Tag Archives: Us vs. Them

Monday Morning Moment – Ian Bremmer – on Global Politics and Replacing Rage with Hope

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

How do American politics affect our ability and capacity to be a force for good on the world stage?  What elements align to make any of global nations consequential or inconsequential? What natural or geopolitical events will lead to migrations of people to who knows where? What are the top political risks facing our country and our world today?

Political scientist and thought leader Ian Bremmer was just an unknown name on our Richmond Forum subscription for this year’s season. Then we heard him speak. Wow! My ignorance was what was showing.

Ian Bremmer is a brilliant, funny, courageous, optimistic analyst of all things global. He has conversations with world political and economic leaders and their staff, and I’m sure he asks excellent questions. His analysis is intriguing because he clearly knows what he’s talking about and he kindly brought it down to a fifth grader’s understanding.Photo Credit: Richmond Forum

Ian Bremmer Engages with Geopolitics, Honesty, and Humor at The Richmond Forum – Thomas Breeden

The best part of the whole evening was his unflappable honesty. He clearly had his biases regarding world leaders, including our own country’s leaders. Yet, he takes the larger and longer view. I so appreciated that. It’s part of why he’s not “crazy”, as he encouraged us not to be as well when we read and watch the news each day.

Bremmer told the audience his goal for the evening was to make us all “10% less crazy.” What makes us crazy regarding our country’s politics? He summed it up memorably:

A lot of us feel like our system is rigged. A lot of us feel like our representatives are not representing us. A lot of us feel like the American dream no longer applies to us. And they feel like when the political leaders or the CEOs or the bankers or the journalists or the public intellectuals—God forbid—are talking to us, that they’re lying.”Ian Bremmer

If we daily wonder if we’re being lied to by our politicians and not truly represented by our elected officials, then we do become a little crazy…distrusting our government and divided and polarized in our thinking, depending on our particular brand of politics.

Adding to this, Bremmer gives four other factors that fuel the divide:

  • Immigration – So much talk and very little done on either side of the aisle to improve the system – with the hope of making it fair for all who would like a chance to immigrate as well as humane and just for those foregoing lawful entry to the country.
  • Economic Inequality – This continues to increase, and it heightens the political divide between peoples as well. It adds to the “us vs. them” scenario.
  • Wars – When we seem always on the brink of a war (either threatened by a nuclear power or compelled to enter because of an oppressed ally, we struggle again with trusting our leadership, especially as our spouses and children lay their lives on the line for these wars. For what purpose?
  • Social Media – The rage of the average citizen who feels unheard or discounted by his government is stoked through the comments of others on social media. Where are the conversations being had by reasonable people with a stake in the outcome?

Ian Bremmer addressed these stressors and then he calmly proceeded with a survey of global and national threats and trends. I won’t go into them here but you can follow his generous, insightful commentary on all the latest news via his website, broadcasts, books, and Twitter/Facebook feeds. He will educate you and encourage how to engage rather than isolate.

[Forgive me for staying general on this, regarding geo-political risks.]

Bremmer gave two excellent challenges to us. The first is to find a person who we disagree with politically but who we respect (I have a short list of those valuable friends and family members). Then engage in conversation, with the goal to listen, learn, and better understand. Our default is to be enraged but not engage…we just read their social media posts and don’t comment, or worse, do…when we could actually create face-to-face dialogue. Neither of us may change but we have the opportunity to grow closer in coming to viable solutions to the problems we face.

His second challenge was to encourage our young people to study abroad…even in high school, even just for a semester. To put themselves in the minority. To learn from others who have similar problems as well as quite different ones. To learn how to draw down conflict and create understanding. To learn how to problem-solve with less monetary resources. These young people of ours will be the ones who will have to figure out how to flourish in the world we are leaving them.

Ian Bremmer talks reality but with hope and a healthy sense of humor. We would do well to follow his example in this…whether we agree with him on all points or not.

From a secular point of view, he came as close to answering my life-long question “Why can’t we all get along?” Bremmer’s talk also reminded me of Dr. Seuss’ book Oh, the Places You’ll Go. In the midst of a forum on global politics, economic upheaval, war and poverty, he posed the possibility of hope…if we show up and engage with one another.

YouTube Video – Ian Bremmer on the Failure of Globalism – some of the content we enjoyed at the Richmond Forum.

YouTube Video – Ian Bremmer – How the US Should Use Its Superpower Status

Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africa – Dan Shepard [Ian Bremmer got me to consider global warming more seriously when he talked about how the peoples of equatorial Africa will one day have to leave their countries and immigrate north.]

