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The Standard You Walk Past is the Standard You Accept

"The standard you walk past is the standard you accept." --Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Australian Army Chief

As I continue to hear stories about how dysfunctional many workplaces are, how workers are poorly treated by both managers and colleagues, the video above really struck a chord for me. In it, Lt. General David Morrison is talking about how sexual abuse and aggression toward women is unacceptable in the Australian Army. And then he says this:

"The standard you walk past is the standard you accept." 

Wow. That's absolutely right. And I'm forced to ask how many of us simply accept poor treatment without saying a word? How many of us see a manager or colleague treating a co-worker poorly and keep our mouths shut? How often do we just accept management policies that put workers last because we fear for our jobs? 


Every time we accept poor treatment in the workplace, every time we let ourselves or others be treated poorly without speaking up, we are communicating that this standard is acceptable. That it's OK to be dysfunctional. Is that really the message we want to send? 

Even if  something doesn't impact you directly, it still impacts you because it creates a culture where poor treatment of workers becomes part of the norm. And eventually, this will come back to bite you too. 

Of course, this advice isn't just for work, either. It's for all aspects of our lives. There are many places where we may remain silent for fear of "causing a hassle," or appearing to be "difficult." But in doing so, we collude in creating a world where poor behavior is acceptable. Is that what we want to do?

Think carefully about what you are allowing to happen around you. Walking past it is just another way of condoning it. 

As long as we accept poor treatment of ourselves and others, we are creating a world where bad behavior is the norm. 


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Important post!

A few months ago, I was on a jury which ended up convicting a peeping tom. When I talked about the experience with friends, a fairly common response was "a peeping tom? Don't we have more important things to deal with?"

I was shocked by the reaction, and it made me notice a more destructive pattern than just walking by and therefore condoning. Too often, those who do stand up for themselves and others are torn down by the community or company. It's not just "I'm too scared to stand up myself." It's "I don't want to believe that there is any wrong behavior going on in my community/company, and if you say there is I will demean and ostracize you." We need to stop blaming victims.

Oh yes, Gwenn! I actually see two things in your experience. One is that we think that the "small things" don't matter, when they do. They are what create the larger pattern of problems. Every small thing we ignore contributes to creating that larger pattern.

But then demonizing and ostracizing people who point out what is wrong is another pattern. Not just blaming victims (which I see all the time, particularly in rape culture conversations, etc.--'What did they do to bring that on themselves?") but also in trying to shut down people who try to have a conversation about how there are bad systems in place. It's like we want to pretend like it isn't there because if we do, then maybe it will go away. It's very disturbing to me and I really appreciate you bringing attention to this aspect.

I was heartened to see this video with a man in power taking the stance I feel like I have been waiting for. I can't tell you how many frustrating conversations I've had with men trying to explain to them why it is important that they speak out to other men (and women who are perpetrators of abuse.) I found it hopeful.

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