You find yourself traversing an ancient, enchanted forest. A mysterious mist swirls at your feet as you make your way to the lair of a cunning dragon rumored to be hoarding unimageable treasures. Suddenly, you stumble upon a band of brigands robbing an innocent merchant!
Decision time: Do you choose to confront the bandits, risking your life and your chance at glory? Or do you attempt to sneak by unnoticed (woodland crime is no business of yours, after all)? Will you take the lawful good path or the chaotic evil?
If this scenario sounds ridiculous, you probably don’t play much Dungeons & Dragons, the classic tabletop roleplaying game that’s been enjoying a renaissance in recent years. In the game, friends embody heroic adventurers in a shared fantasy world. The “alignment chart” outlines various moral codes, from lawful good to chaotic evil on a nine-square grid like this:
The chart is often used to help guide in-game decisions. But you’ve probably also seen the alignment chart template repurposed for internet memes, used to dissect the ethics of everything from sleepwear preferences to methods of storing a loaf of bread.
With Women’s History Month in full swing, it might be a good time to consider how your behavior as a man in the workplace shakes out on the alignment chart. Have you been an outspoken ally, empowering women in your office? Or have you been contributing to the issues women face every day?
“Excuse me, but she was speaking.”
If you find yourself saying things like this naturally and frequently, you’re a stalwart paladin of progress. You defend diversity to ensure a respectful work environment for everyone (without letting the role go to your head).
You understand that gender bias exists, and that working women deserve as much respect as men. As a lawful good male coworker, you go beyond knowing the truth—you act on it. If your male coworkers talk over the women in the morning meeting, you find a polite way to interject.
“Don’t mind him. He’s from a different generation.”
You know that women face an inherent disadvantage in the workplace, and you know that’s no good. That said, you’re not particularly fussed to do anything about, it, either. You probably encourage women to pursue their goals, and you may even support them along the way. But you’ve never really thought about how you can help make a fundamental change to the status quo.
You may have noticed your female coworker’s ideas getting ignored by the boss in a meeting, and afterward pulled her aside to tell her you agree—and oh, she shouldn’t worry about the boss. He’s from a different generation.
Your intentions are good, but your actions are neutral. Try taking a more active approach to ensure your female coworkers are respected by everyone.
“Great presentation! That dress looks great on you, by the way.”
Chaotic good behavior falls into the category of “cringe.” You mean well—but your actions often make women feel uncomfortable.
Imagine you’re discussing quarterly profits with a teammate who happens to be pregnant. Wanting to be supportive, you ask how far along she is, or if she’s planning on taking parental leave. Maybe you even comment on how great she looks in those maternity clothes. While your heart is in the right place, it’s best to stick to the task at hand.
An easy way to overcome your chaotic ways is to ask yourself, “How would I feel if a female coworker made this comment to me?”
Would you feel comfortable if your female boss told you how handsome you look? What if she said it while you were hunched over your keyboard, frantically trying to finish a report by EOD?
“I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them.”
If your office has active gender diversity policies in place, your lawful neutral ways mean you’re perfectly happy to follow suit. But if your office culture supports a problematic environment, you’re not the guy who will instigate change.
Sometimes the rules are meant to be broken, Mr. Lawful Neutral—especially when it comes to promoting the women in your work life.
” . . . ”
Your boss (who happens to be a man) is furious at your coworker (who happens to be a woman) for making a mistake on last week’s KPI report. As he storms off, he looks to you and mutters an inappropriate comment about how he should have never trusted a woman to do a man’s job.
You don’t say anything in response.
Maybe you simply don’t think there’s anything wrong with your boss voicing his honest opinion—that’s a true neutral stance.
Avoiding drama at work is a fine, but sometimes not saying anything at all is just as bad as participating in problematic behavior. Consider taking a more proactive approach to make your office a comfortable environment for everyone.
“I support women! (When they’re around.)”
In the chaotic neutral zone, you probably participate in something called “performative activism.”
Your conduct is inconsistent, often resulting in mixed signals. You masquerade as an ally, echoing the talking points that make you look good in front of your female colleagues . . . only to revel in “locker room talk” over beers with your male counterparts the very same day.
It’s natural to seek out the acceptance of others—but don’t compromise on what you know is right just to gain a little popularity.
“Someone else can pick up your kids.”
Like an evil wizard lording over his minions, you create and enforce oppressive rules, deny flexible working hours for mothers, and enable or participate in inappropriate conduct towards women.
Hiring practices are particularly vulnerable to lawful evil—consider the hesitancy to hire women because they might someday take maternity leave. Likewise, tokenizing or otherwise exploiting female employees to make a company appear more inclusive is classic lawful evil behavior.
If you’re a man in a position of power, consider your responsibility. Sure, you’re the boss, so you make the rules. But do your rules support every member of your team equally? If you’re unsure, consider speaking candidly with your team. Just giving them the psychological safety to voice their concerns is a great first step towards the “good” side.
And if they’re unwilling to speak up? Well, that says all you need to know. Time for a change.
“It is what it is.”
Do you follow the orders of your lawful evil boss without question or concern? Sorry, but that puts you squarely in the neutral evil camp.
Like a spineless, sexist goblin, you obey orders without considering how offensive they may be—or how they might affect those around you. You’re an enabler, and your compliance is actually making it harder for your coworkers to inspire change.
Maybe your boss gives you a female teammate’s report, grumbling that he shouldn’t have trusted a woman with such a task, and tells you to “fix it.” Do you tell him that kind of talk is inappropriate? Go to your teammate to find a solution together? No—you simply change the name on the report, maybe tweak a sentence or two, and turn it in. Your boss loves it and even gives you a small bonus. You know you don’t deserve it, but you take credit anyway.
When it comes to evil behavior, neutrality is never the answer—and it almost always leads to perpetuating the problem.
“That girl doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
The phrase “think before you speak” doesn’t apply to you—you always know the right thing to say! Your comments and advice are always welcome, obviously, no matter the topic or your experience. Women surely appreciate how you tell it like it is.
Reality check: You’re the chaotically evil office jerk.
Imagine a customer complains about an experience. You find a woman who worked on that customer’s account and tell her that her emails are too aggressive and customers are upset. Shocked, she’s eager to rectify her behavior—but first, she needs to understand what exactly she said wrong in the email.
“Oh, I’m not sure,” you tell her. “I’ve never actually read any of your emails.” In fact, the customer didn’t say anything about email communication. You just assumed that was the issue . . . and that the woman was involved.
Now that is chaotic evil.
Be The Hero of Your Own Professional Journey
Unfortunately, empowering women in the workplace is a quest that too often still goes unaccepted.
Sure, playing with alignment chart templates is fun, but it can also be enlightening. Surprised to find you’re not in the lawful good zone? Maybe there’s more you could be doing to support the ladies in your professional life. Or maybe you’ve contributed to problematic behavior in the past, and it’s time to rectify your mistake.
Understanding that your actions have real consequences is the first step to becoming a stronger ally in the future.
And so, gentlemen, next time you catch yourself (or another male coworker) stepping out of alignment . . . will you assist the merchant or abandon her to the brigands?