Social justice warrior.

Racist.

Snowflake.

White privilege.

Over the last few years and particularly the past 18 months, conversations around race, gender identity, religion, and a host of other physical and personality traits have become more and more heated.

Even once commonly-understood terms like “racism” have evolving meanings rife with opportunity for disagreement. Well beyond the widely-held explicit biases of previous generations, many contemporary conversations are about less-obvious and often unintentionally-offensive behaviors that impact employees’ sense of fairness and belonging in many workplaces.

During this thirty-minute episode, Rodney and Mike talk about microaggressions, how our past experiences affect our responses to others’ behavior (well-intentioned or not), and whether Mike’s promise of Uber Eats will ever be fulfilled.

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Rodney Klein

Rodney Klein has over sixteen years of experience as an EEO trainer and presenter with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and as owner of Rodney Klein EEO Training. He is a recognized authority in federal EEO law and is a sought-after speaker and trainer across Texas. He regularly educates groups on workplace discrimination, harassment, retaliation and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also trains audiences on addressing workplace behavior, creating civil cultures, understanding and reducing microaggressions, and minimizing unconscious bias in decision making. He coaches organizational leaders on how to re-think EEO in ways that better equip them to navigate the challenges brought on by an ever-changing social landscape. Rodney believes that understanding EEO both legally and culturally is the key in creating productive, efficient and ultimately inspired workforces.

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Transcript

Rodney Klein: Almost always, when we start talking about these within organizations between individuals, we almost always break them down into who’s right and who’s wrong here. I mean, this shouldn’t have been offensive. Well, it was. Well, I don’t think it should have. Well, how am I supposed to know? All of these sorts of things. I think that’s focused on the wrong thing. It’s not about right or … because, remember, we’re talking about different sets of experiences.

So, these are the lessons that you’ve learned from your experiences, and these are the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences. It really isn’t about that. It’s about the relationship. At work, our employers say that our relationships are important. It’s important to keep those relationships clean so that we can get stuff done together.

[intro music]

Mike Coffey: Good morning, HR. I’m Mike Coffey, and this is the podcast where I talk to business leaders about bringing people together to create value for stakeholders, customers and the community.

Please follow, rate and review Good Morning, HR on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find us on Facebook or at GoodMorningHR.com.

Social justice warrior, racist, snowflake, white privilege.

Over the last few years and particularly the last 18 months, conversations about race, gender identity, religion and a host of other physical and personality traits have become more and more heated.

Even once commonly understood terms like racism have evolving meanings rife with opportunity for disagreement. Well beyond the widely held explicit biases of previous generations, many contemporary conversations are about less obvious and often unintentionally offensive behaviors that impact employees’ sense of fairness and belonging in the workplace.

Many well-meaning business leaders have a desire to do the right thing, but are fearful of taking action in such a contentious environment, which is why I’ve been looking forward to today’s discussion with one of the most articulate business trainers on these issues.

Rodney Klein has over 16 years of experience as an EEO trainer and presenter with the EEOC. Since leaving the role of everyone’s favorite person at the EEOC, he coaches and trains business leaders as the principal at Rodney Klein EEO Training.

Thanks for joining me today, Rodney.

Rodney Klein: I was told there would be food. If I remember the conversation, you called me. You begged me to be on your podcast. I said, “No,” and you said that I would feed you, and I said, “Well, okay then.” But I’m sitting here, and I don’t have food, Mike. What’s this all about?

Mike Coffey: Your Uber Eats email is on its way.

Rodney Klein: Is it? So, what is it that we’re talking about today?

Mike Coffey: Well, let’s just get down to it. What the hell is a microaggression?

Rodney Klein: That seems a bit hostile there, Mike. Do you have a little something pent up there?

Mike Coffey: I am talking from my male white privilege cisgender whatever privilege, so, yeah. Tell me, what is a microaggression? We hear it all the time, but is it a thing with a set meaning, or is it evolving all the time according to circumstance?

Rodney Klein: Well, yeah, I think you kind of capsulated it.

Mike Coffey: Great podcast. Thanks, Rodney.

