Business Eye: We need to poke fun, ridicule and complain

Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt

A few weeks ago I wrote in this column that my favourite of the many unique wisdoms bequeathed us by George Orwell is ‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations’.

There would certainly be no commercial merit in publishing newspapers with opinion pieces or cartoons penned to avoid upsetting anyone.

In some ways the strength of objections can indicate a column’s worth.

The terrible event in Paris last week at the offices of Charlie Hebdo was extreme, shocking, barbaric and has no place in a liberal democracy based upon freedom of speech within the law.

For freedom of speech to exist we need not only to feel free to disagree with one another about the small stuff but also about heartfelt and sensitive matters.

We need to be able to poke fun at one another, ridicule and complain.

The pressure to paint all comment vanilla by the politically correct brigade slowly sucks the colour from our lives one wavelength at a time and allows the false impression to take hold that we wish to curtail freedom of speech at the edges.

We clearly do not.

This is why last week I was delighted to receive feedback from one reader who critiqued my column as ‘codswallop’ and ‘nonsense’, and politely suggested that I needed to work harder at being a columnist.

The fact is that the emotional reactions in each of us have little to do with what is drawn or written and everything to do with the interpretation we each place on what we encounter.

No two people observing the same moment interpret it in the same fashion, and were they to do so they could easily experience polar opposite feelings.

The question for those of us running a business with employees in a world where the propensity to feel slighted or victimised is heightened and yet the ability to play as a cohesive effective team determines success more than ever, is how best to do the thing that always needs more work – communication.

One tip is always to check the understanding of different members of the team when communicating something and not assume everyone has heard the same message.

And when discussing change, it is worth remembering the wise words of John Maynard Keynes, “the difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones” – so remember that one email doesn’t make a new habit.