There’s never been a time when connecting “inclusively” has been more critical for the planet, since so many in our world are now separated. For the first time in history, the vast majority of Americans are following “shelter-in-place” protocols, which are forcing us to physically disconnect from one another. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean we can’t interact in what we might call “virtual” ways—and from a sociological perspective, it is absolutely essential that we do.
Most of us were already anxious about the state of our world when news of the corona-virus suddenly upped the ante—and the resulting panic has impacted everything from the stock market to the price of sanitizer. This increased anxiety seeps into our workplace, our homes, and our schools and becomes a crisis of its own. It is normal to be nervous when we hear bad news, but people have to be sensible in order to manage stressful times successfully. So, how do we find the right balance between caution and overreacting that will enable us to get through this?
We live in a world where we’re constantly being “sized up” to determine whether we’re smart enough, good enough, and strong enough. Do we have what it takes for this task, this role, or this job? From the moment we start school and throughout our careers, we’re being sorted to determine if we belong in the advanced group. At work, we identify the “high potentials” as opposed to the “rank and file,” and organizations spend energy trying to locate the “top talent” while everyone else feels defeated because they weren’t picked due to test scores or mediocre performance on an assignment. Unfortunately, these selection processes determine the trajectory of many careers and are a waste of human resources. Just because someone ranks in the middle should not be a statement of who they are (it’s where they are); and just because other companies do it doesn’t mean it’s right or efficient. Do we believe that only some are capable of success—or do we believe everyone has high potential?
Oftentimes when training leaders how to develop trust, I’ll ask if they think it’s important to be liked. Occasionally someone blurts out: “I don’t care if people like me, as long as they respect me” (and you can tell by the way they say it—no one likes them!). But let’s be honest, it’s hard to respect someone you don’t like, and it’s hard to like someone you don’t respect.
In the wake of so many tragic shootings, it’s hard to deny that violence is all around us—at work, in society, and everywhere we turn. We live in an agitated world where tensions are high, and people act out in unhealthy ways through not only physical attacks but also flaring tempers and other acts of “incivility” from subtle to overt.
Approaches to diversity have changed, but there is one constant: a desire to know whether training really changes people. So, we decided to initiate a landmark study to find out with help from two clients—a major health system and a prominent university.