After the election that seemed it would never end, we finally have an answer. For some, the result was a beacon of hope while others saw it as a crushing blow. Whatever your stance, few will argue that we seem to be irreconcilably divided across lines of party affiliation, geography, income, race, religion, age, and more. There is a strong sense of ‘us vs. them’ across the country, and as with most societal dynamics, the same can be said of our workplaces. Aside from the various ideological and demographic divides, many companies also have ‘us vs. them’ dynamics between departments, across levels, and more.
This year has been a catalyzing force for a number of transformations in the workplace, the most obvious being the nearly overnight shift to remote work. As we look towards a new year and the associated planning and budgeting amidst rampant uncertainty, an opportunity exists to build in efforts to break down the aforementioned divides. At this critical juncture, what would it look like to actually revolutionize our workplaces, and redesign them with an eye towards empathy and inclusion, rather than division and indifference? Can we heal our workplaces as we also strive to heal our nation?
The state of our workplaces pre-pandemic
Before the pandemic, 97% of employees and executives believed that lack of team alignment had an impact on task and project outcomes. Taking that one step further, 86% of employees cited lack of collaboration or ineffective communication as the cause of workplace failures. On the flip side, companies and organizations that communicate effectively are 4.5x more likely to retain their best employees.
While lack of communication and outright division are not necessarily the same, they do feed into each other to a large extent. If open and honest communication is encouraged and fostered across the board, there are fewer opportunities for division to build up and get in the way of progress. In fact, a ProofHub study found that more than 99% of employees prefer a workplace where people identify and discuss issues truthfully and effectively. Unfortunately, fewer than half of them feel that their organization fulfills that need. If we are to move past this state and towards building better communication and connection for employees, we have to first break down the barriers to doing so by implementing effective tools and having tough conversations. We have to heal these divides just as politicians urge us to heal our nation.
Ways to work towards unity in the workplace
There are a number of areas to focus on when looking to reduce division in your workplace. We’ve summarized them below so you can start your organization on the road to success in 2021:
- Increase transparency. Being as transparent as possible at all levels of the company is a crucial first step towards stifling the seeds of division from the start. When left in the dark, it’s easy for employees to assume the worst about colleagues and leaders. If everyone is open about their plans, goals, and intentions, it is much easier for employees to let down their guards and not buy into divisive narratives as so many have in our political system leading to this call to heal our nation.
- Encourage open and respectful dialogue. Similarly, enabling employees to share their thoughts and experiences without fear of ridicule or reprisal is a key step towards promoting strong communication and collaboration in your workplace. Encourage team members to share their stories to help colleagues learn about each other as whole people, and to better understand where folks may be coming from when they react a certain way to an idea or comment.
- Prioritize diversity and inclusion. Ensuring that there is strong representation on your team from a diverse set of backgrounds and beliefs can help everyone to feel included rather than having one ‘in-group’ and a handful of others stuck on the outskirts. While we know budgeting for DEI in 2021 can be a challenge, it’s imperative to continue championing this critical work and striving towards intersectionality rather than tokenization.
- Ensure everyone gets recognized. A strong recognition program is also a key component of building more unified, less divisive workplaces. Having some team members frequently receiving praise and accolades for their work while others toil in silence and anonymity simply breeds resentment and reinforces ‘us vs. them’ dynamics. Ensure that your recognition program is both accessible and egalitarian, so that everyone can participate and feel acknowledged.
- Be consistent. Last but certainly not least, make every effort to design your policies in a way that one group isn’t privileged over another. Ensuring this consistency will prevent people from feeling that others are treated better than them, leading them to experience exclusion that can cause communication to break down. Any policy that applies to one, should apply to all.
There are a number of ways to ensure that your workplace trends back towards unity rather than division as we usher a new administration into the White House. For better or worse, many of these focus areas drive back to core aspects of company culture, which can be difficult to shift especially with employees spread across offices and remote work situations. As we work to heal our nation though, we can also heal our workplaces. If you could use an easier way to break down silos, build connections, and streamline employee communication, come visit us over at workrowd.com or reach out directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re looking forward to learning more about the specific challenges you may be facing, and seeing how we can plug in to help you reach your goals.