Recently I joined the British-American Business Council (BABC) and specifically the Orange County chapter. You’d think it was an exclusive organization (i.e., you’d have to be British or American to be a member and maybe live in “the OC”) but in fact it’s a rather inclusive organization. We even had a French person there last night and I live in “the SCV” (which is rather like “the OC” but with coupons). Although I could see people struggling to understand the Parisian’s accent and I did most certainly tire of explaining exactly where Santa Clarita was, we both feel welcomed.
What is it about human beings that stirs us to gather in groups? We put on the sticky label and tell our stories to each other while looking for commonality so we can interrupt each other with, “And Me” type tales. I guess we find comfort and enjoy camaraderie when we look like each other, sound like each other and have the same worldviews as each other.
In the workplace we call these “departments” and if not led well, these can turn into “compartments.” Having a financial background, I often saw my cousins as being those in the information technology team — I liked them a lot, but the sales department was like the family member who causes friction. The folks in sales would break process and override policies that would cause us to have to run calculations and scenarios we hadn’t planned on.
What we often lose sight of, is that organizations are interdependent entities where each member of the family (or “department”) is reliant on the fruits of the other. See, finance counts and reports on what sales sell. Information technology provides the platform to do what we need to do in today’s fast-moving and global economy. Sales wouldn’t have anything to sell if it wasn’t for the marketing folks getting the word out. And our brethren in operations make sure that everything is executed according to plan.
My observation has been that great leaders bring the workplace family together. Although they themselves may have a proclivity toward one department more than another due to the leaning of the ladder they first climbed, they know their role now is to ensure the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Thinking back to last night — we had people there from all four corners of the British Isles. There were Americans from many different states. People from the Commonwealth, and as you know even a person from Paris — but the overall purpose was, to promote British-American business relations. That’s what we were there for, not our own agendas.
We hear a lot in today’s workplace about diversity and inclusion. I’m no English major but I understand enough to know the word “inclusion” essentially means the “non-exclusion of anything or anyone.”
As a new member last night, they awarded me a pin, which has the flags of two countries interconnected — the flag of the United Kingdom and the flag of the United States. The Parisian was also a recently recruited member and so she was offered a pin, which she immediately and proudly positioned on her collar. See, BABC could be perceived as an exclusive group but all are welcome and are included if they want to participate. No one is forced to join BABC and you don’t have to wear the pin if you don’t want to.
What deeply concerns me about today’s workplace is that pins are being given out and are expected to be worn even if you don’t want to join the group or don’t like the pin. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that June is PRIDE month. In many of the workplaces of the world, this month more than ever, employees are expected to celebrate and applaud a lifestyle and a personal choice they may not personally agree with.
In my book that’s not inclusivity, that’s exclusively a form of indoctrination, which no one likes, not even the French.
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaftd.com). For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].