We seem to be living in a mad world right now, and I am concerned this angst will carry into our cubicles, find its way onto the workbench and blow into the boardrooms.
I’m no great philosopher, but there seems to be something deep down within our engines that causes many of us to be fine-tuned toward division, discordance and disparity.
I’m noticing that to have a vantage point that’s different to others is dangerous. Take the recent events of the Black Lives Matter movement: If you don’t agree with the narrative — that there’s systemic racism within the police force — you’ll soon be ostracized by the outraged.
President Abraham Lincoln famously quoted the biblical words of Matthew 12:25 in his address to the nation on June 16, 1858, when he said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Even though Honest Abe’s words were cast across the country 162 years ago this week, they still resonate with us today. Why? Because we know it to be true. Jesus was saying good and evil cannot coexist in the same body. Lincoln was saying if the country continued to be divided on slavery it would have likely ruined this Great Experiment called the United States of America. The same is true for families, neighbors and coworkers. Narratives, if not true for all, will likely cause division.
Case in point: I have two neighbors — one I’ve known as an ex-work colleague from nearly 20 years ago and another I’ve known for about 12 years based on a common pastime we share. I’m also virtual friends with both of them in that sticky realm called Facebook. They both have very strong viewpoints about politics and systematic racism, to the point where they both appear aggressive and unreasonable. To not agree with their way of seeing the world puts gasoline on their already raging fire.
Although we’ve clashed swords in the virtual realm on a few occasions, I’m intent about maintaining good neighborly relations in the real world. We may have different views on many potentially divisive issues, but I’m still called to love my neighbors, even when it’s hard to do so.
Our cul-de-sac could be a microcosm of the workplace — just as we as neighbors have to live together in close proximity, people at work have to produce, serve and sell products and services in close proximity. Our work must have a higher purpose vertically than anything going on between us horizontally.
A darkness to the division
With people being people, there have always been disagreements in the workplace about situations outside of the workplace, or at least out of the control of those in the workplace. Maybe I’m looking through rose-tinted glasses, but the bantering always seemed jovial: favorite sports teams, preferred TV shows, and musical likes and dislikes, etc.
Yet, now, there seems to be a darkness to the division between us as people — politics has become venomous; everyone is blaming everyone else for the ills of a fallen world. I have never sensed so much division between people, and I remain cautiously concerned about how this may even divide departments when we return to work.
I am a believer. I’m a believer that light always shines brighter against the darkest backdrop. I’m a believer that good will eventually win over evil. One small way we can demonstrate this is in how we lead, how we serve and how we collaborate together in the workplace — be it onsite or online.
The late Lebanese-American writer and poet Khalil Gibran once wrote: “Work is love made visible,” and although I’d like to think we also show love in how we neighbor, how we live and in good citizenry — I do appreciate his sentiment.
Here are seven pragmatic ways we can show love rather than hate at work:
- Listen twice as much as you speak when in conflict with colleagues.
- Have a spirit to serve others much more than ever before.
- Learn to forgive and forget if coworkers offend you.
- Be a good friend and listener to those around you.
- Look for opportunities to show you care about others at work.
- If you disagree, express your disagreement agreeably.
- Do everything at work to the very best of your ability.
The way we work, can indeed be love made visible — much more than wearing a hatful of hate.