Time for a Reset?

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

As 2018 careens to an end, few would challenge this has been a tumultuous year! It has been a period encompassing natural disasters, geo-political tensions, domestic polarization, and extremis positions taken on multiple matters.

In every aspect of daily life we see an either/or mentality becoming prevalent: EITHER cats OR dogs. EITHER Republican OR Democrat. EITHER Citizen OR Foreigner. It’s coffee or tea, and those who like both, or prefer to drink water, must pick a side or risk being excluded from the conversation.

In our client work, DPC has found these and other elements to be fostering an unfortunate and unintended consequence in the workplace environment.

The outcome of the above is we are discerning a significant increase in the words “bully, victim, rude, and fear” the frequency of which is, frankly, disconcerting.

During a recent DPC internal exercise focused on “what are we noticing that is of concern” we collectively concluded that while references such as the above were not unheard of, they are now normative lexicon, and this is alarming!

The average age of DPC Advisors is now 67 with an on-average Consulting experience level of 40+ years so when we notice such an observable trend, we have to ask “what are the implications for our clients”?

The conclusions we have drawn based upon this trend are three-fold:

  1. Many actions seem to prompt an over-reaction—reduction in filters, aka an epidemic of lack of restraint or perspective
  2. There is an expectation that, in order for someone to win, someone has to lose— internal competition at expense of collaboration as a team member or corporate member
  3. Biased listening is the communication foundation—talking past each other, resulting in a loss of both objectivity, and opportunities to learn.

Our internal narrative has become, regardless of personal or career situation, one that appears to be built on underlying anxiety, and driven by uncertainty.  Accordingly, this disequilibrium is negatively influencing behaviors and engagement, and our perceptions of people, places, and even ideas.

During the Viet-Nam era the saying “we have met the enemy and they are us” first surfaced in the comic strip Pogo. This sentiment was not US centric, being replicated in many societies.

Given the demographic of DPC Advisors, our recollection is this saying resonated due to then societal circumstances.

Our belief is that a similar phenomenon within enterprise settings is embedding itself and unless confronted it will be a lose/lose for the individual and the enterprise.

History can repeat itself!

We prefer our clients not to become their own worst enemies. It is essential that they confront any aspect of the culture that nurtures anxiety, fear or disunity.

Tolerance vs. confronting is not a tenable path for organizations. We encourage leaders to examine the prevailing mindset of executives and to make the investment in reaffirming the commitment to “being mindful and respectful”. Otherwise, allowing personal ambitions to compromise collective achievement is too great a risk.

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