Of course, you would never use a racial slur at the office.
Or refuse to promote a female employee.
Or turn your workplace into a hostile environment.
Because if you did any of those things, you may face steep consequences. You could be fired and publicly shamed, like former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.
And even if you don't face consequences that steep, you will likely be shunned by decent people everywhere.
Like your employees, your colleagues, and your customers.
Here's the truth: you don't have to be overtly bigoted for people to get the gist about how you view the world. Bigotry can make itself known in the way you respond to a question, who you do and don't invite to lunch, or the jokes that you think are funny, but really aren't.
And we all have the potential to fall back on a stereotype, rather than see the human being in front of us.
We all have a comfort zone. And when people or ideas outside of that comfort zone challenge us, we all have the potential to show the worst version of ourselves possible.
Here are a few ways you can avoid showing everyone the worst version of yourself.
1. Practice humility.
I have a bad temper. Sometimes I start things and don't finish them. Professionally speaking, I have a short attention span. Without the aid of my wife, I would have exceptionally bad credit. I spent most of my childhood with a mullet.
My parents have owned multiple Pontiac Firebirds.
Not the cool kind with the big bird on the hood, either.
The sad kind.
The 1988 kind.
Except, the year was 2002.
Point being, I am no one's idea of perfect, and neither are you.
If you start with that premise, it's much harder to be a bigot.
2. Educate yourself.
I'm a believer in higher education, but here I'm not talking about a degree.
I've met bigoted people with elite college degrees--the type of people who wear a Washington Redskins hat not because they like the team, but to make a point--and remarkably enlightened and tolerant people who didn't finish high school.
The difference wasn't the degree, but a choice to learn more about the world and see the people in that world with an open mind and an open heart.
In other words, they educated themselves.
My office is in a startup incubator in St. Charles, Missouri.
Every day I see entrepreneurs who work hard, giving it all they have to hopefully create a better life for themselves and their families.
A month ago I saw the exact same thing in the food stands across the street from my hotel in Mexico City.
(And I ate delicious tacos.)
No matter the color or country of origin, we are people, just trying to make a better life in a world that doesn't always make that easy. When you travel, you see that in action--and it's much harder (though not impossible) to be bigoted.
4. Realize that being a "straight-shooter" or "telling it like it is" is not a license to be bigoted.
Growing up my family loved the movie Pure Country, which starred country music singer George Strait. At one point in the movie Strait's character is trying to redeem himself in the eyes of his girlfriend's father, an old, crusty rancher, by pointing out a very recent act that Strait's character believes demonstrates his decency, after he had been hurtful to the rancher's daughter.
The rancher responds by saying, "You know that white spot on the top of chicken sh*t?"
The rancher pauses for effect, then continues:
"Well, it's chicken sh*t too."
That's a refreshing example of being a straight shooter (and a wonderful description of a bigot who wears a publicly acceptable face).
Telling a fundamental truth, like the old rancher in Pure Country does, is great.
But there is nothing about any form of bigotry that is a fundamental truth.