Us v. Them

On October 1, 2012, in Editorial Advisory Board, Heather Bussing, HRExaminer, by Heather Bussing

Us v. Them - by Heather Bussing - HRExaminer

The options are fight or leave. Whatever the question started as, the answer becomes Beat Them.

The moment you frame the issue Us v. Them, you eliminate the solution. At least all the interesting ones. Us v. Them requires people to take sides. Once people take sides, they get attached to their position. Us is good. Them is bad.

It’s always strident during a presidential election. Some friends fret about being offended and whether to dump their opposing friends on Facebook. Other friends post ecards saying: “Your many political postings on Facebook have convinced me to switch over to YOUR side-said no one ever!” Then someone retorts: “So many people are posting intense political rants online, and I’m all, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m not wearing pants!’”

A. Barton Hinkle of the Richmond Times Dispatch wrote a great essay: The Wrong Side Absolutely Must Not Win.

“(I)t’s clear that the people on the Other Side are driven by mindless anger – unlike My Side, which is filled with passionate idealism and righteous indignation. That indignation, I hasten to add, is entirely justified. I have read several articles in publications that support My Side that expose what a truly dangerous group the Other Side is, and how thoroughly committed it is to imposing its radical, failed agenda on the rest of us.”

Righteous indignation is always suspect. Righteous indignation means you’ve convinced yourself there is only one right way and you know it. Everyone else is either stupid or evil. It must be lonely being so certain, so safe, so right.

When it’s Us v. Them, there is no room for curiosity, research or discussion. The options are fight or leave. Whatever the question started as, the answer becomes Beat Them.

Our legal system is set up as Us. v. Them. When disputes arise, the options are to win, lose, or split the baby. Often people go broke, crazy, or both in the process.

Us. v. Them doesn’t work. (Well, maybe in sports, because at least the fans get entertained and often drunk.)

Us. v. Them especially doesn’t work at work. Yet, it’s set up that way almost everywhere: management v. employees, office v. cube, supervisor v. line worker, old guy v. new guy, HR v. everybody else.

Yet, all companies have a common goal: to create a great product or service that will be useful and make money. That doesn’t seem very Us v. Them.

What if we stopped pushing against Them and started pulling together as Us? What if we stopped trying to fix each other and started to help each other?  What if finding solutions was more important than being engaged? What if creating mattered more than winning?

What if being curious was more productive than being right?

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