What many organisations hope is that political circumstances like 9/11 will stay without effect for their daily practices; business as usual is what they want. But what many European organisations face nowadays is a deep involvement with the political events in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordania, Jemen and other countries from their workers with Arabic background.
My company was consulted for different problematic situations about 9/11 in organisations, one of them even 2 years after 9/11. In 2001, the workers had had a fight because some workers wanted to have a 3 minutes silence for the victims of 9/11 and other workers had refused to be silent ‘as you have never asked for silence for the victims of Palestine so why should we be silent this time’. The managers of that organisation did not want to involve since it was ‘about politics’ and 2 years later this had evolved into an organisation where teams were divided along ethnic lines – and so were the lines of (non-)cooperation and communication. It was not an easy job to repair this situation and to get back to normal working structures after 2 years of distrust, pain, anger and so on. Politics and diversity had entangled in a complex way and new energy was needed to disentangle them.
Most organisations try to avoid politics and stick to business as usual. This is very good, but it does not always work. Politics can enter into your company anyway; that is what a diverse, globalizing world brings forward. Therefore in 2011 we do not need managers who tell people what to think or not think: we need managers who are able to manage this process, to create the right balance between discussion and true listening to each other on the one hand and business as usual on the other. Avoidance might work sometimes, but the risk of avoidance is larger than the risk of managing the process.
In my book Making the Difference this is the sixth success factor: “managers who recognize and identify the dynamics of diversity, and take action based on the benefits of diversity“. Managers who are able to create a business where workers listen to each other with respect will find out with those workers how that attitude will further benefit the business.
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