15 July 2013

Cafe owner Martha-Renee Kolleh put up a sign informing customers that she is a black woman, sparking wide ranging debate, including Guardian Comment is Free (1948 comments).

Comments appeared covering perspectives on racism in the UK overall and Ossett, West Yorkshire in particular and whether such a sign is appropriate or necessary.martha rae1

Views on Martha-Renee’s sign include: assertive, challenging and confrontational. Plus a view that the town’s reputation should be the main priority and the implication that the sign could damage that. Martha-Renee reports that the driver to display the sign was business survival and based on clear evidence.

While racism today may be the principal focus of debate generated by Martha-Renee’s sign, this straightforward approach is an example of open and confident communication to deal with a highly sensitive issue and clearly shows how this can create the opportunity for healthy and productive dialogue.

All workplaces can learn from Martha-Renee’s open and confident communication
      • Recognise that the value of open dialogue around sensitive issues outweighs the fear of negative impact on the workplace
      • Use differences in the workplace to create healthy, effective and innovative working relationships
      • Give workers the skills and tools to be able to raise issues clearly, confidently and with all round respect



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