It's difficult to talk about what bothers you. But it's those very things that can nag and fester over time. When you're finally able to bring it up, it can come out in blurts or gushes, in anger or tears.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room: Jian Ghomeshi, former host of Q. A lot of people have been wondering what it's like to be inside the CBC right now. I want to share what it's been like for me.
When allegations of Jian's sexual and physical attacks and workplace harassment -- all of which he denies or said was consensual -- started to emerge, I felt sick. He was my colleague at the CBC. He worked down the hall. He's been a guest on DNTO. How did so many in my community know about the accusations before I did?
Well, I tend to keep to myself. My office in Toronto is at the end of a corridor and my team is in Winnipeg. Like a lot of people, I'm preoccupied with work and that can give rise to a kind of compartmentalized, silo-mentality. There's not a lot of back and forth between those who work on different shows in various departments. It's head down, go. I wish I had been more aware.
When the Jian debacle ripped through the Broadcast Centre, it was impossible to ignore. Q, the flagship program, was torn apart and tarnished. In the hallways and elevators, people are shell-shocked, uncertain of what to do or say or how to handle it.
Pointed questions are asked, but because of the lawsuit and grievances, often managers won't answer. In this atmosphere, things grow tense. I wonder what's at the top of the fear chain that can submerge people in silence. I feel a pain across my chest. Social workers are brought in but no one shows up at a group meeting. I decide to see a counsellor one-on-one, and her advice to me at the end of our 20-minute session is to get off social media.
Gradually workers start opening up to one another. In a corridor near a studio, a newcomer confides her anger at having come to work without knowing what she was walking into. She wants to hear how the CBC will move forward and build trust. Another employee breaks down crying. She's been triggered by events and wonders if we are all complicit. A freelancer on the third floor is confused, and he says he needs leadership. In a workplace usually devoid of emotional expression, even managers appear weary from a situation that makes it hard for them to speak candidly when so many eyes are on them.
The thing is, if you don't speak up, someone else will. There's been so much news and commentary to spill out of this; yet, still so much remains murky and unspoken. We're in a bog of duelling intentions, opinions, confessions, leaks, and damage control, where somewhere in all this, the puzzle pieces fall in place.
Now at work I'm getting used to the new normal. My head hurts and my eyes are bleary. Sometimes I still feel that pain across my chest but I've given up on trying to run away from the awfulness. It's here, and it's messy. It's forcing my colleagues and I to start talking to one another and enter into uncomfortable conversations. It will take time, but with consideration and care we have an opportunity to make things better. There's no getting around it, so I'm sitting with the difficult.
This is an exerpt from DNTO's "Confessions" episode, which aired November 24th, 2014 on CBC Radio One. For the full lineup, click here.
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