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Raf Uzar

Above all, do no harm: Authenticity and quantifiability for equality

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For Pride Month 2022, Raf Uzar, head of communication and development at Penteris, explores how we must follow the Hippocratic Oath in doing no harm to protect employees and allow everyone to be their true selves at work.

20th Jun 2022
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Primum non nocere goes the Latin maxim, the core of the Hippocratic Oath which the medical world swears by. Above all, do no harm. A similar ‘must-have’ minimum is vital for the HR world. 

“I need to take a walk and clear

my head about […] why I can’t

go out without changing my clothes my shoes

my body posture my gender identity my age…”

June Jordan (from “Poem About My Rights”)

Mental health has never been more important, and in wanting to support people in the workplace, Human Resources (a term that might appear oxymoronic to some) could help the spread of a baseline standard of ‘not doing harm’ throughout the work environment. 

In what way could ‘doing no harm’ be the thin end of the wedge for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), paving the way to give people the freedom to be their own authentic selves in the workplace? Is this tangible? Quantifiable? 

Questions of nationality, race, gender, orientation, religion etc. should not take precedence over our work-related responsibilities in a work environment. 

“To be yourself”

Popular wisdom has always maintained that ‘being yourself’ makes for better mental health and wellbeing: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson) and “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” (Bernard Baruch).

Scientific evidence also backs this up and according to Boyraz, Waits & Felix (2014) the link between ‘being yourself’ (i.e. authenticity) and wellbeing flows in one direction, namely, being your authentic self predicts later life satisfaction, not the other way around. 

Additional evidence from Anna Sutton (2020) demonstrates that not only is there a positive link between authenticity and wellbeing but also between authenticity and engagement in the workplace i.e. it makes financial sense for employers to foster authenticity in order to reduce staff rotation and increase performance. 

“My name is my own”

Interestingly, fresh research – which is extremely relevant to the world today – from David Reed, Elizabeth Lehinger et al (2021) hints at greater authenticity being associated with a Covid-19 threat reduction in people dealing with chronic pain.

“My name is my own my own my own

and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this

but I can tell you that from now on my resistance

my simple and daily and nightly self-determination

may very well cost you your life.”

June Jordan (from “Poem About My Rights”)

Authenticity cuts right across the diversity spectrum and concerns us all. We go to work to do a job, to complete a task, and our professionalism and competence/s should be our common focus. Nothing else. Questions of nationality, race, gender, orientation, religion etc. should not take precedence over our work-related responsibilities in a work environment. 

Crucially, the freedom for employees to be themselves and not be discriminated against in any shape or form is the very basis for ‘doing no harm’. “If you tolerate this, your children will be next” goes the 1930s anti-fascist poster which was later the inspiration for a Manic Street Preachers song.

“Doing no harm” with action and data

The next step is to back up ‘doing no harm’ with concrete action. It is not enough to talk about diversity or the need for DEI. Actions speak louder than words. 

In a recent piece for Harvard Business Review, Joan Williams and Jamie Dolkas laud the necessity of using metrics for improving DEI. Despite the worries of employers concerning data protection when collecting unnecessary diversity information, they argue that most companies already have data protection protocols in place that could also apply to DEI data. 

Williams and Dolkas also point to two key metrics types that can help shed light on diversity statistics: 

(1) outcome metrics give us information about the number of women, people of colour, and members of other minority groups a company employs. These can be a good indicator of any potential bias. 

However, (2) process metrics can give us additional clues as to what is happening in the company. They relate to processes like hiring, promotion, and evaluation. Outcome metrics may show proportions, but process metrics can tell us where to shine the light in resolving a problem. 

The first step is to have a policy of Primum non nocere.

“Please stand up here”

Management guru Peter Drucker repeatedly said “What gets measured gets managed”. Can we afford not to measure DEI? 

“Will somebody

real and prominent and smart

please stand

up here

and tell about inequities…”

June Jordan (from “On the Loss of Energy (and Other Things)”)

“Primum non nocere”

The first step is to have a policy of Primum non nocere. Harming one’s colleagues or employees has a tangible and quantifiable negative effect on wellbeing, performance, and productivity. For an employee, being yourself boosts your wellbeing. For a company, organisational inequities cause financial deficiencies.

If necessary, the next step is to see where this harm is being committed by measuring it, tracking it, and committing to eradicating it. This can be done by each and every one of us.

Interested in reading more about equality during Pride Month 2022? Read Pride and pinkwashing: Pride to me

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