Rodney Klein: That’s it. That takes care of it, and I’m done here. I’m waiting for my food.

Because when we’re talking about a microaggression, I think the easiest thing to say is it’s a small slight, snub or insult. That’s the definition you get. But most of the time these things are … They’re outside of our conscious awareness. We all microaggress.

If I were describing it, it’s kind of how you approached it in a sense with your question, and that is it’s a clash of experiences. So, we all have experiences. We learn from those experiences. We gain lessons from them. That gives us subjectivity, perspective, a point of view, which is the thing that makes us human. But we all have different points of view, all unique points of view, because we all have different sets of experiences.

So, when you see a microaggression, what you’re really seeing is you have one person with a particular point of view based on their own set of experiences. They look at a situation a certain way. Then you have this other person with their own unique point of view from their own unique set of experiences that look at the exact same situation in a completely different way. When those two things run into each other, that’s where we tend to have a microaggression.

Mike Coffey: So, the example of a microaggression that I seem to see most often for some reason, probably because it’s probably one of the most offensive, is a white person who’s overly interested in the texture of another person’s hair, for instance. Give me some examples-

Rodney Klein: Yeah. I don’t think it’s very fair to ask me any questions about hair, Mike. That’s just not right.

Mike Coffey: Is that a microaggression?

Rodney Klein: Maybe that’s a microaggression. Stop it, Mike. Just stop it.

Mike Coffey: So, what are some examples of real world unintentional … I mean, it seems to me amazing that someone would ask to touch another person’s hair or just touch it without even asking to see what the texture is because it’s something you’re not familiar with.

Rodney Klein: I don’t know about it being a microaggression. That’s just kind of weird to me. I’ve never asked to touch another person’s hair, so that’s just kind of odd. Let me give you a couple of examples, real life examples.

I work with this attorney around the San Antonio area, and she was relating this to me. She said that she had this client, and they were working out something with another person who had an attorney. So, the attorney for the other person sends her this agreement. So, she pulls it up, and she does what attorneys do, which is she crosses out this paragraph, and she moves this one over here. She writes a bunch of stuff in. Then she sends it back to the other attorney, who’s a man. Almost immediately, he sends her back an email that says, “Let’s not get emotional about this.” Now based on her set of experiences, how did she interpret that? What do you think?

Mike Coffey: Well, you wouldn’t be talking about it if she hadn’t taken offense to it, right?

Rodney Klein: Right.

Mike Coffey: So she felt like he was talking down to her as a-

Rodney Klein: Emotional woman.

Mike Coffey: Yeah, exactly.

Rodney Klein: Yeah, that’s how she took it. The reason she took it that way is because this has been in her set of experiences. She’s heard things like this most of her professional life. So, when she heard this, it wasn’t a simple admonishment. It was directly related to her gender.

Now the ironic part is she’s one of the least emotional attorneys I’ve ever run across, which before she became an attorney, she did military intelligence. So she’s nails. But the first thing she thought of when that happened to her was, “This is specifically targeting me or criticizing me or diminishing me in some way because of my gender.” So that’s just based on her own set of experiences. So I think that’s a good example.

There’s another one I had a … When I was with the EEOC, I did education. Once every couple of years, they would get us all together, and they would have a conference, and we would train on the things that we were supposed to be talking to communities about. So I was up in Washington one week, and we were having this conference. It was working lunches, and they were bringing lunches in. So the first day, there’s this little buffet set up, and it’s sandwiches. I’m walking through the line, and right behind me is one of my counterparts, name is Linda. I get to the middle of the line, and the person who set up the buffet was standing behind it. She goes, “Linda, tomorrow we’re going to have Asian food.” I like Asian food. She didn’t say that to me. Linda’s last name is Lee by the way. Linda is a Chinese American from New Jersey.

Now, remember, going back to the premise that we all microaggress, so had we actually pointed that out to the person who said it, they would have been horrified that they did it. It was something that they just did out of an unconscious … because of the lessons that we learn from our experiences that are just in us, and they’re not necessarily in our conscious awareness.

