Woke used to mean that you were well informed and up to date and cared about how society may make some of us feel excluded or marginalised due to background, faith, ethnicity, sexuality or gender.
But, recently, being too woke has become something to be avoided, seen as being ‘too much’, perhaps a bit of overkill.
So are we caring too much about making the workplace right for everyone and is there a large variation between how the different generations view matters?
We can’t care too much
Personally, I can’t understand how we can care too much.
We should care. We should care about how we make others feel in our presence and we need to be continually working to improve the quality of the workplace for all through diversity and inclusion initiatives.
As a business we should also care about investing in sustainability, and environmental concerns.
We need to be continually working to improve the quality of the workplace for all through diversity and inclusion initiatives
Equality isn’t oppression
The issue for many is often that their lives or working environment have simply not been affected by the issues of the day, and they feel that there are more important things of concern.
They don’t know what it is like to feel like you don’t belong and can’t be yourself.
Maybe there is a feeling that people from minority communities are getting all of the support and attention – what about the cis, white, male worker; what’s in it for them?
Of course, people who have been used to thinking and behaving with entitlement or impunity will feel that they have to adjust their behaviour – the quote “when you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression” springs to mind.
People who have been used to thinking and behaving with entitlement or impunity will feel that they have to adjust their behaviour
Wokeness means workplace rights
Wokeness is becoming a wedge issue, a divisive issue.
The rose-tinted spectacles need to be discarded, they have a crack in the lens.
The mainstream media prints commentary that the time has come to stop pandering to people and about how the snowflakes get upset these days at the slightest comment or joke.
We also see the UK Government openly talking about cancelling woke culture which may have the effect of winding back human and workplace rights for many.
The issue for many is often that their lives or working environment have simply not been affected by the issues of the day
A workplace where everyone can succeed and thrive
Instead, what we need to be doing is focusing on creating a workplace and society where people feel both physical and psychological safety and where everyone can succeed and thrive.
The world of work and our society evolves generation by generation and what was acceptable for those Boomers and Gen X-ers is no longer acceptable for Generation-Z.
The emerging workforce is looking for a place where they can be their authentic selves, where they can bring their whole self to work, whether that is being open about their sexuality, gender identity, expression or their cultural heritage and they have people around them who are sensitive to their needs.
Cancelling woke culture … may have the effect of winding back human and workplace rights for many
Who doesn’t want to feel like they belong?
If organisations and leaders are not putting this on their radar right now then they will not be the employer of choice in the future.
Let’s make no mistake here, our workforce of the future has choice and backward-looking organisations will lose out on the war on talent.
What was acceptable for … Boomers and Gen X-ers is no longer acceptable for Generation-Z
Less talk, more action
So is being woke politically correct nonsense and a distraction?
I hope not because businesses not only need to have equality inclusion and diversity (EDI) on their corporate agenda, they need to be actively addressing gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps, not just talking about it.
Employee experience surveys are showing that when people do feel that their personal values align with that of the organisation, they can and will thrive.
Businesses not only need to have EDI on their corporate agenda, they need to be actively addressing gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps
Let’s be proud to be woke
Imagine that: happy, engaged and productive teams of enthusiastic employees!
If you hear someone weaponise the word woke, I hope you feel proud to be woke, proud not to be asleep to the injustices in the world, and proud to be part of a progressive society and workplace where treating people with dignity and respect is the norm.
If you enjoyed this, read: Women at work: Isn’t it time to close the gender health gap?