Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



206 919 6440


Business in the Cancel Culture Era!

Last week, we explored the concept of the tribe.  A tribe is a group of people connected by ancestry and language. Tribes Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster And we touched on how the term is viewed and used in modern society. Today, when someone refers to “their tribe” on the streets of Washington DC, New York, or Los Angeles, they are typically not referring to those with whom they have a shared ancestry. Instead, they are referring to people with whom they have a strong bond and affinity. And the connection is manifested in their way of thinking and language.

Question for you… When you hear the word language, what comes to mind?

English, French, Arabic? Or something else? When most of us hear the word, language, we think of world languages such as English and French. A world language is a language that is geographically widespread and enables members of different communities to communicate. World language – Wikipedia However, several other languages are prevalent in society. And one’s ability to be successful in different environments is often dependent on their ability to understand and effectively communicate in these languages.

The many dialects we speak!

In business, we usually refer to lingua franca, also known as bridge language or trade language. i.e., A language systematically used to make communication possible between groups of people who do not share a native language or dialect. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingua_franca
For example, an Italian and a Dutch based in Paris, France, and employed in a company that transacts business across the globe could be required to speak English for work. And in this case, their fluency in English would be considered more valuable than their native tongue.

Also, when we stroll in urban areas, we might hear people speaking street language or street talk. Street talk is a manner of speaking associated with people who live in a poor part of the city. Street talk Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster And to survive in some communities, being fluent in Street talk is imperative.

Then, in high schools or college campuses, we might hear Slang. Slang refers to informal language. Slang – Definition, Meaning & Synonyms | Vocabulary.com Notably, Slang terms tend to have a short lifespan, and it can be challenging to keep up!
For example, several months ago, I was chatting with my teenage nephew, and he used the term glow up. Glow up reminded me of a cosmetics line in the 90s. But it has an entirely different meaning to my nephew’s generation: Gen Z. And he informed me that glow-up means transforming oneself in a significant way – in appearance, success in life, and increased self-confidence. Glow up – Idioms by The Free Dictionary. After our conversation, I felt more in the know. 😊 And this reveals the ever-changing nature of Slang!

The Impact of Language on How We Think and What We Do

Undoubtedly, languages have a profound impact on individuals because it impacts how we think and what we do. And phrases widely used across society influence human behavior positively and negatively. Notably, in any language, the value of words and phrases is not in the arrangement of letters. The value resides in the meaning of the terms and the message conveyed.
Therefore, it is beneficial for organizational leaders to understand the meaning of terms, learn how they show up in business, and their ensuing impact on organizational cultures.

Today, we will explore the meaning and impact of Cancel Culture and the term called Canceling.

Cancel culture! 

Canceling is a practice rooted in the Cancel culture movement. – A movement that dates back to 2016. Cancel culture is the tendency and practice of engaging in mass canceling to express disapproval and exert social pressure. And canceling is a way the masses express disapproval of individuals, often celebrities, who have done things they find socially unacceptable. When someone gets canceled, they are mass shamed, i.e., They experience a mass withdrawal of support, often on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Cancel culture Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster

Proponents of the Cancel Culture movement and practice argue it is a tool to stop offensive and harmful behavior, give disenfranchised and less powerful people a voice, support worthy causes, and provide quick admonition where the justice system fails.
And those who disagree with this practice argue it leads to intolerance as people can systematically exclude anyone who disagrees with their views. Also, they suggest that canceling leads to mental health issues and does not bring about real change.

Notably, Cancel Culture does not only affect celebrities. – You may have heard the story of a public relations executive, Justine Sacco, who tweeted an offensive joke about AIDS before boarding a plane in London and traveling to South Africa… Before her plane landed, a journalist retweeted her joke, an uproar followed on Twitter, and she was fired from her job. Remarkably, Sam Biddle, the journalist who retweeted Sacco’s joke that led to her firing, regretted his actions and the results. And he stated: “it’s easy and thrilling to hate a stranger online.” Cancel Culture Top 3 Pros and Cons (procon.org) And herein lies a downside of social media. – The opaque veil, mask, and non-committal nature of social media provide a sense of anonymity that allows many to act recklessly.

An aside… For this reason and others, I view social media as a transactional platform and avoid building meaningful personal connections there. I prefer to nurture such relationships directly. Some might say my unwillingness to bare my soul on social media makes me uncool. – That is a criticism I am okay bearing. 😊

Canceling in the Workplace

Back to Cancel culture…

Ironically, cancel culture is a phenomenon that came to the forefront on social media, but it has been present and experienced in organizations for much longer! Notably, a more apt term in organizations is suppression. And though the words are different, the meaning and effect are the same: mute and prevent expression. To bring this to life, I’ll share a story…

Several years ago, a friend told me about an experience in her company. During a leadership meeting, they discussed ways to improve their Leadership Development program. And a recently hired coworker, Alice, shared a best practice from a previous employer in another industry. Also, she suggested that the organization could benefit from contacting peers at other companies and learning about their leadership development practices.

Suddenly, one of the leaders immediately responded: We are the best in the industry. And our culture is amazing! Even though we are in a battle for talent with several companies, their culture does not compare to ours. And we don’t want our great culture to be tainted. And to Alice’s dismay, other colleagues joined the suit – they sided with the leader and informed Alice that she “doesn’t know their culture yet, and when she does, she will realize that they are at the top of their game.”
Subsequently, the leadership team formed tiger teams to brainstorm and enhance the leadership development program. Alice volunteered for some of the tiger teams. But she was excluded from the team aka the tribe. The message was clear: We believe we are the best, and if you think otherwise, we don’t want to hear it!

What does one make of this??
Misguided attempts to preserve an organizational culture hinder growth and improvement. 

And what can a leader do to prevent this negative behavior?
Set an example and Communicate! Model the desired behavior by encouraging others to share dissenting opinions and soliciting other perspectives. And when others share a different point of view, be curious, seek to understand, and encourage others to do the same.


Canceling is not a new practice. And it is not restricted to social media. It is alive in many professional circles. Naturally, no leader wants to believe this behavior is a part of their organization. However, knowing whether it exists is vital to improving.

To find out if canceling is prevalent in your organization, consider asking team members whether they feel their opinions are sought out and considered. – Even when they are not adopted.
This small gesture is vital in creating a healthy growth culture!

For you and to you,



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *