May of 2019 the final episode of Game of Thrones aired. This show demonstrated the passion each family had for itself and its legacy and how that changed over time to pursuing what was best for theKingdom, regardless of one’s lineage. This blog is not about the show, but looks to create an analogy to our current world with our family, friends, and workplace colleagues.

Think of the news. I bet you can come up with numerous examples of division in the world. Race, religion, COVID vaccines, abortion, political viewpoint, and the list can go on. I believe the vehemence and the visceral reactions that these topics evoke within people creates a significantly greater division than in the past. We are seeing examples of people believing that violence has become acceptable because the end justifies the means. News and Science is less about finding the true answer, it’s about using the data to support a particular point or policy. Laws become optional through informal action. Politics has become about degrading or humiliating anyone who’s not in your affiliated party or doesn’t think about a particular issue like you. 

These topics may have created a rift in your bonds with family and friends. I know examples where grandparents can’t visit grandchildren because of vaccination status, and children who are estranged from parents because of their political ideology to name just two.

Now imagine work colleagues who have been isolated, quarantined to various degrees within their homes for over a year coming back into an office. People with different experiences, philosophies, and needs assembled in an office. They’re not related to you! The polarization and emotions one experience in society don’t go away because there are corporate policies and code of ethics that stipulate the corporate culture. I’ve heard examples from clients where boundaries have been set limiting topics around different individuals. People need to remember who they’re talking to and what topics can’t be discussed. This contributes to the rise in anxiety on top of the challenge of returning to the office. What can we do to create an environment that enables a team and its individuals to operate at their best?

 Three keys to keep in mind:

  1. Respect the individual. You may not agree with their thoughts on a particular issue, but don’t need to resort to name calling or ‘social grouping.’ X is not getting a COVID vaccination, they’re an anti-vaxxer. Y doesn’t support Black Lives Matter, they’re racist.
  2. Listen, truly listen with empathy, and be open to new ideas. As coaches, we learn about levels of listening. What I find is that most people operate in a ‘lower level’ which is I’ve heard that before, so I can tune out; or I’ve heard that argument and I disagree with it, so I will form my rebuttal while you’re talking.
  3. Compromise. Identify ways that you (or the family member or team) are willing to give or take that is supportive of one another. Also be aware that there may be areas where some are unwilling to compromise on a particular moral or ethical belief. This will require time, effort, and probably outside help to manage the situation.

Sometimes ‘family’ is related by blood, sometimes it is related by ideological philosophies, maybe it’s your employer. Rather than manipulating and striving for the ‘Iron Throne’ of ego/always right, build the Kingdom through the alliances built on a solid foundation of trust.