Mike Coffey: But on that person’s behalf, I mean, that was an intentional effort to connect with Linda. It was kind of ham-fisted, but it wasn’t meant probably in any way as a negative or as a slight to her. It was just that person’s attempt to make connection, right?

Rodney Klein: I think you’re absolutely right, but I think … Remember, we’re talking about different experiences. So from Linda’s experience … Now Linda and I didn’t talk about this. But somebody like Linda and her experience, what does that say to her? I’m being continually reminded that maybe I’m a foreigner in my own country, that I’m different from everyone else. So that’s how somebody with her set of experiences may interpret something like that. Why? Because it’s not the first time she’s heard it. I think that’s an important part of microaggressions. Because I hear the criticisms of it. Oh, I can’t say anything, any time, anyhow, anyway. But we don’t recognize, I think, a lot of the times that these things have weight to them.

I’ll give you an example. I was at an educational event one time, and I had a counterpart with me by the name of Deb. So we did the event. It’s over. We’re all standing around talking. Let’s say I’m standing right here. Deb is standing to the left of me, and there’s this other gentleman standing to the right of me. We’re having this three-way conversation.

Right in the middle of the conversation, this young guy walks up, and he influences himself to the other gentleman and gives him his card. Then he influences himself to me and gives me his card, and then he turns around and walks off. Deb was mad. Deb was mad. That was three years ago. I have a cell phone. I could get Deb on the cell phone right now, and she would spend the next 20 minutes telling you how mad she still is about that.

Why? I mean, I could look at that objectively and say, well, what’s the big deal? Because that was a professional relationship I didn’t care about. I threw his card away the second he left. I would have been thrilled had he ignored me and given his card to Deb. So why, three years later, is she still mad about that? Because it’s not the first time, right? Nobody gets mad at the first microaggression or the second or the 20th or the 200th, but it’s somewhere along the lines these things have weight.

I think we miss that. If we see somebody that seems to respond in what seems to be a disproportionate way, because remember, these are small events, we tend to think they’re overreacting. We’re not really thinking about the fact that there’s weight behind these things.

Mike Coffey: So intent doesn’t necessarily matter. But that puts us in a position where we have to spend a fair amount of effort in a lot of these situations before we actually act to predict what the other person’s response may be to a certain thing that we wouldn’t think is discourteous but could be misinterpreted by somebody else because of their experiences. Is that what you’re saying?

Mike Coffey: I’m not trying to pin you to the wall here. I’m just trying to-

Rodney Klein: Let me paraphrase what I hear you saying. Let’s go to the Coffey household. So let’s say one day your wife comes up to you and says, “Mike, this thing you’ve done 1,000 times, it’s just getting on my last nerve.”

Mike Coffey: Oh, you were at breakfast this morning.

Rodney Klein: You turn around to her, and you say, “Darling,” … because that’s probably, I’m guessing, how you talk to your wife. You say, “Darling-

Mike Coffey: That would go over well.

Rodney Klein: … this really isn’t on me. This is really on you. You actually have a responsibility not to be offended by anything that I say or do. The fact that you are offended by it, that’s actually hurtful to me, and I’m not so sure I’m ready to move on yet.” How does that conversation go? How does that end?

Mike Coffey: Oh, it blew up when I said darling, so I think you’re right. I didn’t mean to suggest that it wasn’t an appropriate thing to do to try to second guess how this other person may evaluate what I’m about to say. But it’s a skill, I think, that a lot of people haven’t developed.

Rodney Klein: I think, in a sense, to remember … Again, going back to the premise that we all microaggress … And the point I’m trying to get at with that particular story is that almost always, when we start talking about these within organizations between individuals, we almost always break them down into who’s right and who’s wrong here. I mean, this shouldn’t have been offensive. Well, it was. Well, I don’t think it should have. Well, how am I supposed to know? All of these sorts of things. I think that’s focused on the wrong thing.

It’s not about right or … Because remember, we’re talking about different sets of experiences. So these are the lessons that you’ve learned from your experiences, and these are the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences. It really isn’t about that. It’s about the relationship. At work, our employers say that our relationships are important. It’s important to keep those relationships clean so that we can get stuff done together.

