It’s easy to get caught up in the “us versus them” mentality. Our brains naturally like to categorize people and then bond with those who are “on our team” while alienating those who are not. This can happen within an organization “marketing vs sales” or by identity “men vs other gender identities” or geography “London HQ vs remote team members” and many other factors. When cultural divides separate colleagues, it inhibits effective communication and collaboration. Instead, we need to find ways to bring people together that honors our cultural differences while building bridges.
Laura Kriska is the author of The Business of WE and a leading cross-cultural consultant with more than thirty years of experience bridging gaps in diverse workplaces. She has worked with Fortune 500 companies on four continents helping thousands of professionals build trust across Us versus Them differences based on nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, age or any factor of identity. Her WE-building framework provides practical and actionable insights for creating a more inclusive and productive world.
Laura and I talk about how to understand cultural differences from norms and behaviors, to mindsets, and how to bring people together across the ‘us vs them’ divide.
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Read the related blog article: Go From “Us Vs Them” To “WE” At Work
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- When teams separate because of diverse identities, it can create divisive “insider/outsider” dynamics that break down trust and communication.
- “Us vs Them” dynamics can show up between departments, hierarchies, and geographic locations, in addition to various individual identities.
- Visible culture norms are things like dress or language. Invisible cultural norms are unspoken rules about how people are expected to act. These are learned through involvement in the culture.
- Invisible cultural norms that aren’t working for your team need to be addressed.
- Look at missed outcomes or HR complaints. They may point to breakdowns in cohesion amongst your team.
- Have open conversations with your team about what’s not working. Model self-reflection and commitment to change to encourage others to open up.
- Measure your level of integration with diverse groups and commit to increasing your knowledge of various cultures/backgrounds.
- Have everyone share a personal experience of feeling like an outsider to highlight the importance of a feeling of belonging.
- Those with a scarcity mindset might worry they will lose power if they bring others up. Explain how everyone benefits from greater inclusion and a “WE” culture.