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Pride parade and the topic of messages

Photo by Andre Robotos

Photo by Andre Robotos

I had the opportunity to attend, and indeed the privilege of attending, Toronto’s Pride parade on Sunday July 3. There are people in Canada who feel inhibited from attending and people around the world who would in fact go to jail, or worse, for organizing or participating in a public declaration of the incongruity of sexual orientation that our societies have a tendency to want to hide; that’s why I consider it a privilege to attend.

What’s all of this got to do with running a business and managing workers and not running afoul of the law? It’s about examining the message that you are sending and realizing that as a leader of an organization you have a vital impact on the attitudes and behaviours of your workers. Those attitudes and behaviours manifest themselves in how your workers interact with each other and how they treat your customers. When the message is positive and shows respect for others you stand a better chance of being insulated from legal liability.

During my career as an employment law paralegal and now as a consultant, researcher and training provider I have learned that there is a number one reason why employees sue their employers: they feel they have been treated unfairly. And often they are right. This unfairness shows itself when they are given unclear expectations and then faulted for not meeting them, they are bullied by bosses and they are the victims of discrimination and harassment at the hands of their coworkers with the approval of the employer. This unfairness can be controlled when the organization sends a positive message from the top that confirms you legal obligations. More about this below.

But first, I want to go back to the Pride parade and the topic of messages. Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, sent a message when he did not attend a huge event going on in his city. Elizabeth May, leader of the Green party, sent a message as she was pulled by chariot along the parade route. Jack Layton, Olivia Chow and Glen Murray all sent messages with their presence. Although, come to think of it, I didn’t see Dalton McGuinty. Anyway, assuming participation demonstrates respect for the cause, the above mentioned leaders sent a message. Workplace leaders need to send a message that demonstrates a commitment to the law.

For example: the human rights laws of most Canadian provinces describe the inalienable right of all persons to be treated with dignity and respect. It could be argued that Mr. Ford failed to recognize this right by not participating. On the other hand it could be just as strongly argued that he had a previous commitment. Just because Elizabeth, Jack, Olivia and Glen showed up does not necessarily mean that they support the rights of all persons to be treated with dignity. They could be looking for votes. Nevertheless, they all sent a message that, in turn, will affect how their followers think and behave; good, bad or indifferent.

With all its noise, nudity, frivolity and glitter the Pride parade left one indelible impression on me: the message that all persons have the right to be treated with dignity and respect for who and what they are.

What message are you sending to your managers, subordinates and customers? Is it consistent with the employment laws that will hold you to account should an employee decide to sue you or a labour inspector should decide to drop in for a random inspection?

Learn don’t litigate.

  • Educate yourself in the law that regulates your organization
  • Train your staff (especially your managers)
  • Reflect on “your message.”

Andrew Lawson
www.learndl.ca

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Andrew Lawson

Trainer and advisor at Learn Don't Litigate
Andrew Lawson is a human rights and health and safety trainer and advisor, currently consulting to both the federal and Ontario governments. Since 1996, he has conducted extensive legal research in the areas of human rights and occupational health and safety law. He has worked in the people management business for over 25 years. Read more
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3 thoughts on “Pride parade and the topic of messages
  • crljones says:

    Yes, the message is that I don’t want to go. I don’t want to see men flashing their d*** and prancing around. If I feel so inclined I can just go and shower at the YMCA – which was where most used to congregate.

    I have no problems with homosexuals as long as they don’t allow themselves to be defined by their sexuality and expect everyone else to likewise be defined by their sexuality. First it was about “acceptance”, now it is about “endorsement” and pretty soon if PC HRC have their way it will be “mandatory”. I applaud Ford for sticking to his guns.

  • Andrew says:

    Thanks for your feedback, Christina. In my research today I have come across a lot of emotional motivation for the views that various people hold on human rights and other related topics. People managers need to adopt logical positions that are in line with the law. For example I’ve learned that some people think that if we give legal protection to people based on their gender identity that women and children will be at risk of exposure to perverts. Here’s my message to business leaders: build private washrooms for everyone who is concerned about being seen naked and let the unconcerned use common spaces; accommodate: don’t dictate. I remember when not that long ago business people argued that they couldn’t employ women because there was no existing place for them to pee! What a revelation to build another washroom. Well, it’s 2011–time for another washroom!

  • Andrew,

    Well said.

    I agree with you that in addition to becoming educated and fulfilling training obligations, it is critical for employers to revisit on a regular basis what kind of message is being sent to employees.

    It is understandable that all parties can get caught up in the daily business of operating and forget this important point. But it must be remembered – those messages are quickly picked up on by employees, and they can strongly influence the morale and the tone in the office.

    thanks,
    Christina