On New Normalities - The Old Ones Are Broken

Somehow this whole paid work thing is quite out of control. Let's do it differently.

by Sohra Behmanesh, July 26, 2022
new normal

Do you remember, three or four years ago, there was an extremely "passionate" discussion about two-three cases that came to public attention, in which Muslims did not want to shake hands with the opposite sex as a greeting. Not because they were rude, but because according to their religious understanding, this is an expression of respect. At that time, there was a lot of fuss, the unfortunate word "integration" was often used, and the handshake was vehemently defended as a normative and alternative-less rite of greeting in Europe, to which everyone who wanted to live here had to bow. And then... well, then Corona came along and turned a lot of things upside down that had been considered normal until then, and we quickly discovered: The Occident can be surprisingly creative when it comes to non-contact forms of greeting!

I'm not such a fan of common normalities. This may be due to my neurodivergence; I don't always learn social norms automatically, and when I do catch on to them (a process that is still ongoing even now in my early 40s), I often find them quirky.

Let's normalize:

  • Gaps in the resume
  • Talking about salaries (Because when we don't, it favors those who benefit from discriminatory pay gaps)
  • Asking for help
  • Accepting help offered
  • Men on parental leave and part-time
  • Mental Health Days (When I feel bad, I feel bad. And I may even notice it close to a breakdown - this is also a good time to call in sick. I don't have to wait until I'm "bad enough")
  • Taking responsibility for mistakes
  • Doing things well enough instead of perfectly (When something is done is often simply a choice!)
  • Spelling mistakes
  • Getting off work on time
  • Setting boundaries
  • "Ah, I didn't know that yet. Thanks!"
  • Understanding that laziness does not exist
  • "You were right"
  • Asking who else is involved in requests for panels, lectures, festivals, exhibitions, contributions to text collections, and making suggestions for suitable candidates if there is a lack of diversity among those involved, and rejecting them if necessary
  • Taking time off without justification
  • To assume the level of productivity as a linear matter
  • "I like your suggestion better than mine. Let's do it that way!"
  • Breaks as part of working time (Also for non-smokers)
  • Taking compensation for disadvantages in your own hands
  • Making payment dependent on the quality of performance, not on degrees/certificates.

Let's denormalize:

  • 40-hour week
  • Fixed-term employment contracts
  • Asking Brown and Black people about their backgrounds
  • Asking women about their family plans
  • Prioritizing paid work in life
  • Bonus pay for employees who don't call in sick (Because it’s ableist)
  • Overtime
  • Deadlines and workloads that require overtime
  • Providing own resources (power, laptop, etc) in home office
  • Dehumanizing people as human capital
  • Paying as little as possible
  • Meetings on Friday afternoon
  • Viewing unpunctuality as a character flaw

Somehow this whole paid work thing is quite out of control. Let's handle it all differently, okay?

In this column, presented in collaboration with our friends from Wildling Shoes, we want to give more space and visibility to the issues of anti-discrimination, belonging, and intersectionality in the workplace. Through articles, interviews, and diverse perspectives, we aim to both challenge and inspire those working in the impact sector - while encouraging them to create authentically lived workspaces that foster more belonging and less discrimination. By gaining new perspectives and engaging in a shared dialogue, we can take a collective step toward radical systems change in the impact sector - from "power over" and "power for" to "power with." 

Our columnist for 2022 is Sohra Behmanesh. She lives with her family in Berlin, works as a freelance anti-racism trainer, and finds caring and empathy just as superb as intersectionality. 

You can find more Belonging articles here.

Photo: Kris Wolf