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Lonely are the Brave January 29, 2015

Posted by Sneha Khilay - Blue Tulip Training in Uncategorized.

Whilst flicking TV channels, I came across a film title – ‘Lonely are the Brave’. I pondered over this powerful statement for a few days, thinking of individuals who, in the face of adversity / discrimination, particularly at work but also in wider, social / political reasons, have needed to confront / challenge a situation bravely, whilst facing isolation and loneliness.

Recently, I read* that Harinder Bahra, Associate Dean for External Development at Southampton Institute (now Southampton Solent University) had raised concerns about discriminatory practices and the management of Higher Education Funding Council for England funds. After coming forward, he eventually made a race discrimination complaint and resigned in 2003. His new employer Brunel University found out about his outstanding employment tribunal and he was eventually sacked on the grounds of not passing his probationary period. Bahra took Brunel to another employment tribunal. It ruled that he had “suffered unlawful race discrimination by way of victimisation”. Bahra won an undisclosed sum in an out-of-court settlement and the university offered him an apology.

“There seems to be an underlying assumption that life will return to normal if you’ve been exonerated and received an unreserved apology. It doesn’t. One continues to pay a long-term penalty for raising issues and concerns and many employers will view you as high risk,” he says.

Would he do the same again, knowing the subsequent impact on his career? “I think that it would be a dereliction of duty not to come forward if one is a senior manager and sees any wrongdoing,” he replies. “Sometimes you have to come forward because it’s the right thing to do. Is that not what ethical leadership is about?”

In another case, *radiology service manager Sharmila Chowdhury revealed allegations that doctors were being paid to see NHS patients while they were actually moonlighting with their own private patients. Ealing Hospital NHS Trust sacked Ms Chowdhury but a Watford employment tribunal judge ordered that she be reinstated. She has subsequently been made redundant.

In both cases, whilst it must have taken tremendous courage and resilience in raising legitimate but lengthy complaints against large, reputable organisations, it can be isolating and lonely, especially if there is a lack of support from colleagues and / or senior managers.

During a training session, a participant talked about returning to work after taking maternity leave. She worked for an organisation dominated by older, male senior managers and was regularly exposed to negative and disparaging comments, about women choosing to work rather than staying at home to look after their children. As a result, she dreaded going to work, felt lonely and often cried in her office. She tried to share her discomfort with her one, other female colleague, only to be told that she was being ‘too sensitive’ and to ‘stop acting like a girl’. She reflected that working for the organisation at this time was difficult and painful but she recognised that she had to be brave and deal effectively with the negative comments. The participant felt she had two alternatives, to leave the organisation or to ‘stand up to them’; she chose the latter and won her case.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.” E. F. Schumacher

Over the years, I have worked with many individuals who have faced adversity in their work. Inevitably, this adversity is due to them voicing their differences, raising concerns and being treated in a negative manner as a result. I noticed a consistent theme – at times, people in this position experience despair to the point of wanting to weep. They are aware that their moral compass is not aligned with that of their colleagues and the organisation. As a result, they don’t feel ‘grounded’, experience churning in their stomach, insomnia, changes in their appetite and so on (all classic signs of stress). Throughout this, however, they want to find ways of utilising their anger and frustration by translating it into constructive action. The statement I commonly hear is ‘I simply want fairness’. The individuals in question said the alternative would be to collude and therefore ‘agree’ with the organisation’s (discriminatory) culture.

Such individuals feel that, although their ‘fight’ (for justice) involved difficulties and emotional grief, they had to take responsibility and focus on the outcome they wanted, basically to continue their personal and professional lives with their heads held high. They wished to share their stories, not as ‘victims of discrimination’ and regretting their inaction but as ‘warriors for fairness’.

Risk! Risk Anything! Care no more for the opinion of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for Yourself. Face the Truth.

*Source: Times Higher Education July 2014
*Source: Guardian October 2012




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