So it’s not about whether I was supposed to know it or I wasn’t supposed to know it or I did it or I didn’t do it. We have obligations to each other to keep that relationship clean. What I’d like to do is create an environment in which you can come back to me and say, “You’ve done this a whole bunch of times. You’ve interrupted me in meetings 1,000 times, and we just need to get past this because this is impacting my ability to get my job done.” It’s that impact that’s important, not whether you’re right or wrong about it, but that impact that that has on the relationship at work. We have obligations to one another.

I think sometimes in our highly emotional society or stakes that we’re in right now, we tend to forget that we have obligations to each other, and we kind of entrench on the fact that, well, I’m right about this, and you’re wrong, so let’s start from there. Now that’s not where we need to start. We need to start from the fact that we all do this. Most of the time we’re not conscious of it, but we are still responsible for it. We all need to have accountability to one another.

Mike Coffey: Let’s take a quick break.

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If you’re an HRCI or SHRM certified professional, this episode of Good Morning, HR has been preapproved for one half hour of recertification credit. To obtain the recertification information, visit GoodMorningHR.com and click on recert credits, and enter the keyword Klein. That’s K-L-E-I-N.

On Thursday, September 9th, I’ll be hosting a webinar entitled Using Organizational Values as a Planning and Accountability Tool. This webinar is approved for one professional development credit for SHRM certified professionals and one hour of business recertification credit for HRCI certified professionals. You can register for this free webinar at ImperativeInfo.com.

If you’re listening to this program after September 9th, you can still watch the recorded webinar on our website for credit.

Now back to my conversation with Rodney Klein.

So the other part of this that comes up is the person who … whichever person’s in a position of power. It does seem that … And I wouldn’t disagree that certainly, if I’m a leader in an organization or a supervisor or a manager of people, how I relate to the folks that report to me is critical because I need them at their most productive. I need to make sure that we’re on the same page with what the organization’s values are, where we’re moving as an organization, and what I need from them for this organization to succeed, and what they need from that organization at the same time. So I can definitely see that. But what about the peer-to-peer microaggressions? I mean, how is a company … Is this something you can address through policy? Or is this something more that’s just on an individual basis? We just have to learn to get better.

Rodney Klein: I think, in a sense, maybe a little bit of both. I think we should all strive to be a little bit more empathetic. We don’t always have to agree, but we do have to understand where each other’s coming from.

I’ve always said, it may be possible to manage people without a sense of empathy, but I don’t think you can ever lead them without a sense of empathy. You have to understand where people are coming from. I think that’s important. So I think it’s good that we work on that end of it, work on ourselves to a certain extent. But I also think that there is policy considerations. We tend to discourage people from coming forward with issues in organizations. The number-one priority for managers within organizations when it comes to workplace behavior is to keep a lid on things, and that’s not really very healthy, as we know, if we’re talking about, let’s say, our relationships.

We want to create policy because we’re trying to create culture, and we do that through policy as well. You’re trying to create a culture which encourages people to bring up issues and to talk about things and to keep those relationships as clean as we can keep them, because when they’re not, then people just can’t perform right. You’re exactly right. In order to get the best out of your people, you need them all to feel as though they are part of the group and active and that their opinions matter and that they’re not being brought down. So, I think you have to do that both individually and through how organizations react or respond to workplace issues and behavior issues in the workplace.

Mike Coffey: What would those policy considerations be then? How do you police that in policy?

Rodney Klein: Policing is a brutal word, I think, because remember, we all do it. We all microaggress, and so police is a brutal label to put on it. I think you have to do that through … Like I said, you want to encourage people to come forward. You want a complaint process that doesn’t sort of automatically circle the wagons and make it antagonistic with individuals.

Some of that you do through how the system is set up for people to come forward with workplace issues. It can be in training. We talk about microaggressions in training, about how this stuff works. It could be addressing it in your group meetings, if you’re the manager, and making sure that you’ve created dialogue with people, making sure that your people are plugged into informal networks.

