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Twitter vs the Workplace: How Cancel Culture Builds Fear

Cancel culture is arguably one of the most uncivil practices social media picked up and has heightened within the past year. With more time spent at home and online, we’ve had the luxury to pick apart public figures and their injustices en masse for the whole world to see. Twitter became a playground for criticism, but simultaneously a call for accountability.


However, as cancel culture became a wider phenomenon, it bled into everyone’s lives, whether they’re Twitter savvy or illiterate in social media. Conversations around potentially controversial topics were completely stunted. Managers and human resource employees struggle to handle the argument of offending someone versus having the right to share an opinion. Where one crosses the line isn’t always the same for everyone. But, when the collective agrees that line was crossed, “cancelling” begins.


In terms of being in the workplace, cancel culture’s definition shifts to ostracization and refusal to acknowledge someone. Incivility like this causes more than two-thirds of people to perform poorly at work, 80% spend time worrying about what they did wrong, and 12% leave their workplace all together.


We already fear making a mistake in our jobs. Workers, especially in high-stakes positions, assume one misstep costs them their entire career. Personally, I’ve seen this in my position as a resident assistant. Some students rely on their compensation, mainly room and board, to attend college. This causes an unwarranted feeling that one mistake ends in work action or, even worse, losing the job entirely. The addition of cancel culture heightens our fear of mistakes. Not only will I lose my job, I’ll be ridiculed for what I did.


I understand the good intentions behind cancel culture. It’s all about accountability and acknowledging injustices visible people shouldn’t get away with. But it raises a fear of making any mistake. We spend time analyzing everything we do, in fear one mistake will ruin our entire career. My disapproval of cancel culture doesn’t mean I deny people should face consequences for their actions. I want to protect the people who are inadvertently affected. The people who would never think of saying something offensive or committing an act justifiably requiring accountability do not deserve the side effects of cancel culture.


I don’t see Twitter changing its tune soon, but managers and human resources employees have the opportunity to positively affect their workplace. Setting guidelines for people who want to bring an injustice to light or teaching employees workplace etiquette could help solve incivility at work.


Something needs to be done, and our in-depth interviewees agreed management is a piece of that. We can’t let incivility slide anymore. Managers, use the power and influence you have for good and help solve workplace incivility.


Sources:

https://blogs.thomsonreuters.com/answerson/cancel-culture-in-the-workplace/


https://www.keepingitcivil.org/in-depth-interviews



- Kyra Beckish, member of the Temple University 2021 Bateman Competition Team





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