Several of my colleagues have urged me not to use this posting. They think that nothing will change as a result of it other than that the same behavior will continue. They are probably right but here goes regardless.
I recently (May 10th, 2011) posted a summary of the Google study on Becoming a Better Manager . The story was originally reported in the New York Times.
One of the criteria was labeled:
- Don’t be a sissy. Be produce and results-oriented. Focus on what employees want the team to achieve and how they can help achieve it. Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks.
Regrettably, I did not know that the sissy phrase was not in the Google study but was added by the Times.
One person posted to the blog that this word had become much more than a description of a timid person. I’ve since learned that it is considered by some in the gay community to be derogatory and suggestive of bullying. I appreciated the information and the perspective. As the former lead on civic strategies to reduce and eliminate racism and sexism I am very sensitive to language and its power for both good and ill.
Sadly, other blogs gave less attention (read none) to the essence of the posting and focused exclusively on the one word. That in itself is problematic but perhaps understandable. What is worse, however, is that the postings moved quickly to rather unflattering descriptions of my character (although no one indicated that they knew me) and the appellation of unflattering terms to me as a person (jerk and asshole where common). None of these folks bothered to communicate with me.
For teens perhaps sissy is pejorative. For adults, let’s act like adults. Put the issue on the table where it can be dealt with. It is the only way that change will occur. Don’t stoop to name-calling behind someone’s back (this is indeed “sissy” behavior or even bullying in the “backroom” where individuals offering contrary views are trashed). It would be foolish at this point to use the expression “man-up” (which of course I have just done and is stereotypically used by both sexes), but get a life and step up to the plate if you rally do want to see positive change.
Over the course of several decades I have observed two negative characteristics of library work environments: conflict avoidance (maybe the issue will just go away! Or, worse, let’s support the proposal and then dump on it in the restroom!) and victimization (poor us; no one understands us; no one realizes how important we are and why we are worth much more money and support). Sadly, this is but another example.
You may now attack my position on library managers who are “sissies” because they avoid conflict and do not insist on evidence for decisions. It would be just as bad (actually far worse) if they were bullies instead. There is however a middle ground – respectful, results-oriented, supportive and focused managers who act as adults.
You could also attack my atrocious mixing of metaphors and my slinging of slang in this posting but I would prefer that you commented on the ideas.
No doubt my colleagues will be proven right—nothing will change. Sigh.