I don’t think we talk about this enough in microaggressions. But when people come to work for us, we know that there are two ways that they learn. We hand them the book. The book says, “This is how we do things.” But then we start talking to each other. What do we find out? That this is the way you be productive. So we need those informal networks. Sometimes when we’re looking at people who are being subjected to microaggressions, that’s happening by them being excluded from these informal networks. They’re not put in a position to succeed. There’s that good information that they need, what the boss looks at and how you get your work seen and relationships that are important, all of those things you don’t learn from the book. All of those things you learn from your relationships. None of us have gotten to where we are without the help of at least somebody else, one other person, most of the time many other people. So we need to make sure within our culture and within our policies that people are being able to plug into those formal and informal networks to be successful. I think that’s policy-wise.

As far as the peer to peer, coming back to that, I think there are ways that, if we have a culture that’s open, that if somebody’s being subjected to a microaggression, that they be able to assess, because I don’t think there’s a one size fits all approach to this when you’re dealing with individuals. You assess your safety.

Because you talk about, if the microaggression’s coming from the owner of the company and it’s a toxic work enough, that’s a different situation than if one of my close workplace friends is doing this to me and we’re peers. Those are two different relationships. So we assess our own safety. Then we also assess how likely it is what are to succeed in the manner in which we want to address it. So it could be, do I have friends in the room? How do I address this?

Let me give you an example. It’s interesting, Mike, because when I started talking about microaggressions, it was largely to HR people. Because it was to HR people, my emphasis was on how organizations respond to this. But what did I find? Every single time I did a presentation on microaggressions to HR people, the HR people came back and said, “This is happening to me. How do I address this as an individual?” So I made part of my standard presentation to HR people on microaggressions address how individuals should do this, how they should address these situations. There isn’t any one size fits all approach to it because you have to assess your ability to be successful. So that might be having a direct conversation with an individual.

I had one HR person … This is kind of an interesting story. She was saying that they had a big meeting. The company was supposed to be focused on some issue, big issue, and so they had 50 managers in a room, and they were brainstorming. The CEO was up there, and they were pitching ideas. She said about, oh, maybe 45 minutes into the conversation, this woman who had been with the company for a number of years, maybe about 30, 40 years, stood up and said, “Here’s what I think the solution is to the problem.” Then she said that, and then they went back to talking and pitching out ideas.

So about 30 minutes after that, these two young guys stood up and said, “Here’s the solution to the problem,” and the solution they gave was the exact same solution the woman gave earlier. Everybody went, “Wow, that’s a beautiful, wonderful, great solution. Let’s do this.” So the HR person who is telling this story said she stood up and said, “I just want to point out to everybody that what these two guys said was the exact same thing she said 45 minutes ago.” Everybody in the room was kind of silent because … Well, she was still working for them, so we figured she didn’t get fired. But that was kind of a risky thing to do in that setting, calling out the CEO of a company in front of 50 managers.

So the logical question I asked was, “How did that go?” She was like, “Well, it went well because I had known the CEO for a long time, and I knew that he would take this in the spirit that it was intended, as constructive criticism.”

Now what did she really do? She assessed her own safety, and she assessed her ability to achieve success in how she handled it. But I think that’s imperative for everyone to do when they’re subjected to these things is to make those assessments. Because there are some people that do microaggressions on purpose. They’re trying to get under people’s skin by these small events, and that’s a completely different situation than the buffet line that we were talking about earlier.

Mike Coffey: Well, and I think, unfortunately, that has become, in some part of our population … I would argue on both sides of the political or philosophical aisle, it’s become performative. There are some folks who are actively looking for a way to be offended by you taking offense at what I just said or the way I said it and looking to needle other people and offend them just so they can defend their right to be offensive. I think on the other side, there are people who … I’ve definitely worked with employees over the years who are actively looking for reasons to take offense and to misread circumstances in their favor.

Rodney Klein: Again, that’s why I think it’s imperative that we re-pitch the discussion. It really isn’t about right or wrong here. It’s about, what do we need to do to keep this relationship clean? We have obligations to one another. Let me give you just a little example of that. At the EEOC, when I worked for them, I did seminars. I hosted seminars. Way back when I first started doing it 16 years ago, I did a seminar. When we did the seminar, people would evaluate us. We got the old paper evaluations. I would grab those, and I would go home, and I would read them all up.

