White anger

white anger  White anger
It was friday afternoon on a road from a popular neighbourhood into the park. I think a mosque had just finished prayer because many traditionally dressed Moroccans were there and so was I, dressed in business style on my way to a business appointment. A white Dutch woman came along on her bike, with a dog attached to the side of her bike on a one meter leash. Usually dog owners on a bike keep their dog on a leash that they hold in their hand, to be more flexible in Amsterdam’s dense traffic.
At the entrance of the parc stood some poles on the road (see the photograph), meant to keep cars out of the parc. The woman biked into the parc on one side of the pole, her dog took the other side but the leash attached to the bike was in between. So the dog was stopped and almost thrown against the pole and the bike was also stopped abruptly, the woman almost fell, just almost: bikers in Amsterdam have incredible skills for all kinds of situations.

A Moroccan guy wanted to help her to get herself upright and the dog past the pole but she started to shout in anger. This happened to her, she said, because on the left side a young guy was walking on the biking path and on the right side there was also a couple walking. They left her no space to go and that is why she and her dog ran into the pole.

It is one of those irrational situations that can easily go out of hand. The woman had enough space and she had no damage. Her behaviour was very injust and impolite, even agressive and I couldn’t ignore the impression that she was shouting because they were Moroccans. This was the hidden white anger that people say and know is there, but you don’t see or hear it except in moments like this. Also I had the impression that the woman was waiting for a fight, scolding at random, hoping to be a victim and see her prejudices confirmed. Interesting were the doubts of the Moroccans around, I think they had the same impression: so should they take the scolding and get hurt, or defend themselves and get the blame?

The funny thing of appearances is that they can work for you. I was wearing business clothes for a completely different reason, but I could use it to have authority at that moment and solve some things. I took the attitude of a person in charge and told the woman that the men she was shouting at had nothing to do with her nearby accident – and that she had to be more aware herself of the dog stuck on a leash to the bike. That solved it, not for the woman who didn’t stop shouting out her anger but for the men who were shouted at. We continued our walk and when the woman was out of sight, we laughed about it together because it was also funny, the way she and her dog got stuck on a pole, blaming the rest of the world for it.

Still, this type of everyday situations worry me: the step to a situation that runs out of hand is all too small. White anger, directed to innocent passengers, seems to lie just below the surface in Amsterdam 2011.

This might be interesting blogs for you too:
Naziha’s spring
Simone Veil: une vie
‘Why are people like this?’ Boualem Sansal

Company Pride in Amsterdam

 On an Amsterdam conference in July the Company Pride Platform presented the Declaration of Amsterdam ‘Call to Action’ (see also: Company Pride ). The Company Pride Platform wants a free and safe workplace for employees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – ‘pink’ I’d say but most professionals say LGBT employees so I will do that too. Four focus points are essential in Company Pride:
– inclusive corporate cultures
– working environment beyond legal minimum requirements
– active leadership from ‘straight’ allies and LGBT role models
– collaboration between ‘straight’ and LGBT for mutually beneficial improvements
The Company Pride Platform’s conference in July was a mixture of raising awareness, story telling and a call for active leadership. It was meaningful and moving to be there. The urgency for active leadership in Company Pride is clear on all levels of the organisation. Especially safety is an issue to be taken into account: socially, physically and mentally.
A note on the side of this all is that quite some questions arose to which answers already exist. Diversity is not that recent an issue; some aspects may be particular for LGBT, but most aspects are common regardless of the subject being gender, age, handicap, etnicity, religion or LGBT.  LBGT is relatively ‘new’ in this area, it certainly is a taboo in many places and not free in quite some countries. That however is an extra argument not to approach LGBT in a too isolated way, don’t loose energy by reinventing the wheel again and prevent that subgroups have to fight against each other to get leadership attention.
My experience is that every subgroup is afraid that it’s particular interests will disappear when cooperating with others; in this light, the focus point of inclusive corporate culture is the only road along which the diverse employees of the 21st century can and will ‘feel valued, can be their authentic selves and realize their full potential’ as the Declaration of Amsterdam says.

company pride
Available in www.diversityshop.eu, toolbox The Pink Champagne Pool for gay-friendly organisational culture at work. With LGBTI-examples and exercises. See also the YouTube about it.

