As we approach mid-term elections in the U.S., there’s a lot of talk in the media about “incumbent” being a four-letter word. Doesn’t matter what political party you belong to. All this talk about getting fresh blood into Washington reminded me of a post I read a while ago by Jason Seiden titled “Real Life Fail: Lessons from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington“.
The big takeaway for me in Jason’s post had nothing to do with our government. It was the last line…”Are you all in?”
That simple question has big implications for us on a personal and professional level.
For example, if I asked – would you do business with an organization that was doing unethical and unprofessional stuff, what would your answer be? My guess is you’d say, “No way!”
Now let’s add to the situation that you’re benefiting from this organization in some way – either financially or some other personal way. If right this very moment I could name the organization and give specific examples of unethical practices. Conflicts of interest with the president and senior leadership. Not following corporate policies. Not communicating with employees. Mismanaging money.
Is your answer the same? Or is the answer, “Oh, I don’t know anything about that…” Or maybe ” I’m not good at this office politics stuff.”
It’s not really a far-fetched question. And, it’s a dilemma people face often. Just look at the news and all the companies and individuals being hauled up in front of congressional committees. What makes the situation especially hard is when the organization is doing well (or appears to be doing well.) The company has lots of money and star performers. You enjoy what you’re doing with them. You don’t want to walk away because you want to believe the good.
Face it, you’re not “all in” if you’re not willing to listen with open ears and eyes and develop your own opinion. You don’t have to give the naysayers all your time and you don’t always have to agree with them. But to dismiss a contrary view with “Oh, I don’t know anything about that” is nothing more than sticking your head in the sand. And, at that point, you’re giving the unethical behavior tacit approval.
A fellow consultant called me recently. He was upset about a decision a non-profit board was voting on and asked for an opportunity to speak with the officers privately. His request was ignored. After the meeting, he asked one of the officers why. The reply?
Oh, I don’t know anything about that…I just do what I’m told.
Are we facing what Jason Lauritsen calls “unproductive harmony“? Where our work or personal culture reinforces conflict avoidance when there is some real or perceived benefit. I don’t see how you can be “all in” if you’re afraid to engage in some productive conflict.
Image courtesy of jvh33