If we do not acknowledge and address a glaringly obvious issue, at some point in the future, it will come back around and kicks us squarely in the balls. Every time.
This was a point made to me during my very first recruitment job interview. It was the fantastically named Spencer Jinks asking the questions, and I was the 23 year old trying to impress without having a clue what the job actually entailed. I don’t remember much, but I do remember Spencer explaining that our job was to ask the hard questions of candidates. Apparently, there was nearly nothing worse than a candidate dropping a bombshell whilst interviewing with a client. After somehow securing the job, I remember sitting in on my first interviews. I was surprised just how deeply the recruiters would delve. This was the early 2000’s and my employer was one of the most aggressive around, so nothing was off limits. The attitude was no surprises and no elephants in no rooms. I’ve carried this with me throughout my career. And when I haven’t heeded Spencer’s advice, and left that niggling question unasked, it’s bitten me in the arse. Every. Single. Time.
Talking of Elephants in rooms, this week was not a good week for statues. Hot on the heels of the biggest pandemic in living history, across the globe we’ve seen the biggest racially charged uprising in recent times. In the country of my birth, much of the media debate has centered around the morality of displaying statues of those involved in the slave trade or those perceived as racist. Now I’ve blogged for long enough to know that sharing my absolute opinion on such a hot potato is LinkedIn suicide. No religion, no politics, and certainly no race, right? Given Covid-19 has killed off most of my career, let’s throw caution to the wind and go for it: By not addressing the Elephant in the room surrounding the UK’s history of getting rich from slave trading, we have left ourselves with no choice but to remove these statues. Had we opened up dialogue, and had some courageous conversations about our dirty laundry previously, then these statues may have stood. We would have looked at them though different eyes- perhaps serving as a warning more than a tribute, but our history would be corrected, not destroyed. To my mind, we avoided eye contact with our own history for too long and this has now been met with a brutal reaction. We had the chance to correct this, and we blew it.
I’ve been doing what social media told me to, and educating myself around some inequalities that exist in the world recently. It’s clear that we’ve known for a long time that black people die younger, are more likely to go to prison for the same crime, die of Covid-19 more, and get paid less. We could have acted on these things, but like a stain on the carpet, we decided to move the rug instead of getting on our knees with the scrubbing brush. And history is proving that when we don’t address the ugly truth, it boils over en masse. We can complain all we want about ugly scenes, but if you’re in a position of privilege, you can’t say it wasn’t on the horizon. If we look at our own shores and what Covid-19 has done to the employment market we see plenty of bluster and bullshit. Now before you get your knickers in a twist, I am in no way downplaying the economic effects of that shitty little virus. However, Covid-19 has highlighted to us what many business leaders already secretly knew. Most of us were only one or two slow months away from going bust. As embarrassing it is to admit during boom time, so many of us were precariously balanced, and it was only luck and hope that kept the mortgage paid. I’ll admit it myself, had we not right-sized our own business 12 months ago, I probably wouldn’t be here writing a recruitment blog right now (I’d be unemployed, not dead. Don’t get too dramatic). Covid has again highlighted our inability to have tough conversations. Are we to believe that every redundancy is because of the ensuing recession? Or have some businesses used this as an opportune moment to cut those unwanted or deemed surplus to requirements? I put it to you that our collective avoidance of tough decisions, and the tough conversations that follow, mean that Covid has been a convenient scapegoat for many of us too scared to make the awkward calls. Some business will fail that would have failed anyway. Will some courageous soul step forward and say “Yeah Nah, we were screwed anyway mate”? Probably not.
It’s clear that the need for courageous conversations has always been there. And when, through embarrassment, personal gain, or awkwardness, we’ve avoided them, it’s always met with disaster. I’ll leave the solution to someone else, but perhaps we could all read a bit more, act with a bit more courage, and try and be a bit more honest. Especially with ourselves.
See you in a couple of weeks.