Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

By Jenny Smith, CPA, CFE

No one likes being uncomfortable. At least the vast majority of us prefer to be in comfortable situations. However, 2020 has brought about a lot of uncomfortable situations and a lot of topics that society seems to be disagreeing on. I am typically the person who stays away from these controversial topics. Not because I don’t have strong feelings on the topics, but just that I’m uncomfortable being involved in the confrontation that can likely develop. However, for the topic of social injustice, I feel that now is the time to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I grew up in a predominantly white town, went to a predominantly white college, work in a predominantly white industry and for a predominantly white firm, and live in a predominantly white town now. That is my experience. I think the first step is realizing the perspective each of us brings to the conversation and not judge each other for our individual experience.

But we can’t stop there. We must learn the experience of others. In early June, I created a temporary profile picture on Facebook of a black screen and quoted I’m learning and listening. That is what I try to do at every opportunity; learn about the experience of others and listen to how that has shaped them. Even though my experience hasn’t changed, my perspective has changed and continues to change as I continue learning and listening to others. We must be learning from and listening to each other to allow growth in the perspectives of everyone.

That growth can only turn into change if we all take action. Watch some videos on unconscious bias and share what you learned with others you interact with. Brainstorm ways your company may be creating hurdles for certain people to be hired or promoted with your coworkers. Volunteer with young people from neighborhoods other than your own to show them opportunities available to them in your industry. Each of us has the ability to make a change with those around us and, even if it’s small, we can move the dial in the right direction.

At MHCS, we know we have progress to make in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We feel that we are taking steps in the right direction but will always be a work-in-progress as we view this as a journey and not a destination. We have created a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee with big goals in the education of our employees and clients, recruiting and retention, and policy review. Many of our employees have participated in the United Way’s 21 Day Equity Challenge and the Executive Vision Series on Racial Equity. We also have employees who serve on the Iowa Society of CPAs and West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce diversity, equity and inclusion committees to help make a change in our industry and community. While there is more we can do, we are pushing ourselves to have uncomfortable conversations to make a positive impact.

As I was looking for quotes on diversity, I found this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. which seemed to sum up all the uncomfortable topics society is focusing on in 2020.

“We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools.”

Brothers and sisters are certainly not immune to conflict but there is love and respect that brings them together even through the conflict. I challenge each of us to learn, listen, and become comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.

Jenny Smith, CPA, CFE | Director