I would not describe myself as brave. I’m afraid of rodents, insects, and cringe when going to the dentist! There is something deep, deep inside my being though which abhors injustice, making it impossible for me to sit quietly. Never choosing to fight for myself, I would march quite boldly to defend another. In defense of others we can be fierce, but it takes that much more in defense of ourselves.
There is a movie, I like to refer to when discussing human behavior – ‘Law Abiding Citizen’, with Gerard Butler & Jamie Fox. The show revolves around a man’s fight for justice in an unfair system, created by those who are expected to uphold the law. He waits on justice and it was unfair. A plea bargain for testimony against the partner set the real perpetrator free – a man who raped and murdered the wife and young daughter of a law abiding citizen. To change the system, while extracting his own justice, the victim, became the villain. I don’t think he deserved the cards he was given, yet I also think he was pushed by an unjust system to fight for his rights, and his family. There was no ‘humanitarian advocacy’ for him!
Sickness & Injury
People get sick. People get the cold, viruses, diseases and other ailments which make it difficult to perform duties at work. Its natural to notify your employer if the illness becomes unbearable and you need to go to the doctor and have a check -up. Its also natural to be given sick leave to recover – take it. Its not natural for the employer to deny you the opportunity to seek medical attention and recovery.
Pregnancy is not a sickness. It can make you sick, its a very uncomfortable feeling for many women (myself included),but most times things settle down by the second trimester. I don’t think men could cope with it – thus women are the vessels for mankind’s existence! Be kind, be respectful, show consideration, and above all be fair to all women during this period. Its hard dealing with the hormones and injustice. Is it hard to be a humanitarian advocate to an expectant mother?
Parents are always on call even at work, and feelings of guilt can undermine performance.Children get sick, parents get sick, and family gets sick, and time is needed to deal with these emergencies. Can we exercise our humanitarian advocacy – easing the burden of life for your colleague by not undermining their absence from work for emergencies?
Injuries can happen in many different ways on the job. There can be a machinery defect which may cause a cut or burn. There are breakdowns with outdated equipment which may cause a loss of limb while using or misusing. Sometimes its plain negligence which causes injury to the unsuspecting employee. Whatever the situation, can we care sufficiently to care?
There are also injuries which occur in the office via a faulty chair,chipped tile, slippery floors and even a stapler to name a few causes. How do we respond in these situations? Is it okay to make fun of someone at the point of injury, by snapping pictures and making videos to share on social media? Lets be real, it could be you, and how would you feel?
Then we have the big injuries which can cause disability and an inability to work.Would you punish a man who becomes disabled on the job, by denying workmen’s compensation and benefits? If a court needs to decide the long-term compensation, some level of humane treatment is still required. Litigation is costly on the employer and the employee. Life may go on for the company, but the disabled or injured needs to live also.
Humanitarian Advocacy is personal. The reality is, I am reconstructing, my life, what I can do, my beliefs, and trying to believe that we can be humanitarians in-spite of changes which cut deep. Injuries happen at work and believe it or not a lot of leaders expect leaders to feel no hurt or pain, just conform to the code. Show your strength by rising above the pain.
An executive shared with me a story of how she dragged herself from her bed to be strong. How she worked with that pain, seeming to expect I would and could do the same to ‘prove’ myself worthy as the leader. I am guilty of working for 26 days with the dreaded Chikungunya virus last August, my body finally giving in and collapsing in my office. I was expected to continue working without medical care, which I finally sought!
When I was knocked off my feet last November by an employee reversing her car without looking, it was expected I would feel no pain and keep working. I was expected after surgery to be okay in a few weeks. It is expected to take four years. I asked the question – where is your humanity? There was no answer.
Sickness in management is not acceptable in some companies. Injuries are worst. There are many stories of this, but they are not shared, because “managers and leaders don’t get injured or ill”. To prove capability, there is silence on this topic. Let me say, there is greater strength in accepting human weakness and taking care of personal health.
In sharing my weaknesses, maybe you can understand that nothing matters if there is no good health. There is no perfect person. Accidents will happen, as will injury and sickness. We have to stop ourselves from being forced into a ‘compliance of superficial strength’. The dead body is never asked ‘how was work today?’
I was asked to speak with a man who worked for a company which dismissed him without a hearing, on something which never happened in another company. He has a legal battle going on, and will win his case. He advised he wanted to commit suicide, it was too much to handle, being unable to find work to care for his family. I spoke with him for a long time, and have followed up on his progress in living. Legal battles are long and hard .
There is a woman who had her benefit payments deducted from her salary for twenty years and at retirement was advised the payments to the National Insurance Board were never made by her employer. “What do I do” is her question? Her colleagues are aware, yet no one speaks of it. She must work to live, and cannot survive a legal battle. Are there no humanitarian advocates in some places?
Maybe this article has more questions than answers, because we need to provide the answers to ourselves. The law can be a law unto itself. The legal system may seem to favor the employer, but only because no one speaks up to support the aggrieved or injured. Laws to protect employees are not enforced, and the norm suddenly becomes acceptable.
Humanitarian Advocacy at work – do you feel inclined to move from the comfort zone of “it won’t happen to me” and “its none of my business?”
Lets hear that voice which says, “I am an injured soldier coming out from a war zone, and I am a humanitarian advocate. Have always been, and will always be – do not let me stand alone.”
In the next part of this Humanitarian Advocacy series – part 3 explores the real cost of war and justice.
Thank you for being a humanitarian advocate in the workplace. I look forward to your comments, likes and views. Lets engage and increase the value of our reading!
Artwork: Artistree -firstname.lastname@example.org