will be my answer.
I do understand that in the 70s and 80s we were,
perhaps, a little insensitive, but if we become too
scared to talk to one another, are we not building a
world of intolerance again? Free speech has been
fought over countless times; yet, it would seem in the
21st century the one thing we have lost is the ability
to speak freely without offending someone.