Mike Coffey: The worst thing you can ever do, right? Don’t ever read your own reviews, right?

Rodney Klein: Well, you learn things. Here’s what I learned. So I was going through them, and there was this one evaluation that pointed out to a presentation that I gave and said that there was a term that I used that was racially negative. I’m like, whoa. I mean, I work for the EEOC. I was horrified. This is not what’s supposed to be coming out of me, and I didn’t know it. So I tried to do as much research as I could. I looked up a bunch of stuff. I read a bunch of stuff. I talked to a whole bunch of different people. I looked through all of the other evaluations, and I didn’t run across anyone or any source that noted that that was a racially negative connotation. So, for me, I could look at that and I go, I’m right. It wasn’t a negative thing, and so I’m just going to keep plugging away.

But what did I do? You know what, I changed the term. Why? Because there was a deeper truth going on here, and the deeper truth was it’s not just my job to talk to people who agree with me. It’s my job to talk to people who look at the world in completely different ways than I do. I’ve got to be able to communicate with them just like I’m able to communicate with anybody else. If they’re hung up on something that I said, they’re not listening to what I said. So it didn’t change the content of what I was talking about. It might have been different had it changed the content, but it wasn’t a content thing. It was just a semantic thing. So it didn’t cause me any problems to change because the deeper truth was we all have to live and work with people who are completely unlike ourselves.

Mike Coffey: That goes back to my college communications class, communications 101. It’s my job as the speaker to make sure that I’m understood and that I’m reaching the audience, so it’s not up to them to bend over backwards to understand what I’m trying to say.

Rodney Klein: Right. I think from an organizational perspective, that’s important, because, like I said, a lot of times we get hung up on intent. Intent isn’t in anybody’s evaluation. It’s not in anybody’s job performance evaluation.

Communication, on the other hand, is in everybody’s performance evaluation. So you may not be able to judge intent because I don’t know what’s going on in your mind, but I certainly can judge what you’re communicating. If I’m communicating with you, Mike, and it’s clear that you’re taking what I’m saying and going off in a direction that I never intended, it’s my job, it’s my responsibility to keep adding context to that discussion until you do understand what I mean. That’s my responsibility as a communicator.

Mike Coffey: I was thinking a minute ago when you were talking about the policy implications. One of our three core values at Imperative is, “Always work as one with respect and compassion.” We drill all three of our core values home all the time in a lot of different ways to employees. I’m blessed with an amazing crew, but they all live all our values. So it’s not something, probably, that I’ve ever eve had come up, but that may be because we’re so good at hiring people who match our core values that it’s just not come up.

Probably, if anybody steps on anybody’s toes in the organization, it’s me because I’m me. Unfortunately, I have a propensity for stepping into cow piles. But I think even there, my team at least know me well enough to know that, “Yeah, Coffey’s an older guy who sometimes says stupid shit, and we’ll have to correct him if we have to, but it’s all well intended and well meaning.”

I do try to be aware of stuff. Like you, I’m in front of audiences all the time, and there have been more than once where I’ve had people come up after a present- … I’m talking about background checks and criminal history. Unfortunately, in the United States, African Americans are arrested, prosecuted and convicted at a higher rate than the white population. But I bend over backwards in my presentations to make sure that any examples I use of bad workplace situations that came from hiring the wrong person because you weren’t well informed about it focus more on the … that it really reflects a lot more, quite honestly, white offenders than it would even the population of offenders who are prosecuted and convicted in their demographics, just because I don’t want to give that offense.

I’ve got one presentation that has five different people in it, and only one of them’s a minority. I had somebody come up to me afterwards and complained, “All of your examples were minorities.” So she only remembered the one slide, and I was like … I panicked for a moment because I was like, “Did I really miss that?” I went back and looked, and, no, it was right.

But it’s a good lesson, and it makes me think about, every time I do anything, am I about to step into something here and offend somebody? If somebody’s offended at a conference, I’d prefer it be because I used salty language or told a risqué joke than anything that would offend them on a personal level. So I think about it.

