Lesson 1: Topic 17 of 24
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Hi, my name is Kathleen Manning, I’m a cultural anthropologist and co-owner of 9 Design Education, and I’m also the primary contributor to this course.
On a plane several years ago, I sat next to a woman who was from a war-torn country with decades of violence. She had only been in the U.S. a few years. During our few hours together, the woman admitted she had recently lost her job in a food processing plant due to a physical fight. Another employee had insulted her, and she reacted strongly to what she saw as a loss of honor. She struck the other woman, management got involved, and she was quickly fired. She said to me, “I didn’t know anyone could lose a job for fighting.”
What? From the outside, this seems ridiculous. But consider what her background may have been like. You see, she was from Somalia, where violence had been raging since the 1980s. She had possibly internalized physical conflict as normal because of a great deal of trauma as she grew up, and on into adulthood. While this may seem an extreme example, it illustrates the difficult concept of “good judgment” when considering what needs to be done in a situation. The offended employee in this case instantly saw, from her perspective, there was a need to restore honor which overruled any need for peace and harmony in the workplace. American HR managers would certainly disagree! But her worldview was shaped by violent instability, and needed adjusting to an entirely new context. In the workplaces of the United States, both the culture and the rule of law require a different code of conduct. It’s a different framework altogether that requires a big shift of understanding and then following that, acceptance.