The winter solstice is almost upon us, bringing the longest night of the year. The whole year has felt a bit like that—full of a darkness that is seemingly endless. Still, many of us have much to be grateful for: calamities averted and people stepping up to help others.
We are grateful as well that we can now foresee an end to the pandemic. Pharmaceutical companies are developing vaccines at a speed far exceeding most expectations. Maybe by this spring, COVID’s siege on our lives might begin to lift.
Businesses understand that if their teams behaved like internet chat rooms they would self-destruct, leaving critical projects in ruins.
The achievements in vaccine development attest to how good we are at science and technology. Lagging far behind are our social and citizenship skills. Bluntly, in public matters (and too often, private) we do not seem able to get along with anyone who does not believe what we do. Businesses understand that if their teams behaved like internet chat rooms they would self-destruct, leaving critical projects in ruins. They therefore emphasize values like listening, respect, rationality, compromise and dedication to common goals. One would think that the on-the-job training people receive in teamwork would have more impact upon society in general. Either there is more talk about teamwork in business than there is commitment to it, or the employees are not really buying in. As with most things, it’s probably a little bit of both.
The fact is the spirit of teamwork can only emerge when members are themselves convinced that it is necessary and proper. If a group only goes through the motions of teamwork and doesn’t commit to it, they may have enough success to survive. However, they will never truly rise above mediocrity and a culture of blame. On the other hand, people who are determined to work together, who truly understand the importance of teamwork, can accomplish great things. Like defeating a plague. Or helping their country live up to its ideals.
We need for employers to recognize (and care about) the impact their actions have on society at large and begin running their businesses in a way their people can believe in.
The tenets of effective teamwork are very close to those of citizenship. By promoting real teamwork, businesses can not only help themselves but foster positive skills and experiences that can carry over into their employees’ civic lives. But the spirit of teamwork cannot be grafted onto a rotting trunk of executive willfulness, self-dealing, disrespect and a lack of accountability. Then it only deepens cynicism and mistrust of authority in general. Adults typically spend most of their day working. Work is a profoundly formative activity. We need for employers to recognize (and care about) the impact their actions have on society at large and begin running their businesses in a way their people can believe in.
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