Read also these blogs:
Are pink chairs unprofessional?
Social safety at work for gays and lesbians
Gay Pride Canal Parade 2014
Gay caveman in Czech Republic

 

Herring Party in Dutch version

herring partyHerring Party in Dutch version

The hall was full of hundreds of visitors yesterday at the Herring Party in Amsterdam, mostly white men in blue and grey suits. The atmosphere was good and lively. Apparently everybody was happy to see new herring come in. I saw some business relations here and there and had a nice chat, then I met up with a few black women (yes, they were there although a tiny minority). Like for me, it was their first herring party and none of ours knew where this tradition comes from, what it means. One of them looked it up at Google but all she found was lots of other herring parties mentioned. Nothing about history.

Why not Google myself? I tried and found that the Swedish have their own herring parties:
herring party Surströmmingfest – fermented herring party.  Not for the faint-hearted.  This herring is sealed in a can and fermented to a very ripe stage.  Its either loved or hated and has a very pungeant smell, although those who like it say the taste is heavenly.  Mostly eaten in the North of the country or at the coastal regions where they are fished.

After struggling my way through indeed loads of parties, even in The Netherland Club of New York tomorrow, June 16th (see http://www.netherlandclub.com/pages/events/?action=page&id=C771155DA9), I finally found a (Dutch) page explaining some things about history: http://networkedblogs.com/j1Urv

Herring parties mark the date that the first vessel of herring is brought into the country. In the Dutch Golden Age (17th Century) herring was both an important food product for Dutch people and an important export product that contributed to our wealth. Export was made possible by techniques invented to keep and transport the herring. At herring parties the herring is still presented in this original way.

So maybe we cannot find who started the parties, but we know now what they mean to be: a good party where people can enjoy the new herring. And indeed that mattered to the public yesterday: at least twice I was roughly pushed aside by elder men when a tray of herring was presented. It was like an attack to the trays from all sides… Strange because these men were not poor, they could afford to buy some herring themselves if the party wouldn’t provide them with enough herring (although there was plenty all the time). Anyway I thank the organizers for a new experience in a new world, all together it was kind of anthropological research and big fun!

Other blogs you may like:
Archaeological Museum Haarlem
Gay Pride Canal Parade 2014
Adam Tower: a must-visit
Keukenhof: 7 million spring-flowering bulbs

Rewarding managers

rewarding managers Rewarding managers

In the Republic of Amsterdam we live with the myth that managers are rewarded objectively. We select them for certain qualities like getting the best out of a diverse team and it is only for good results that they will get our appreciation and be promoted. This sounds so nice and reasonable! But….

In between our ideas and daily reality stands a thing called culture. Culture is the subtle, invisible factor that determines ‘the way we do things here’. Culture colours our perception of the results achieved. Once upon a time, there were objectively formulated results in the Republic of Amsterdam. I guess they still exist but somehow in daily life the interpretation of the results has changed.

Most valued are not the managers who create a productive work climate where a diversity of team members give the best of their talents and offer excellent but stable outcomes: too boring! Most valued are those managers who extinguish a fire, who solve a crisis. And of course in order to extinguish a fire and solve a crisis, managers do need one. In case of non-availability, managers in the Republic of Amsterdam have become expert in creating them: exciting! Fire and crisis make your work visible: it is hard to attract media attention without a good crisis, so never waste one.

Although this mechanism can be quite funny, especially when you’re an insider trying to predict where the next fire will break out, it doesn’t work out for diversity. In this climate, managers with characteristics of heroism survive best; they set the agenda in Amsterdam, much more than the diverse customers or workers’ insights do. It won’t help to re-formulate the results! Reviewing ‘the way we do things here’ and facing our perceptions is the best way to make progress; tobe less of a fire fighter and more of a leader serving clients…

Read also these blogs:
Perceptions of Power
Diversity in YouTube format
Women, be the leader you want to be