Many people will have watched the recent interview with Meghan and Harry. I know we have only heard one side of the story. But that side is important. Whatever your thoughts on Meghan are, it made me think about what this means for us and the parallels that we can draw in terms of our workplaces. My main takeaways from this include:
1. How different people are treated for being different. We have all seen the disparity in how the media treated the two Duchesses for the same things. How they favoured Kate over Meghan continually at identical points in their lives. Whether we like it or not, or feel comfortable enough to accept it, this is sadly an example of racism. Ask yourself how is your workplace treating people with identical roles and favouring one over the other?
2. Even brands we revere can have toxic individuals who influence our workplace cultures. When we allow this (and this is often something where the tone is set by leadership) to be permitted, we then find it incredibly hard for people around us to be their best self. Think of Bill Michael at KPMG and as an employee of the firm, how you would feel if you had been significantly impacted through the loss of a family member and being told to stop moaning about it? Could you be your best self?
3. We have no idea of what is going on for someone behind closed doors. Everyone has daily experiences that strengthen them and/or deplete their mental fitness. We have no idea what our colleagues, our bosses, the people in our canteens are dealing with. Therefore, let us deal with them all with absolute kindness. Because something (whether that something was today, yesterday or in their past) has made them behave and react in a way that feels incongruent or uncomfortable to you today.
4. Integrity is everything. If you are telling people that you are going to do something, or you have organisational values, do not just say them. Live them. Believe them. Act in accordance with them. Because being an organisation that talks a good talk about mental ill-health, yet then go on to not only cause it, but enable it to deteriorate is never acceptable. And if someone comes to you saying they are not OK, listen. Be there. Ask what you can do to support and help them. Do not ever try and play devil’s advocate or think that it will sort itself out in time. It is not your health to make that judgement on.
5. Silence is complicity. If people either inside or outside your organisation are calling for a change (for example the 70+ female MPs who called out the unacceptable tone from the press) and your institution does not acknowledge it, you are part of the issue and allowing it to perpetuate. There is a way to protect your brand. We may well think that silence is an appropriate protective measure. However, that silence is far more damming than taking the stand itself.
Let us all find a way to use Meghan and Harry’s bravery in telling their truth to the world and see how we can make this better for us. Our colleagues. Everyone around us. Because it is when we support each other, we champion each other, and we celebrate each other that we succeed.