Why all companies, institutions and leaders should care about free speech
A reliably astute and much-needed article. The point about the need for a culture supporting free speech - rather than just an amorphous legal right to it - is the crux of the position we find ourselves in. I wish I saw a more optimistic view looking forwards...
Powerful piece, Ian. The conflation of discomfort with discrimination is really unhelpful to business outcomes as well as to a sense of belonging & shared purpose at work, yet it's horribly prevalent. I work internationally, and find it much more common in English-speaking contexts - why is this, do you think?
Also, I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on including diversity of perspective into EDI policies. A lot of work I do is around pricing operational risk, and lack of diversity of views is by far the most influential of all EDI factors.
As a psychotherapist, I worked with a man who was terminated from his job, where he had worked for 37 years for sharing a joke from Mel Brooks Blazing Saddle (which I have not seen) which was overheard by another employee, a much younger person. Apparently, the joke had a mildly racist tone to it, what would now be deemed politically incorrect. He is a shy, retiring individual and thought he was being discreet. The employee filed a complaint against him, stating it had harmed them. Despite him having much technical knowledge and a reputation for being a team player, the management thought they could not keep him, since it would destroy morale. I would describe this as a classic old school liberal with tolerant views on race, sex and gender. His offers to apologize were declined.
Thanks for this important article Ian. It pains me that we have allowed freedom of expression to be eroded. To the barricades...!
I'm very sympathetic to this idea of employers allowing free speech, but how do they protect themselves from losing clients, boycotts, adverse publicity and so on? It seems to me the only option is to clamp down more universally. eg. BBC employees are not allowed to opine publicly on matters of public policy.