So one last question … I think you’ve kind of touched on it, but what about that situation where somebody comes to leadership and says, “I’ve got a problem with this. This is microaggressing”? Which I think using the term aggression, it’s a whole nother half hour, but using the term aggression in that term is designed to set off a certain group of people, I mean, to alienate the conversation already by calling it an aggression because it suggests intent, and I don’t think that’s … We just said this isn’t really intent. This is just different experiences and not understanding one another.

But, anyway, if somebody comes to a leader and says, “Hey, I’ve got this issue,” how should a leader address that circumstance where the person really is taking something completely out of context or there’s not even something that would be reasonable to call a microaggression here and maybe that person’s looking for a way to be offended or just being really hypersensitive because maybe of other experiences that they’ve had, which could be legit? But in this particular instance that you’re complaining about, we can find no fault. How would you suggest a leader address those kinds of situations?

Rodney Klein: Well, again, I think that goes back to judging them and saying, “Well, this is true. This is not true. This is right. This is wrong.” Remember, if we start off the whole conversation with the fact that it’s just based on people’s experiences and these impact individuals … If we’re talking about impact, it’s completely unproductive to blame the person’s who’s impacted. I would say that myself. I could look at a situation like with Deb, and I’m going, “What’s the big deal? Why is she offended?” The reality was, in that particular situation, I did not call the guy out. I didn’t go and talk to him later. The reason I didn’t talk to him later is because I didn’t understand the weight of microaggressions at that time. It wasn’t until I was paying attention to her set of experiences that I started to understand what was really going on there.

So I don’t think we’re really in a position to say yes or no. It’s like that conversation with your wife. If she’s upset about something, are you really going to turn around and tell her, “Darling, you really don’t have a right to be upset about this”? It’s a conversation that never works. It never gets you the outcome that you want. It’s about the relationship, and that’s the key part.

Disagreements we have at work create the friction that creates the electricity that drives organizations forward. But the very second those disagreements become personal; we’ve lost it. Now it’s no longer about getting the best decision. It’s about winning the argument, and we become entrenched. We want to keep it open-handed with these things. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about let’s get this relationship clean. Do we have obligations to one another? Because that obligation flows both ways.

So if you and I are working together and you come at me with something that I’m going, what? It’d be good if I didn’t do that when you’re talking to me. But if I’m not really understanding it but I’m keeping it clean with you and saying, “Well, I’ll try and do better with that. Obviously, I want you to know it wasn’t my intention, but I want to make sure we have a clean relationship,” it works the other way too.

So if something comes up with me, I ought to be able to come back and say, “Mike, this thing has been bothering me, and it’s the 12th time you’ve done it.” So we need to be able to have open enough relationships that we can do it. I understand that that’s not so easy within a work environment, and it’s not even so easy within a relationship. But I think that’s the perspective that a boss or an organization needs to come from is my organization’s largely a network of relationships. So how that network functions directly impacts my organization’s ability to get their job done, to get its job done. So it’s like making sure you’ve got equipment that’s working right, making sure you’ve got the latest software. This is how we manage our people.

Mike Coffey: Well, great, and that’s a good way to close it. Thanks for your time with us today, Rodney.

Rodney Klein: Well, I’m still watching for the Uber Eats outside. I’ll be expecting it shortly, but thank you, Mike, for having me on. I appreciate the chance, despite me giving you a hard time. I appreciate the opportunity to be on today and get a chance to talk with you.

Mike Coffey: I appreciate it.

Rodney’s information will be in our show notes, so you can reach out to him. I’ve seen him speak dozens of times at conferences all over the place, and I know he’d be amazing for your organization as you wrestle with these issues. So please reach out to him.

Thank you for listening. You can find previous episodes, show notes and contact info for our guests at GoodMorningHR.com or on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. Don’t forget to follow us wherever you get your podcasts. Rob Upchurch is our technical producer, and Imperative’s marketing coordinator, Katy Bautista, keeps the trains running on time.

I’m Mike Coffey, and, as always, don’t hesitate to reach out if I can be of service to you professionally or personally. I’ll see you next week. Until then, be well, and keep your chin up.