“Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience. Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.
by Rich Keys
While working as an HR manager at a union company, I grew frustrated that people weren’t reading the memos we were distributing. They would read the first paragraph, draw their conclusions, and usually complain or at least start asking questions. It was amazing how many questions could have been answered if they had only read the complete memo and not stopped half-way through. I decided to create a teaching opportunity with the help of my silly critters.
I noticed April 1st was the following week (April Fools Day in the US and UK and many other nations, Dia da Mentira in Brazil, Día de los Santos Inocentes in Mexico on Dec. 28, etc.), so I wrote a one-page memo dated April 1st and announced that in order to recognize our most loyal employees and bring the company and the union closer together, all future evacuation drills and actual emergency evacuations would be done in seniority order. The most senior employee would exit first, and so on until the most recently hired employee would exit the burning building last. Then came a long paragraph with the details of the plan. The last paragraph then stated, “Finally, please note the date of this memo, understand its true intent, and realize that we love and appreciate all your hard work and effort every day, your dedication to your job, and how you’re willing to dump your own personal problems at the door every morning and help our clients with theirs.”
Less than ten minutes after distributing the memo, the employees ran to their union rep after only reading the first paragraph, and she was in my office with smoke coming out of her ears. She waved the memo in my face and yelled her disgust at me. I asked if she had read the memo. “Of course I’ve read it.” “All of it? Have a seat and read it completely from top to bottom. It’ll take less than two minutes.” She begrudgingly read it to the end, then laughed in embarrassment, smiled in appreciation, and left to explain it to the others.
The next year, I wondered if they had learned their lesson, so I sent out another memo, this time announcing that due to the limited number of chairs and tables in the break room, we would set up a reservation system during the busy break and lunch times, then a long paragraph with all the details, and then the same paragraph, word for word, that ended last year’s memo. The employees read the first paragraph, became outraged, and again descended on the union rep. But this time the rep had learned her lesson and read the complete memo, and she told the employees, “just go back to your desks and read the entire memo. I’ve got work to do.”
When we make up our minds after only reading the first paragraph of a person, we miss the value of listening and learning from others and really valuing their uniqueness and what makes them special. We put a label on them, treat them as second-class people, and we listen to find fault instead of listening to understand. We fault the LDS church for doing that with the LGBTQ community, but we also do that among ourselves, and we suffer for it. At our annual international conference last month, Senior VP Francisco Ruiz counseled us to avoid gossip, judgment, and criticism with one another, because they do not help us heal, and Affirmation is meant to be a safe place, a place to heal. If we want the church leaders to know us more personally, find the commonality between us, treat us as equals, learn from us, and act in word and deed like we’re sincerely welcome and valued, we should treat each other in Affirmation the same way. Anything less makes us our own April fool.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.