There hasn' t been the debate I expected about the current story line in Coronation street. I expected negative comment, claims of political correctness forced down the throats of viewers by out of touch script writers messing with the countries favourite soap. I didn't expect the story line to be largely ignored by the media. Most disappointing was the apparent lack of interest in the professional press. I would have expected HR journals to have seized on this if nothing else it's good material for those equal opportunity awareness courses or do organisations no longer provide this training?
I would have expected the NHS and Local Government journals and web sites to have commented because as a senior manager I spent a disproportionate amount of time dealing with conflicts between individual employees that were often base on the type of “innocent" remark or
" unthinking" comment that the pub scene in Coronation street portrays.
The offended individual would report the incident to their manager and if they did not get the unconditional support they thought they were entitled to they would go to their union rep and make a formal complaint to HR. Before long everyone in the office/building would be aware of the claims of racism and the counter claims of over sensitivity and the staff group would be divided.
The line manager often felt out of their depth dealing with this type of issue complaining they didn't get the support from senior management or HR whose first response was often to dismiss the whole thing as a personality conflict. On more than one occasion a situation was inflamed when it was suggested one or other person should be transferred to another team or location.
These incidents were not restricted to teams or organisations where issues around race were ignored or avoided in fact equal opportunity workshops and conferences where HR and senior management made public commitments to not tolerating racism and challenging inappropriate language gave employees the confidence and permission to object where before they would probably have let it go.
It's not too late to kick off a discussion at a team and strategic management level. I think this would be great material for an equality workshop. But is the real issue that there is no appetite for addressing this type of casual racism in an era of austerity were budget cuts, redundancies and falling service standards dominate the agenda?
Blair McPherson author of An Elephant in the Room published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk