January 8 2018

Our first opinion piece of 2018 is from John (not his real name) who has been in touch with us about the attitudes of some of his workplace colleagues and the impact their behaviour is having on him. ‘John’ is in his early forties, a lifelong season ticket holder, and works in the building trade near Edinburgh. Feeling that is unable to directly address the situation in his workplace without fear of consequences he has written this letter to those who seem to think that bigotry still has a place in 21st century workplaces.

A Letter To My Colleagues


It has come to this.  That I need to write a blog about your sectarian views rather than confront you – and publicly call out your frankly absurd opinions and “jokes” – says everything about the culture of our workplace (read country) and the way your behaviour makes me feel.

The reason I keep shtum is because you are so desperately unformed and lack the self-awareness that makes ordinary folks, like me – and, I suspect our colleagues – remain ‘nil by mouth.’  I am embarrassed by the drivel that you spout.  Also, at risk of sounding paranoid, I know that should I voice my concerns about your hilarious witticisms then the second my back is turned, l will be subject of your diatribe.

We live and work close to Edinburgh:  Beautiful, cosmopolitan and enlightened Edinburgh.  Yet your allegiance to a retrograde discourse betrays the history and spirit of our festival city.  We, as is common amongst working class men in Scotland, proudly and unapologetically, love football.  As is normal, we have our respective tribes.  I passionately support one of our city’s clubs, and you lads support a diametrically opposed Glasgow team.  In a normal workplace, we would be having some robust banter about our respective clubs fortunes. Furthermore, when our clubs meet to contest a game, the weeks preceding and following the encounter would be ample reason for robust and antagonistic humour.  You see lads, I am no snowflake; I indulge the brutal hilarity of football rivalry.  I give it, and I take it.  This is as it should be, because it enhances the colour, opinion and passion that is the beautiful game.

However, I don’t engage in banter with you.  You subscribe to a backward doctrine of hate, intolerance and suffer a lack of democratic reason that would make a despot wince.  For me to engage would be your invitation to call me a fenian/orange whatever.  I don’t need this bollocks in my workday, let alone my life.  That you are some fifteen years my junior makes your entrenchment to your cause’ even harder for me to fathom.  You are the millennial generation for Pete’s sake; can’t you see the mess you are inheriting?  The radio told me recently that  ‘Generation Y’ are all about avoiding the wrongs of the past, yet your behaviour is rubber-stamping them.

Anyway, this post is to let you know that your poison is causing me distress.  I am suffering and consequently I am actively seeking alternative employment, even though I started with the company just three months ago.  Your negativity, bigotry and relentlessly malicious commentaries about anyone not in agreement with your worldview, is causing me to dread work, and it is affecting my mental health.  And for what?  So you can demonstrate that your knowledge of what the other side exposes is wrong?  Aye?  Well, aren’t you clever?

No, actually. No you are not.

You are grown men whom I pity.  Your parent’s have bestowed their bigotry upon to you.  This self-evident because both of your fathers also work where we do, so I do know that it’s not your fault.  But, why have you chosen to embrace it?  To make your dad’s ‘proud’?   You are trapped in a downward spiral of aversion of the ‘other’ that, when distilled, is akin to screaming at a mirror.

I hope for your sake, lads, that you will pause and take a good look in that mirror. Because, only then will you see the distress you are causing to those of us around you, and ultimately yourselves.

If, like John, you feel sectarianism needs properly discussed in your workplace get in touch with us in confidence

Nil by Mouth offer free sectarianism awareness sessions and training workshops to employers across Scotland through our ‘Beyond Religion & Belief’ programme. More than 100 employers and 10,000 staff have participated since it was launched in 2011. For more information click here.

We hope you enjoyed reading this opinion blog and we welcome any feedback on the piece. Any feedback or offers of new writing for this part of the website can be emailed to: nilbymouth.campaign@gmail.com

[btn text=”More Opinions” tcolor=#FFF bcolor=#808080 thovercolor=#f76a0c link=”http://nilbymouth.org/category/opinions/” target=”_self”]