Monday Morning Moment – Them and Us, How Can That Be? Could Them and Us Become a We?

Blog - Work Culture - delta7Photo Credit: Delta 7

Recently, I was in an odd conversation with a friend from work. The more we talked, the more we sounded like a Dr. Seuss book. It went something like this:

“I don’t know how to be us with them. To be with them is to just be them. We must lose us; us no more will be. There’s no us in them; it’s so strange to me. How can they be them, with no us, you see? To give up us is too hard for me. So I can’t see a way to get to we.”

[Seriously, the conversation went like that…but better.]

Battling the us-them assignation is an ongoing workplace discipline. Even in the happiest, coolest companies, there is still an intentionality to keep work life positive for every employee. That inclusiveness is a hallmark for high morale and low walls (read: no silos).

BLog - Us vs Them - Work Culture - Silos - prolearn academy

Photo Credit: Prolearn-Academy

In a work culture where silos still exist, an us/them mentality can grow as each team or department draws in on itself and ignores or suspects the actions/values of others. It’s not a healthy situation for any of us…whether it’s the executive team insulated from others or the [fill in the blank] team hunkered down in its own mode of trying to survive. The first can be as unaware as the subject of the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes“, the second, well, is just miserable, and growing more so by the pay period.

So much has been written on this problem in the workplace – about that culture where us/them thinking and operations color productivity and morale. I have included several links below describing various recommendations and protocols to restore health to such organizations.

Blog - Work Culture 2Photo Credit: My Turnstone

I’ve always been that person who says, “Why can’t we just all get along?” In reality, we don’t have that situation always, but we can grease the tracks in that direction. Here are my own workplace rules regarding moving us and them to we:

  1. Make a practice of assuming the best of your bosses and colleagues. “Refuse to think ill of others” is my goal…and my accuracy in hitting that goal comes with practice and determination…and grace.
  2. Lean in to those with whom you struggle the most – the “thems” in your worklife. Especially the most powerful ones. Study them. Learn their language. Know them as well as you can. NOT for self-serving reasons, but for the benefit of the work itself. Any motive that only serves your personal situation will only make matters worse… ‘Nuff said.
  3. Refuse to get caught up in us/them complaining. Don’t make a big deal about it, but do your best to turn the conversation toward a positive end, change the subject altogether, or bow out if all else fails. Those negative conversations just bring you and your colleagues down and don’t accomplish anything. A short-lived “misery loves company” satisfaction isn’t worth the fall-out of such conversations.
  4. Bring down the silos, one brick at a time, if necessary. Maybe you aren’t experiencing any us/them anguish, but you know it exists. What can you do, individually and as a work team, to move to “we”? We have lots of work models out there for this. In fact, silos in the workplace are “so 80’s” (whatever that means…I hear it a lot, so I’m using it here). Use some of that meeting time, or talks over coffee, to be creative in how you can work better across teams…how you can learn more from each other…how you can defuse territoriality? If the “them” is management, you initiate dialog on setting work culture values that maximizes product excellence and employee engagement.
  5. Put processes in place – through your culture – to keep silos down. I would love to hear what your situation is and how you are making positive steps to grow/keep a healthy culture. Please comment below.

Sure…there are times we need to process a difficult situation at work with a trusted friend. Yes, us/them scenarios are painful…and wrong, honestly…especially in the workplace where we are meant to have shared goals, working toward the same outcomes. Maybe, the us/them relationships in a company are too distracting and we can’t see any solution (back to the Dr. Seuss-like conversation above). In that case, it’s possible we look outside our company for another situation. However, you take with you a piece of the us/them dilemma. You take you along to the next job. Better to develop muscle memory on how to “be we”, whenever possible, right where we are.

[Sidebar: I’ve written a lot about work culture – too many to mention – but you can search work culture under Blog – Deb Mills and learn as I have about what is possible if we stay engaged in our workplace.]

Blog - Work Place Culture - open.bufferPhoto Credit: Buffer

Overcoming Us vs. Them Challenges

Breaking the “Us and Them” Culture

How to Avoid Us vs. Them – Huffington Post

The 10 Buffer Values and How We Act on Them Every Day

The 4 Elements That Make Great Company Culture

How to Save a Broken Work Culture

From Us and Them to We Participative Organizational Culture

Them and us – How to use Trust as a Competitive Advantage

How CEOs Can End an Us Them Mentality

Us vs. Them – a Simple Recipe to Prevent Strong Society from Forming