You know, I am very thankful that when I was in my first professional environment after law school I was surrounded by colleagues who invested in me doing things the right way, and not in doing things for the sole purpose of making them appear right. Truth is, people are especially vulnerable when young, when entering into a profession, when starting a new job, etch.. Unfortunately, there are not enough, if any, collegiate assignments on best practices on “how to best question authority in workplace environments”. Identifying unethical situations is one thing, but what to DO when you are actually faced with them requires (uncomfortable) action. That whistleblowing mention you may get as a part of your employee orientation is simply not enough, especially if you are new, young, and/or trying to establish yourself. How could it be enough? …Two or three sentences then flip the page…Are we assuming that it does not happen (here)?
Realistically, the model many often see is that of “going along to get along”. As a result, that is the one they most likely publicly follow. Let’s face it, challenging authority or going against the grain leads to labels such as “anti-social”, “troublemaker”, “hard to work with”, etch.. Who wants that, especially when you are new, young, and/or trying to establish yourself?
Oftentimes, people think of politics when they think of corrupt industries. Judas may come to mind, depending on the audience. Rarely do people think about the (“small”, yet numerous) seeds of corruption that are planted which desensitize a nation to cultivate putting profit before people. It’s hard to get over that “we’ve always done it like that” wall. Rarely do people think about the lack of adequate mentors and influential encouragers who, if present, would guide and push you to reach your full potential while supporting you to do the right thing EVEN WHEN it is not popular. So, what happens? People leave jobs they love. People become less available. People complain behind closed doors while a new generation enters the workforce, again unprepared to face these unspoken cycles.
I don’t know if Shani Robinson’s story is true, but I can certainly see how it could be. She was in Essence magazine a few years ago sharing her love story with her now-husband. At that time she was a 27-year old youth counselor, but before that she was a 24-year old teacher in Atlanta. Today she is a convicted felon, but before now she was a product of Teach for America, the national recruitment program that seeks to attract college graduates to the classroom. See: http://rollingout.com/news/details-on-convicted-atlanta-public-schools-teacher-whos-pregnant-still-faces-jail-time/
Be wise in your associations. Be clear about your goals. Be ready to stand by yourself. …And know that life can turn on a dime………literally.