THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- End rankism: Work where you get some respect
Here's a new word: Rankism. File it in your brain next to racism and sexism. And brace yourself for a big change at the office, because rankism is another kind of discrimination we should not tolerate.
What's rankism, or rankist behavior? It is hiring an intern and ignoring her all summer. It's pointlessly yelling at the receptionist about a manager who's late. Or a professor taking credit for a graduate student's research.
All these are examples of people who think they can treat someone disrespectfully because of their lower rank. The Devil Wears Prada has tons of juicy examples (as well as snappy fashion and a happy ending to make the story acceptable).
But rankist behavior is never acceptable. And Robert Fuller, the man who came up with the word, is on a mission to end it. His big idea is that people have a right to be treated with dignity no matter where they stand in the pecking order. He's part of what's become known as the "dignitarian movement."
Having a word to identify the problem is half the battle. "Vocabulary changes things," says Fuller. "The Feminine Mystique referred to the 'problem without a name.' Sexism was not a word until five years after that book came out. Once the word sexism was available, women had a weapon to make demands."
Fuller wants you to take cues from the success of that movement. Say, "Hey, that's rankest," the same way you'd say, "That's sexist." Here are five more steps:
1. Get a good read on potential managers. Managers set the tone of respect or disrespect at work. So sniff out offenders before taking the job.
2. Let people know that rankism matters. Probably those behaving this way are not even conscious that they're doing it. In one study about harassment, most disrespectful people thought they were making jokes.
"They are misguided comedians," says study author Catherine Hill, director of research at American Association of University Women. She also found that people respond to what they perceive as cultural norms. So speak up when you see it, even if you're not on either side of the exchange.
3. Don't accept rationalizing for rankism. Common refrains: "This is the only way the business can work" (to justify long and unpredictable hours ); "I got through this so you can too" (to justify hazing).
4. Take a bad job. Working at a low-level job is not just a headache, it's an integral part of your personal development. A big barrier to fighting racism and sexism is that if you're white you don't know what it's like to be black, and if you're male you don't know what it's like to be female. But everyone can work in a low-level job– especially in the service industry where the exposure to rankest behavior from customers is huge.
5. Consider leaving. One of the scariest things about demanding change at the workplace is the prospect of getting fired. But young people today switch jobs often. So the risk of offending your current boss for speaking out against rankism does not seem that big a deal.
The workplace is ripe for eradicating rankism. The youngest workers are optimists about their ability to change the world and passionate about valuing diversity. Also, in poll after poll, young people report less interest in money and more interest in the quality of work and the quality of life work affords. So now is the time for the dignitarian movement, and we should all jump on board.