Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Cost of Being Woke

Ah yes, to each his own pronouns. What could be wrong with that? Wouldn’t it be considerate to ask what each individual’s pronouns are and then use his or her or its or their preferred pronouns? After all, most people do want to be considerate. They do want to respect each other, the better to produce a functioning social organization.

Blah, blah, blah.

So, in the most recent study this is all called political correctness. In more current parlance, it is called wokeness. Whatever you call it, it is unfortunately deranged. People who force themselves or are forced to use different pronouns according to individual preference end up feeling mentally exhausted. 

The practice, no matter how virtuous, produces mental fatigue. Those who do not want to feel mental fatigue will in time want to quit their jobs, not go into work and not deal with their sometime colleagues. Introducing this level of inefficiency into everyday social intercourse will eventually lead people to hunker down, to avoid people who are either deranged scolds or are gender confused.

We recall the eminent Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam studied how people function within multicultural communities. In a paper entitled “E Pluribus Unum” he reported that people who exist within such communities tend to avoid each other, to hunker down and to seek social ties outside of the community.

Why interact with people who are different when you risk offending them, when you do not even know all the ways they might take offense and when you are living under a constant threat. In short, in a community where different people are insisting on being treated according to different rules, at times even their own rules, socialization will be significantly compromised.

If you imagine that certain individuals can put their own personal and private stamp on the language, you are setting up a situation where corporate life will become increasingly difficult. Colleagues will fear communicating with each other. Or else they will form cliques of trusted companions, ignoring everyone else. 

So, we are happy to report on the latest and perhaps the first research study on what happens to your mind when you are living in a politically correct community. In short, it gets fried. And the practice is unsustainable. As reported by Eric Dolan at PsyPost:

According to new findings published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, people are motivated to be politically correct out of a sense of kindness and consideration for their coworkers, but being politically correct can also lead to mental fatigue. The new research represents one of the first attempts to systematically investigate the topic.

Of course, diversity is our strength. More and more today people are being hired to fill diversity quotas. And let us not forget, as we noted in a previous post, from two days ago, on America’s Love Affair with Affirmative Action, that many of these people have been granted degrees and credentials that they have not really earned. It’s not just that you need to modify your pronouns for different people, but, and this topic the researchers never mention, you are not allowed to say that diversity hires are not up to the job.

As might be expected, the researchers have included a mountain of caveats, to the effect that they love diversity. But then they add that it produces mental fatigue. We like the banal term "fatigue" but we wonder whether or not it makes people crazy.

“Our interest in this topic stemmed from the fact that the modern workplace has become quite diverse in both observable and non-observable ways. This is important and something that should be celebrated, as increasing diversity comes with numerous benefits to individuals, organizations, and society,” explained study authors Joel Koopman, the TJ Barlow Professor of Business Administration at Texas A&M, and Klodiana Lanaj, the Martin L. Schaffel Professor of Business Administration at the University of Florida.

“But at the same time, this increasing diversity can create challenges in the ways in which people interact with each other, as it is important to be inclusive and understanding about differences of opinion and viewpoint. And beyond communication challenges that may stem from diversity, there are any number of interactions that employees have during the course of a workday (e.g., delivering critical feedback or performance-related conflict).”

Communications challenges, who would have thunk it? But that is not all. It creates a disincentive to communicate, an extra risk that you might say the wrong thing and be called out for bigotry.

“All of these types of conversations may require what we label as ‘workplace political correctness,’ which reflects a level of sensitivity towards, or tolerance of, others and a willingness to modify or suppress either words or actions accordingly,” the researchers said. “For the reasons above, it would seem that employees should be encouraged to be politically correct. And, indeed, the only paper on the topic of which we were aware of comes to this conclusion as well.”

“Yet our own experiences, combined with much of our prior research on related topics, led us to suspect that the story was likely more complicated than this. Specifically, many of the behaviors involved in being politically correct (e.g., monitoring situations to evaluate whether something might be offensive, aligning oneself with normative expectations, and suppressing certain words or behaviors) may require self-control, which can be depleting. This has some concerning implications, as depletion is likely to impact how well employees interact with their spouses at home in the evening.”

One notes that what the authors call self-control is really self-censorship. The human mind was not constructed to be twisted into contortions to be sure to use the correct wrong pronouns. 

Political correctness during the day, in turn, was linked to greater cognitive resource depletion (“I feel drained right now”) in the evening, and higher levels of cognitive resource depletion were linked to partners being more likely to report that employees were angry and withdrawn at home.

So, people who have the best of intentions are being abused by the new censorship regime. It’s not quite about the road to Hell, but it certainly shows that the thought police can exploit your good intentions, the better to produce a dysfunctional workplace.

Koopman and Lanaj told PsyPost. “Our findings consistently showed that employees choose to act with political correctness at work because they care about the coworker with whom they are interacting. A key takeaway of our work, therefore, is that political correctness comes from a good place of wanting to be inclusive and kind.”

“But what is important for both employees and managers to take away is that being politically correct is not costless. Instead, being politically correct may be exhausting, and as a result employees might be particularly tired and argumentative at night. And so for employees who are doing this, they need to be aware of how it makes them feel and strive to avoid enacting negative behaviors at home. Managers need to understand these possible costs as well, as there are a number of possible ways to mitigate the depletion that employees may feel from being politically correct.”

Good luck with that. The take-away is that the current mania about wokeness will eventually yield to reason. The only question is: how much damage will it do before it gets there.


Anonymous said...

Theodore Dalrymple expressed it this way in "Our Culture, What's Left of It"
"Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to."

Asking people to go along with this man is a woman or this woman is a man and men can birth children is the twilight zone.

Anonymous said...

Pronouns are a closed class of words i.e., they do not readily change or develop new varieties (it has taken some 600 years for "singular they" to gain general acceptance*).

Unlike proper nouns, they're not meant to be words you have to think about to use; it's linguistically counter-intuitive to have to remember someone's personal pronoun; if it's Bob, it's "he", Sylvia is "she" and WalMart is "it".

In language terms, this fad carries the seeds of its own failure. The question is how long before its proponents finally exhaust themselves with its inherent complexities and impracticalities, as they most certainly will.


* And here I do not mean the current attempt to hammer "they" into an all-purpose "gender-neutral" personal pronoun.