Here's a fact that you may not know about me, unless of course you're one of my close personal friends/co-workers who has listen to me yammer on and on about the stupid stuff that has engulfed me for the past six years.
I attract trouble like a beautiful woman attracts drooling men and women.
No really, I honestly do.
Since 2006, either online (chat rooms and Facebook) or in the real world, I have gotten into a world of trouble simply because I follow the old adage of engaging mouth before putting brain into gear. I'm one of those people who for the most part, doesn't really enjoy playing politics of any kind and will say what's on his mind, no matter what the consequences might entail.
Case in point and in fact, the basis of this fine post about the language police.
Early in February, a new statewide edict came out which stated that all state employees must undergo a rigorous training program about violence in the workplace. Now this isn't really something new, as something had been in place since the mid 90's after Connecticut suffered through a tragic workplace shooting at one of their state agencies. But things have accelerated in the past couple of years, since a tragic shooting at Hartford Distributors two years ago that left 10 people dead and a work place shooting that left two people dead a couple of months ago.
So a training program was developed by our wonderful H.R. department (no sarcasm intended, because the program was pretty decent) and our department got to be the guinea pigs, so to speak. We went over the usual things and did group exercises about different scenarios and saw a video that was the basis for the exercises in question (shooting at a post office in Michigan). We also covered quite extensively language and perception, in that sometimes the perception of what someone hears might be radically different that what the intention was.
For instance, say you were talking to a co-worker, and you used some provocative language that you knew that your co-worker wouldn't find offensive. But if someone walks by and overhears your conversation and for whatever reason finds what you're saying offensive, well then, you just might find yourself on the receiving end of a complaint.
The Encarta World Dictionary defines the word interesting as an adjective and gives the following definitions:
1} arousing curiosity, attracting or holding attention, or provoking thought.
2} enjoyable because of being varied, challenging, stimulating or exciting.
For the past 16 years, I would say in the four state agencies that I've called home about 85% of my co-workers have been female. Which means that I've spent about 16 years not only treading a fine line in what I could or couldn't say, but developing a language that was tweaked depending on the age bracket of the people I was talking to. I've found that people over the age of 40, were more likely not to be infected with political correctness and thus understood that calling a black person "black" was not an insult; and people under the age of 40 were most likely not only to be infected with political correctness but would have a hypersensitivity to language that bordered on paranoia.
So about two weeks ago (and about three days after the class), a co-worker of mine was wearing an interesting choice of apparel. When I had walked by her early in the morning, I said what she was wearing, "Interesting.", which I meant as a compliment/neutral statement.
About two and a half hours later, I stopped in my supervisor's office on a completely unrelated matter, and she told me to sit down and close the door. For the next fifteen minutes we had a lovely conversation over the fact that my co-worker found my choice of word uncomfortable and made a complaint to H.R. about it.
After we had finished our lovely conversation (no sarcasm intended here either), I contacted my union rep to let her know that I had gotten into trouble yet again. I also had a lovely ten minute conversation with my H.R. person, mostly to let her know what I thought about this entire complaint against me and to let her know that no insult was intended.
So in the course of three hours, I managed to become the very first casualty of a program that wasn't officially implemented yet, by having a complaint filed against me over me using the word interesting.
I'm not even going to get into the issue of the herculean task that my agency will face in trying to change the behavior and culture of the various units contained within, but I will tell you that within my little unit, this little complaint only solidifies the division between the people who have no problem employing hypersensitive hypocrisy when it comes to language and behavior, and the people who are grounded in reality when it come to language and behavior.
As for me, I'll just keep to myself and to my three other co-workers who are not only very grounded in reality, but don't play the little political gamesmanship that permeates most office environments.