“Whatever happened to creativity? Whatever happened to the passion? Whatever happened to speaking one’s mind? I’ll tell you what happened. The kids aged, but never grew up. A baby can whine if it does not like something because it doesn’t know better. What’s your excuse?
– Caitlyn Page
Sometimes, in a moment of weakness, I think about the odd articles where I end up swearing a lot, or the ones that get a bit too visceral, or the ones where I didn’t give the bitter pill even a little bit of sugar coating, and I think about reigning it in. After all, speaking in an open and conversational way online about work just isn’t the done thing, is it? Go for drinks after work and Jen from admin will be putting the f*cking world to rights, but give her a laptop and it’s all Steve Jobs quotes and insipid simpering.
And maybe I should follow suit. After all, I think, I wouldn’t want to offend anyone, would I?
It never lasts long. Mostly because I’m not your babysitter, and the kind of people who get offended by frank discussion on the internet are not my kind of people.
Like a Mary Whitehouse wet dream, the corporate world has come to see being offended as some sort of golden ticket. Any whinger or whiner who takes offence is automatically in a position of strength against the person who has offended them. These clowns have always been out there, but they’ve been given weight and airtime by pandering HR policies and bastardised, hijacked ideas about corporate duties of care. They expect deference to their offence. They worship at the altar of #motivationmonday quotes and banal work speak. They are threatened by flair, by personality and by transparency, and they’ll be damned if you won’t fall in line.
At the very least, they’ll be offended if you won’t.
That can lead to anything from strongly worded letters to good people getting axed. I had a friend who lost his job after making a joke about his own appearance – apparently that constituted “fat shaming” and someone else in the office took offence. I’ve known very, very good sales trainers who have lost contracts after some tight-collar joker complained that they swore in a course.
These are adult humans. Real, actual people. Jesus f*cking Christ, get a hobby or something.
It’s partly a vicious circle I think – the more offence is given any airtime the more it’s allowed to round any interesting bits off outlooks and opinions. That feeds into an online culture of happy-clappy motivational bullshit that doesn’t reflect people’s day-to-day experiences of work at all, and further alienates them from their peers. As Martin Amis once said, “Being inoffensive and being offended are now the twin addictions of the culture”. It’s as damaging as it is boring.
Stephen Fry once famously said “It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that’, as if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so f*cking what?”
More often than not, offence is just the meeting of someone’s inflated sense of self and an opinion or manner that they don’t like. Psychologists call taking offence a “narcissistic injury”, and I’ve got no interest in censoring myself to satisfy your narcissism. You are free at all times to disagree with anything I say – I’d love it, let’s talk. Let’s debate. Let’s have a full-blown argument if you care enough about anything. You’re free to disagree with me, to think I’m flippant and rude and unprofessional. Just like I’m free to think that you’re boring and that you’re slowly undermining the integrity, humour and humanity that is so vital to me and how I work.
Your offence is meaningless. It’s a knee jerk reaction that’s beneath you. But your opinion, your genuine thoughts, experience and reason, now there’s something I’d love to talk to you about.
– Tom @WSL