Framing the Dialogue

All In Favor…

I have the dubious task of representing my employer on the board of some NGO (“non government organization) that provides services to local public officials.  If you have read my postings in the past you may have a sense that my personal views on issues are often at odds with those of my employer.  This organization, however, was different in that they were not political.  I could tell by some of the other board members that I am out numbered, but this organization is non-political. 

I was a few minutes late to this morning’s board meeting and came in the middle of a fellow member discussing the proper role of government and specifically elected officials.  He proceeded to spend several minutes blasting elected officials who run on a platform of “no new taxes” as he felt that this was immoral.  As he continued his tripe about officials refusing to fund schools, fixing roads, and even providing money for the mentally ill, I was left wondering whether I was in the right meeting.  He even managed to work WalMart into his speech.

In the past, I would have let these ill-informed comments pass by to not be confrontational and I dearly wanted to debate this man on issues, but I was there to represent my employer.  That sucked.  I really half missed the next fifteen minutes of the meeting as I worked to quell my disgust and compose my eloquent, but stinging resignation letter.  I did not want to continue on an organization that was moving in that direction.  There are plenty of others where I work who would share those views.

I was still tense, as the discussion turned to talk about local governments “guaranteeing” diversity among their staff and officials.  There was the usual stuff about having representation that mirrors the community and hiring minority or women-owned businesses.  This went on as a number of folks expressed the view of how important diversity was and yadda yadda yadda.

I could take it no longer and finally spoke up.  I told them that I thought that it was ironic to be discussing diversity and even advocating some rigid standards of diversity when the breakdown of the seventeen board members included fifteen white men (mostly over 55), one woman, and one black man.  The woman did participate in the diversity discussion, but the black man did not.  

Since I had the floor and their attention I also indirectly addressed the role of government issue.  It was hard, but I was tactful.  It is not a good time to be looking for work.  Since none of you were there, I can assure you that my words were perhaps the most eloquent ever spoken on the subject.  Actually, all that I did was remind the board that the mission of the organization was to provide tools to local officials so they can govern.  Our role is NOT to advocate political ideology. 

While not a stinging rebuke, it made me feel good to see some nods around the table.  The discussion moved on to other issues and at some point I got frustrated by the same guy again who was advocating some mundane employee right.  The same guy who wanted government to pay for everything now was against government intrusion.   Exasperated, I asked in anyone in the room worked at a corporation.  Of the seventeen board members attending, only one worked for a company (the rest were government, education or NGOs).  I happened to be sitting next to him and he was the black man.  

He thoughtfull explained that his corporation did have policies similar to those discussed and that he felt they were not out of line.  He also addressed the diversity issue with what was an eloquent statement; “we are guaranteed equal opportunity, not equal results.”  I knew then that I could not quit the board.

All in favor…say Aye!

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