Let's talk about two of my least favorite words in the history of diversity and inclusion work — political correctness.
Let's start with the fact that the phrase is almost always used as an aspersion.
It's almost always used defensively by people who resent not being able to say exactly what they want to say, when and how they want to say it. Sure, there are occasions when someone makes an issue about something that truly seems picky or insignificant. But, it's also used carelessly and irresponsibly as a defensive retort to a person expressing an opinion neither liked nor understood.
If my birth name is William but I prefer to be called Bill, then I have a right to be called Bill. If I have told co-workers repeatedly that I don't like to be called Will or Billy, anyone who repeatedly calls me something other than Bill is being rude. No one would consider that political correctness. They would consider it rude or thoughtless or irritating.
Most of us in the workplace don't like to work with rude, thoughtless or irritating people.
The other problem with writing something off as being “just PC” is that it keeps you from really stopping to understand why something may be a problem in the first place. In the example of William having the preference of being called Bill, no one would expect an explanation to be given.
However when it comes to race, religion or any topic that involves sensitive or historical weight, it's not smart to blow preferences or issues off. It's particularly not smart to blow them off if you are a leader.
Having actual communication with people about why they are offended might keep you from being on the wrong end of a controversy. Because inherent in something being “politically correct” is the fact that more than one person in a group of affected people have stated that the term impacts them.
When I look at much of the conflict in this country lately, especially as it regards race, what I see are people who are more vigorously speaking up about issues that have always bothered them. They are being met by resistance from others who don't like their perception of the world disturbed.
This creates resentment and anger and pushback and judgment, and many times the willingness to be open and engaged in a real conversation might have prevented escalation.
No one likes to be blown off. And writing a concern off as being “politically correct" can lead to being the main ingredient in a cocktail of unnecessary chaos. That's happens in workplaces all over America.