I work in corporate (public sector) recordkeeping and I’m studying information and knowledge management. I signed up for GLAM Blog Club last January, to write about what I learned in 2016. I had good intentions to write on each monthly theme, but it’s 30 September and only I’m just returning with my next post. It’s been a very busy year so far, with many personal and professional achievements, challenges, and many lessons learnt.
The September theme for Glam Blog Club is safe. I am privileged that my day-to-day workplace is fairly safe, both emotionally and physically. There’s good security in my workplace. I mostly give corporate information management and recordkeeping advice, and very rarely do I actually ‘do’ recordkeeping. The transactions (business activities) that my work interacts with rarely expose me to distressing content.
When I think about ‘safe’ related to my professional practice, the main topic that comes to mind is my emotional and physical safety when engaging more widely with the profession, and when seeking out professional development.
As a new professional, I am on a steep learning curve, and I’m taking every opportunity possible to learn. I want to understand all the theories, as well as the practical aspects of the profession. I want to meet as many practitioners as I can. I also want to meet professionals outside the recordkeeping and archives discipline, for collaboration and for learning transferable skills such as leadership.
Some knowledge is easily obtained from books and journals. But many learning opportunities require travel away from my predicable and known workplace, to attend events in other areas of my home city, or further afield. They involve meeting new people. These activities are higher risk for me, because there are less clear protocols, less variables under my control, and more that I just don’t know about until I experience it for the first time. I may encounter people or situations without much context, so it can be a challenge for me to assess the situation.
I have some general personal protocols in place for professional development activities involving people. Generally, at least to begin with, I would expect for mentoring or networking meetings to happen during business hours, or early in a weekday evening. I’d expect them to be in a public place, and preferably a work location rather than say a bar.
This may be a little extreme, but when I am planning to travel to another country for a conference, I try to learn some of the language and culture before I travel. It could help me feel more comfortable, and is practical for navigating local transport, going shopping and more. In learning a language, you tend to learn about the culture, so it also helps me to understand a bit about local customs and expectations. I learnt some Korean before traveling to Seoul for the ICA Congress 2016, and I’m currently learning Spanish in anticipation of traveling to Mexico for the 2017 ALA-ICA Conference in Mexico City.
I am still finding my feet with this, but I have already learnt some things I’d like to share.
1) Don’t be afraid to confidentially seek advice from people you trust
If your intuition is telling you that a situation may not be right, run it by a trusted person. They may have further information to put your concerns into context. They may be able to give you advice if they’ve experienced a similar situation. Use them as a sounding board. Seek advice, but always trust your intuition and listen to what your thoughts are telling you.
2) Be aware of the practice of ‘gaslighting’, and don’t be afraid to assert yourself
There may be a situation where you feel something is not quite right, and you raise it with someone. It’s possible they may try to ‘gaslight’ you, by trying to convince you that you are being paranoid or overly sensitive, or that you misunderstood the situation. If you think this might be happening, find someone trusted to talk it through (a friend, colleague, or a professional).
There are techniques you can use to be assertive, without being rude. Consider attending a course or reading up on it. It’s OK to assert yourself, and to speak up if you don’t feel comfortable. ‘I statements’ are great for this.
An I statement helps you to say what you need to say, with less risk of making the other person feel attacked or like they need to defend themselves. A ‘WISH statement’, as explained by Eleanor Shakiba in her YouTube video (6 min), and explained in her book, expands on this further.
If you’re using I statements and someone is telling you you’re wrong, something is not right. In the wise words of Lily Allen, maybe it’s best to take the approach of, “It’s Not Me, It’s You“.
3) Use the privacy and access settings available to you on social media, and consider reporting beyond that
I try to keep a boundary between personal and professional social media. For me, Twitter is for professional networking and learning, and I recognise that it is very public. While I keep some other social media very locked-down, in order to make the most of Twitter in the way I want to use it, it is necessary for it to be public.
However, I do not hesitate to report activity and to block accounts that I find harassing or disrespectful. Each social media site will have its own processes and tools, and there’s a wealth of articles online that summarise and elaborate on what to do. In certain circumstances, it may be appropriate to report the behaviour to your community such as your professional association or to authorities such as the police.
4) Find out if your professional association or learning event has a code of conduct or a code of ethics
If it exists, read it. Use it to guide your own behaviour, and use it to understand what you should expect from others. If something at an event doesn’t feel quite right, it may not be. Run the situation by a trusted friend or colleague, and see if it aligns with the content in the code of conduct. If your association or learning event does not have a code of conduct, consider asking the leadership to implement one. For my profession, some of these codes include:
- International Council on Archives Code of Ethics, available in 24 languages. While much of it is about archival professional practice, the last point (#10) addresses personal conduct:
“Archivists should promote the preservation and use of the world’s documentary heritage, through working co-operatively with the members of their own and other professions.
Archivists should seek to enhance cooperation and avoid conflict with their professional colleagues and to resolve difficulties by encouraging adherence to archival standards and ethics. Archivists should cooperate with members of related professions on the basis of mutual respect and understanding.” (my emphasis)
- Australian Society of Archivists Code of Ethics. For instance, section 2.2.1 addresses some personal behaviours:
“2.2. Criticism and complaints
2.2.1 Archivists avoid irresponsible criticism of other archivists or institutions and address complaints about professional or ethical conduct to the individual or institution concerned or to an appropriate professional organisation.” (my emphasis)
I recognise the privileged situation I come at this topic from. However, I still find it a challenge at times to seek out the professional development and networking opportunities I need to progress my career, while trying to ensure my emotional and physical safety.
I welcome advice on how to further navigate this.