By Adam Turteltaub
A few years ago we went to Cooperstown, New York to see the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a way to celebrate my 50th birthday, and it was also something that the whole family could agree on. My first two suggestions – Iceland (a dream for decades now) and an Alaska cruise — were crushed like daisies under the wheels of an overloaded semi truck.
Cooperstown is a magical place, the Hall of Fame was everything I had hoped for, and the gift shop was rich with souvenirs I couldn’t resist. When looking through it I spotted a nice Hall of Fame hat. I thought it would be perfect for when I visited stadiums for teams other than the Dodgers. I often go to baseball games when I travel to HCCA and SCCE programs, and wearing my Dodgers hat does not exactly win me friends when worn in other cities. A Hall of Fame hat would be beyond reproach.
And then I had an inspiration: why not get a pin from each stadium I visit, attach it to the hat, and then wear that hat to all these “away” games.
I told my family my plans and they responded with a chorus of “that’s dorky”, “not if I’m at the stadium with you”, and “you’re kidding, right?”
I wasn’t, but I beat a hasty retreat. I ended up buying two hats. One to wear and one that sits covered in pins and in my office.
I recently thought about my family’s reaction and it got me to thinking: family is often very willing to speak up when they see you doing something wrong, but co-workers aren’t. I think it’s because there’s a lot of differences between families and co-workers. Specifically, family:
- Considers it part of its “job” to tell you what others won’t
- Some family members even take open glee in correcting others (my kids live to point out my faults, of which I seem to have very many)
- Your family members know there is little risk of them being fired from the family for speaking up
- The relationship is far deeper than the incident at hand
- The trust level is likely higher
- You’re more accustomed to weathering relationship ups and down
- There is strong social pressure to keep the family together, much more so than to stay in a job
But there is one thing families do share with work colleagues: the unwillingness to share problems outside the group. It’s okay to talk with each other about this or that serious issue, but talk about it outside the family or the work group, and it can be seen as a betrayal. Quickly the dialogue becomes “She betrayed us,” and “He’s a traitor.”
Put another way, it’s no longer a conversation about right and wrong, but of us and them.
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So it’s important to remember that when we ask people to react to wrongdoing by raising their hands and coming forward, we’re also asking them to do something that is fundamentally difficult for humans to do, whether at work or at home: trust them vs. us. That argues for helping to reinforce to the workforce that while they work for an immediate boss, and that they are a part of a work group, they have to always think about the larger company and their place in that “family,” which is a much bigger “us” than they may have thought.
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