A few months ago, a friend of mine at a different company, knowing I was a manager, asked my advice on how to advance. I suggested they meet with their manager to discuss the issue, and so my friend met with their manager and the department head to discuss their future. My friend was pleased when about a month later the department head scheduled a second meeting.
But when I asked how the second meeting went, my friend immediately became fearful. The second meeting had not been to discuss opportunities for advancement. Instead, my friend was charged with harassment. The horrible crime: my friend had shared a cartoon from this year’s Dilbert Desk Calendar.
Like so many people, particularly those who work in IT, my friend enjoys, or at least used to enjoy, Dilbert and found the lampooning of IT culture often amusing. I, myself, have a Dilbert desk calendar, and I’m not the only one in my office who share these cartoons, either informally, or even formally in company power points. My friend was no different.
The problem is that my friend’s manager took offense to a cartoon and, instead of talking to my friend, reported that they were offended to the Department Head and that landed my friend in jeopardy. The expectation of discussing advancement evaporated and was replaced by an interrogation about underlying meanings and the deeper intentions of a cartoon, a cartoon my friend had not thought much about, other than it is was amusing and he had a desire to share that amusement. Hope for advancement became fear for his job.
Despite this being a first (and only) “offense,” much less any warning, my friend was charged with a level 3 (out of 5) harassment because the cartoon covered a “protected group” and like so many organizations, this other company has a “zero tolerance” policy to show their commitment to the cause.
This was followed up later by a meeting with HR, and further training on harassment. At no point was my friend given anything that amounted to an investigation or a chance for a defense. In fact, my friend felt that any attempt at a defense would be seen in a negative light. Resistance was not only futile but would be counterproductive. My friend was doomed the instant the boss felt offended and reported it.
Now every work day is spent walking on egg shells, fearing that some innocent remark might not only be taken as harassment, but it might be misconstrued as retaliation as well. Talk about a hostile work environment! As the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.
And there is the problem. We have little control over how others react to anything. Even our best intentions can be misunderstood. I once gave a person a complement, but they thought I was being sarcastic and it took quite a bit of effort to work though the misunderstanding and convince them that my complement had really been just that, a complement. Anything we say, at any time, can be misunderstood. As a teacher, I have learned that I need to repeat things often because despite how clear I try to be, in a large class there will be some who misunderstand the first time.
Normally this is fine. Most people work through such things, as they should. But into this normal human interaction, the Left has injected its agenda, backed by a strict code of Political Correctness. The very people who preach kindness and tolerance, teach people to take offense and demand zero tolerance.
Often this brings hand-to-face moments, to those who hear of the latest example of absurdity, such as the little boy expelled from school for nibbling at his Pop Tart until it was in the shape of a gun, or the little girl who was forbidden to tell a fellow classmate at school they were her best friend, because that excludes all the other children. Or like my friend charged with harassment for sharing a Dilbert cartoon.
It isn’t funny if you are the one involved, and this is something I really do not think the Left understands, because offense is largely defined in terms of the Left’s agenda. Whereas the Right tends to disagree, the Left tends to get offended, so the effects of such policies are to be lop-sided.
For all its talk about standing up to the powerful for the powerless, in the world of PC (Political Correctness), the Left is the power, and they will allow no challenge. Once charged, you are guilty. For all its talk of individuals, the Left is ultimately dehumanizing, seeing not individuals but member of groups, and it is the group, not the individual that really matters. In place of normal human interaction, the Left imposes its agenda which dictates what one is allowed to think.
To enforce PC, it replaces rational thought by zero-tolerance, a mindless following of the Left’s agenda. It does not seem to consider that this might just be two people with a misunderstanding which needs to be worked through. Instead it sees members of groups, pitted against each other. Which group the Left will support in any given situation has little to do with the actual situation or circumstances, as that would require an analysis and thought that is precluded by the zero-tolerance rules set by the agenda.
Ultimately what really matters is not the people, but the agenda. A few on the Left have learned this the hard way when they stood up for the principles they thought the Left supported, only to find that they were out of step with the agenda. As a result, and to their surprise, the forces of destruction normally focused on the Right suddenly turned on them.
It is tempting say that this is just an aberration, and the people at my friend’s company are just overzealous. But I have been through enough training to known that once my friend’s boss chose to report to the Department Head, hands were tied as the zero tolerance rules and other mechanisms of PC culture kicked in leaving little room for thought. It is very possible that the Department Head and the HR Representative also saw this as an absurd over-reaction. But they had to play their roles, less their career be crushed by PC machine the Left has created.
On my desk I still have a Dilbert calendar, which was given to me by my daughter. I still look at it daily when I can, but it’s no longer the innocent source of humor it once was. I no longer share them as I once did, fearing someone might take offence. Now I look at each one with the question, could this cost me my job?
Postscript: The Friday after the meeting with HR, my friend was looking though the latest department wide email with the normal information about refrigeration cleaning and upcoming events when they came to the end and found a Dilbert cartoon, in which the female administrative assistant is plotting to take over the world and speaks of “Subjugation, Humiliation and Misery! HA HA HA!” Yup, no deeper underlying meaning or intent possible there. Let’s hope nobody took offense.
by Elgin Hushbeck, Jr., Engineer, teacher, Christian apologist, and author of Preserving Democracy, What is Wrong with Social Justice?, Christianity: The Basics, A Short Critique of Climate Change, Christianity and Secularism, and Evidence for the Bible.