How Adults aren’t That Different from Teenagers

Alone in a CrowdI’ve heard it said that if an organization’s ethos is strong enough it will discard whomever does not fit within it. It isn’t something done deliberately or with intentionality. The idea is that the culture is so strong it rejects what does not support the social structure of the organization. It just happens and it should. The stronger an organization’s culture is, the more focused it is, the greater its longevity. I get that. But, I’ve observed something that, while appearing to be a function of an organization pruning itself, is in reality something else that eventually weakens the culture.

There are times when it’s not the culture that is eliminating whomever does not fit. It’s people deciding they just don’t care for someone. It’s people determining that someone shouldn’t be here. It’s the corporate equivalent of Regina’s Burn Book, for you “Mean Girls” fans out there. There’s a subtle but important difference.

An organization’s culture is made up, in part, of its values. When there is someone that does not embrace whatever those values may be and doesn’t seem to be on a path to “getting it”, then its time to have a hard conversation.

That’s a different thing entirely than simply not liking someone because they like Chevy over Ford or are a vegetarian or like Pepsi instead of Coke. Maybe they don’t organize the day the way you do or don’t attack a project in the same manner you would. Those are all preferences that, while possibly an annoyance, are hardly matters of value. That isn’t to say that there aren’t issues related to chemistry, another important factor to consider, but even then I suspect that’s more often a cop out than reality.

The fact is we’re not going to get along with everyone in our organization but that doesn’t make them less valuable or less necessary to getting things done. It just means that we probably won’t be grabbing a beer with them after work. But what if we did? What if each of us made an effort to gravitate not toward those we naturally feel good about but toward those we have, for whatever reason, determined to have little value in our lives?

Whatever you believe or don’t believe about Jesus, he had some really great stuff to say about how we treat one another. One day he was having a chat with some people and challenged them with these words:

“If you only love those who love you, what reward is there for that? If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?”

One account of this event has Jesus wrapping up his words by saying, “In a word, what I’m saying is ‘GROW UP!'”

Actor Colin Hanks was asked once about how he was able to relate to a character he was cast to play:

“No matter where you are in your life, whatever set of people you’re with, it all still breaks down like high school does. You have your social cliques, you have the people you get along with, the people you don’t and the people you’re ambivalent about. All of the dynamics are still here.”

If we’re honest with ourselves we know that’s true and if we aren’t careful we have the same ability to exclude those who don’t fit into our clique just like we did in high school.  But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

In a post today by Donald Miller, he explains the three things that Oprah believes about everyone. I would suggest that applying them especially to those with whom we don’t naturally get along is a great first step to overcoming our natural tendency to be exclusive. They are:

1. People want to know whether you see them.
2. People want to know whether you hear them.
3. People want to know whether if what they say matters to you.

Either people really matter to you or they don’t. If you act like only a few people matter to you then it won’t be long before how you treat those that don’t matter to you will speak much more loudly about your life than how you treat those that do.

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