Monday Jul 14, 2008

A Not-So Civil Discourse




I'm the youngest of two children, and my role in the family was that of peacemaker. My poor sister fought all the fights, battled for all the rights. And because these were bloody, screaming battles, I was the one who would plead, "Can we please, please just get along?"

Because my parents were yellers - at us, at each other, I grew to really, really dislike screaming arguments. So when I get mad - red sheet of anger dropping over my eyes mad - I tend to go in the opposite direction. Quiet. Icy. But not withdrawn - just trying to use quiet space to figure out my next move.

So in reading the many posts last week to both internal and external venues, I had the same childhood reaction - "Can we please, please just get along?" My sister would shrug and tell me to get over it - families fight, and sometimes it's unpleasant but it's all part of the dynamic.

And I get that. I know how tough last week was. Miserable barely starts to describe it. Walking around MPK10 and seeing people crying in each other's arms. Hearing about yet another friend who lost his or her job. Having to deliver bad news myself. And watching the stock continue to drop. Anyone who doesn't get how bad last week was... Well, that I don't get.

But back to those posts. Talk about venting. Wow. There was a lot of it. And I think some of it reflected the disappointment and frustration many of us feel. How can this be happening to us - AGAIN? But some of the postings were so nasty, so slanderous, so over-the-top, that reading them made me feel worse - and eventually upset. Does my bad reaction to much of what I read relate to my hatred of screaming? Maybe. But I just don't see much good coming out of ethnic slurs, accusations of unethical behavior, and saliva-speckled bursts of venom.

A number of writers complained that they had to vent externally because there's no place to do it internally. Oh, please. Yes, we do. Sun employees can provide anonymous feedback in a variety of internal places, typically in comment areas on articles, playbooks and videocasts. But I really wish we didn't allow it. Because reading last week's anonymous comments reinforced my belief that anonymity is a bad thing, not a good thing.\*

I know this is a minority position, because some people are genuinely afraid to speak up. But I believe owning your opinion is the right thing to do because signing your name to something lends credibility to your opinion. It also introduces dialog and says you're willing to engage in discussion of the issue (rather than just sling mud).

One of the sad ironies I found in the ugly exchange last week was that so many posters complained that Jonathan et al would never respond to these comments. Well, now let's get real. What could Jonathan - or anyone, for that matter - say in response to those attacks? Let's see, maybe he could say, "Oh yeah? Am not!" Constructive dialog requires the right behavior on both sides of the equation.

Let the conversation - not the hurling of insults - begin. Because I, like most of us, believe we have something worth fighting for here at Sun. And that solutions worked together and civilly give us a chance, whereas divisive techniques poison us from within.



\*Of course, if you have a problem with the ethics/behavior of your manager or any part of the company, I support 100 percent your need and right for anonymity. That's why we provide anonymous feedback and complaints to our Business Conduct Office.


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terrymckenzie

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