Colleagues Not Countries.
When I was a stand-up comedian, I learned more about life than I ever did at school or university.
I was performing alongside people of all ages, backgrounds and outlooks, all surviving (largely) on merit.
I was also performing for audiences that would range from what now seems to be described as the ‘metropolitan elite’ (this isn’t the right article for me to launch into what I think of that term) to people at the other end of Scotland’s outlook spectrum.
In terms of comedy being cosmopolitan, the Scottish circuit wasn’t yet as diverse as I’m sure it will increasingly become (though an honourable nod to Bruce Fummey, who’ll tell you himself that he’s the “finest comedian on the Afro-Celtic comedy circuit”), but there were certainly plenty of American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealander voices to be encountered.
Hopefully in the near future more of Scotland’s Asian, African and European voices will be heard in our comedy clubs.
Since I’ve moved into marketing, I’ve become used to working alongside colleagues from across the globe — Spanish, Brazilian, Lithuanian, Polish, German, Italian, Indian etc.
Encountering people of different cultures is always an opportunity.
Where are you from?
What brought you to Scotland?
What are the opportunities in your own country?
What are the main differences you notice for better and worse?
What languages do you speak?
These things are interesting and useful to me.
As much as anything, we’re all dealing with a global marketplace.
If you Brit-wash the staffing in UK companies then we’re immediately losing a huge number of casual sources for insights into foreign cultures, customs, language and markets.
We’re losing the opportunity to learn from, grow with, accept or just be curious about other countries and cultures.
More simply, we’re just missing out on meeting and working with some great people.
All that aside though, the key point is that I judge my colleagues on what they’re like at their job and what they’re like as people.
The same as you’d judge any colleagues.
The same as I hope and assume they judge me.
So I don’t really know how I could look them in the eye if I hadn’t done anything to show solidarity with them when it was being suggested that companies may have to add them to a “register”.
A register that was potentially to be used to ‘name and shame’ companies for employing them.
I’d also have to go home to a Slovakian wife and know that I hadn’t done anything to try to avoid her employment in the UK being treated as a subject for “shame”.
So on Friday, I saw that #WeAreScotland was trending, celebrating the diversity of modern Scotland.
I saw an opportunity to use that momentum to spin off into people showing support for colleagues.
Not only in Scotland, but across the whole UK.
I posed with the bit of paper you see in the photo at the top of this, coming up with the caption, “Colleagues Not Countries”.
I wanted to show that if my colleagues were going to be expected to declare their ‘origins’ then I was prepared to do the same, in solidarity.
I also wanted to highlight how meaningless it really is.
That what matters is your colleagues, not their origins.
I don’t think anyone’s ever marked me down in a job interview for being the mixture that I outline in the above photo.
And I wouldn’t want my colleagues to face their own equivalent of that either.
I wanted to sidestep the party political issue and frame this purely as a matter of personal and professional respect though.
That way nobody should feel awkward about getting on board.
Ali, the high heid yin (because working in such diverse environments hasn’t caused some cataclysm in my native linguistic abilities) of The Lane Agency, was happy to support the idea, so a lot of colleagues have already got on board.
It does now look like some backtracking has taken place over the issue of registering staff, however I think it’s still worthwhile showing your support for the people who sit next to you every day.
Please show solidarity with your colleagues by posting your own ‘origins’ (feeling free to make them as pointless, ancient or esoteric as you wish) using #ColleaguesNotCountries.