Toxic Work

I recently listened to the Reply All apology about their blindness to their own toxic work culture while reporting on the issues at Bon Appetit. This brought up so many thoughts about the nastiness that lies in not just our work cultures across so many industries, but also across society. Work is both a part of society and a reflection of the power dynamics that happen outside of it.

Being in tech, I hear so often how tech has a problem with sexism, racism, classism, ageism, etc-ism and the ugly power struggles that keep minorities on the fringe. I’ve always cringed when people describe these issues as if they are isolated to the tech industry and how they can’t wait to escape to something else outside of tech. My mind goes “…but where are you going to go where you can escape that shit?”. I’ve worked in a lot of industries and they are all fraught with varying degrees of the same grossness. Architecture. Retail. Automotive service. Foodservice. Construction. Union organizing. Yeah, that’s right, working as a union organizer was both the biggest eye-opener and disappointment (more like heartbreak) when power struggles reared their nasty head.

I see these problems as being rooted in individualistic, competitive, white supremacist capitalism that rewards those with power and punishes those without. The competitive nature of it is rooted in survival and pits people against each other, creating scarcity and environments that reward those that step over others to get up higher. We all must introspect and see how we blindly play into the game. When are we acting only for ourselves and stepping over others to get somewhere or actively pushing them down?

I grew up Presbyterian (Protestant Christian). When I was young I was nerdy, anxious and felt like an outsider everywhere I went. I found solace in the loving teachings of Christ and imagined how it could shape an inclusive community where everyone could be nurtured. However, my heart broke with every self-appointed Christian I met who used their religion as a means to cast judgment on people. It didn’t make sense to me why they would pluck out persecution rather than love from what the Bible had to offer. Eventually, their hypocrisy drove me away from religion altogether. Those early teachings left an imprint on me though. I can see it easily when I reflect on my values.

Such as the Golden Rule. In lew of having all the answers, I try hard to help create the environment I want to see and live in. One where mistakes are considered learning opportunities. Where feedback is encouraged and considered. Where basic needs aren’t questioned and it’s normal to support people in finding the right work-life balance. It should be normal to take care of yourself when your sick rather than powering through it. The healthy environment I want to be in recognizes no two people’s backgrounds are the same and supports a diversity of opinions, race, sexual preference, gender expression, haircuts, clothing preferences, etc. and they are appreciated and seen as people being their authentic selves. I want a place where people help lift each other up when they see someone falling behind, rather than taking advantage of it.