I wrote previously about a new process we’d introduced at Mission Equality – Decolonising Work. We currently have half of our team – 4 of 8 – folks going through this process with a couple coming to the ‘end’ of the official period we’d originally designated for it.

It has, however, become crystal clear…

  • How absolutely vital this process is for the mental and emotional health of everyone.
  • How fundamentally broken our systems are – starting from the education system and continuing across our economic and commercial ecosystems – and how much damage they are doing to us.
  • How much longer it’ll take to decolonise work for folks than the 2-3 months we’ve assigned; it will, in fact, be a several months (if not years) long process for many.

The Impact Of Work Colonisation

You might be wondering, “But what exactly is this and why is it a problem anyway?”.

Our work ecosystems and environments – like almost everything in most non-Global Majority (often also referred to as ‘western’) societies – has been impacted and heavily influenced by colonialist, patriarchal and capitalist perspectives, which typically manifest with the following traits…

  • A dominant focus on power and control.
  • A rigid and hierarchical structure of power, with almost all power concentrated at the top in the hands of the few.
  • An unfair and unjust distribution of resources of all kinds.
  • Structures – systems, laws and processes – designed to uphold the status quo.
  • A focus on standardisation, homogenisation and the suppression of individuality.

What has been created is:

  • An education system designed for the masses to churn out young adults who can and will do what they’re told, won’t think for themselves and will step straight onto the treadmill of a life already designed for them, without question. It’s not actually broken, it’s doing precisely what it was designed to do for the industrial era. Except we’ve moved on from that…
  • Economic systems, financial systems and a world of work caught in the middle of significant change – stuck in between the old paradigms from the industrial era while seeing the shiny promise of a new paradigm in web3 and other technologies that could make much of the ‘old’ obsolete, if only those holding the power would let it.
  • The destruction of our own ecosystem, the planet.

And it leaves us with a workforce who are sick, tired, unhappy and disillusioned and massively underperforming and underachieving – if measured by their own individual, human potential.

As part of the decolonisation process we have implemented, it has become abundantly clear how much trauma people have lived through from numerous workplaces in which they’ve been harmed; for people from the Global Majority and other deliberately disadvantaged communities this is often even more significant when they start to truly see the racism and any other kind of ‘othering’ they’ve experienced and how much they’ve had to ignore for their own survival.

Specifically, this can manifest as:

  • Significant health and wellbeing issues as a result of the ongoing trauma experienced, often repeated over decades.
  • An inability to think really outside of the boxes most people have been ‘educated’ to think and live within.
  • Difficulty managing time and tasks without direction and the need for micromanagement (while also resenting it!).
  • Learned helplessness and lack of agency when it comes to doing something different or needing to learn something new and an inability to ‘search first’ to find it out (the spoon feeding and control in education leads directly to this!).
  • An in-built sense of needing to perform and prove yourself, at all times, to the detriment of your self.
  • An inability to regulate or manage one’s emotions, especially through conflict, and as a result, toxic behavioural patterns in the workplace such as bullying.
  • Thinking and sticking rigidly to the structures one has worked within – such as working time/patterns, job titles and hierarchical work structures.
  • Looking outside one’s self for constant validation and evidence of performance, achievement and ‘success’.

How To Decolonise Work

At Mission Equality, we have committed to actively decolonising our own workplace and organisation. Given the above and how deeply entrenched this is in peoples’ mindsets, beliefs, values, behaviours and actions, it is clear it is not going to be a ‘one stop and done’ thing! This is how we’ll be addressing it at Mission Equality…

Acknowledging It’s A Process

Most folks – especially those who haven’t worked for themselves – have spent years ‘in the system’. It will likely take years to expel this from their system with some deep unlearning and relearning required.

This is going to be a longer process than the 2-3 months “Decolonising Period” we invite everyone to go through as part of their onboarding process with us.

It will, likely, be an ongoing journey for quite some months that, at its foundation, is based upon folks learning to trust that they are, finally, in a work space in which their wellbeing is never going to be compromised for the company’s gain, they are empowered to show up fully as themselves and the only benchmarks that will be used for performance and ‘success’ will be against their own potential.

A Well-Crafted Policy

We are in the process of drafting a “Decolonising Policy” for the company to outline our understanding of the need for it, what we plan to do about it and how we will create the necessary frameworks, structures and processes to bring this to life for our people across the company. It will be publicly available on our website when we’ve published it.

Decolonisation Operationalised

With our policy in place, operationalising this across the business includes:

  • A flat organisational structure.
  • The same pay for everyone.
  • Replacing conventional job titles with something else.
  • Flexible work practices with no days or times being designated as ‘work’ or ‘non working’ days.
  • Individuals free to choose which of their own cultural celebrations and holidays they take off.
  • A commitment to create the opposite of hustle culture – an achievable pace and a flexible approach to deadlines wherever possible. No-one’s health should suffer because of a (usually self-imposed) deadline.
  • A range of policies – used as guidelines and safety ropes – which makes ‘management’ largely unnecessary and requires everyone to lead themselves (with support wherever and whenever they need).
  • People will likely only ever leave the company for one of two reasons – either they’ve contravened our anti-racism or discrimination policy and caused significant harm or they choose to leave because they can no longer see any paths of growth for themselves. 

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