It’s not a black and white world

March 30, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

We all probably had that one teacher we look back on fondly.

And we all probably have one that we look back on and shudder at the thought of ever hearing that screeching voice again.

I had a home room teacher in grade 8, who saw the entire world as black and white. In other words, she was right and the rest of the world was wrong – and that meant her students, and usually me.

Near the end of the year we were required to fill out the appropriate forms to select our classes for when we entered high school the following Fall.

Always compassionate and offering guidance – yes I’m being sarcastic – Ms. Screecher stood at the front of the class and yelled, literally yelled, that if we made one mistake, just one, by selecting a wrong course in grade nine, it would set into motion a series of events that were so cataclysmic in nature it would define our future by eliminating any chance of higher education forever and we would be reduced to a life of poverty. That night I went over the paperwork in desperation, looking for the right courses and picturing my future of standing on a street corner wearing a barrel and suspenders and selling pencils from a tin cup.

It turns out she was wrong. Some people I went to school with didn’t achieve high grades and yet are doing very well in life. Others who aced high school never fully reached their full potential for various reasons.

Life is not a black and white scenario. If it was we would all be in trouble.

Speed limits are there for a reason but generally speaking you don’t attract the attention of the man with the radar gun for doing 82 in an 80 km/h zone.

There are shades of grey everywhere. That seems to be even more evident when the hard-liners make the rules but don’t walk the talk.

I was in a high school a few years ago and noticed a sign in the main lobby that stated the school had a ‘zero tolerance’ rule regarding firearms, fighting, weapons, drugs, smoking, and alcohol, on school property. Fair enough. Those are reasonable rules for a school and I believe most schools now have those zero tolerance rules in place for good reason.

It was just coincidence that while I was waiting for an event to start, a police officer entered the school wearing a uniform that included a pistol. The officer stood almost directly in front of the zero tolerance sign while carrying a lethal weapon.

Wait a minute – doesn’t ‘zero tolerance mean zero? In other words, none?

I’m pretty sure the officer was there as part of a school / police outreach program and he was friendly with the students and just doing his job. But if he wasn’t required to disarm and lock the gun in the trunk of his car prior to entering the ‘zero tolerance’ area, doesn’t that mean that it should actually be called the ‘near zero tolerance’ zone? The truth is, no school principal is going to ask the police to disarm before entering a school despite the ban on firearms.

It’s the same with the mythical ‘corporate policy’.

Most companies have what they refer to as a corporate policy. Some put it in writing and others just sort of memorize it.

It is supposed to define the culture, attitude, general rules, and conduct of the way a company does business both internally and externally.

However, as anyone who has ever dealt with company policy knows, those hard and fast rules sure can bend depending on who is interpreting the rules. They usually bend to create a favourable outcome for the company.

I worked for a very large corporation for over 20 years.

We had a well-established corporate policy that was written down and even distributed to employees.

As far as following procedure though, it was like trying to read a newspaper in a strong wind – it was all over the place.

The company routinely cited corporate policy when defending its actions but never referred to policy if it was going the other way.

The rules weren’t black and white like we were expected to believe. Infractions were overlooked all the time depending on who broke the rules and enforced all the time depending on who broke the rules.

Life is a mish-mash of compromise. You can bend it, but if you bend it too far it breaks.

But it’s certainly not black and white.                                                                                                  

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