Keep perceptions from becoming reality

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. LaVonne Johnson
  • 459th Military Equal Opportunity Office
A rose appears to be beautiful and healthy until it starts to show signs of sickness. By looking at the rose, we may guess at the cause of the sickness. "It's sick because it's not getting enough water, sunlight, or nutrients." Well, which is it? How do we determine the true cause? Examine the root. 

On the surface, a situation may appear to be discriminatory based on race, color, national origin, religion or sex. But after further examination, discrimination might not be the case at all. So, how can we, as individuals or managers help prevent perceptions that are not reality? 

The prevention tool at the top of my list is open, honest, and effective communication which is the only way we can get to the root of a problem. Individuals and managers need to talk to each other about work performance, interests, and other issues of concern because what is not said can be more harmful then what is said. 

For example, a supervisor never told the subordinate that the subordinate's performance was deficient. When the subordinate was up for promotion, the supervisor denied it. The subordinate had no clue as to why and assumed it was because of discriminatory reasons. In this example, the false perception could have been avoided with open, honest and effective communication. 

In processing discrimination cases, I've discovered that the false perceptions of discrimination could have been avoided or mitigated if open, honest, and effective communication took place. So, why don't we communicate? Do we fear the outcome of these conversations? Do we think the issues will simply fade away? I do know one thing and that is issues do not disappear. They get worse or reappear in another form - a complaint with the Military Equal Opportunity office. 

All of us need to do our part to prevent false perceptions. Here are specifics to ponder. As individuals, comply with policies, examine your own actions for subtle behaviors, confront the offensive behavior or issue at the time it occurs, and seek help if needed sooner than later. As managers, examine your action for subtle behaviors that could be viewed as double standards, set the standard, address all discriminatory behaviors, and reinforce the equal opportunity policy. 

I want to encourage each of you to do what it takes to make things better for yourself, for your peers, for leadership, and for the Air Force mission. If you believe discriminatory practices or sexual harassment is taking place, please consult with MEO. I also encourage you to examine your perceptions with open communication with those involved. 

As an advocate for positive and productive working relationships, I want to also encourage each of you to look at this day as a new day for a new beginning. I end with this poem by an unknown author called The Essence of a New Day. 

"This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind ... Let it be something good."