27 minutes | Jan 24th 2019

Howard Ross on How the Need for Connection is Tearing Our Culture Apart

Today’s Future of Work Talk show is focused on workplace culture, and specifically polarization and divisiveness that exists within organizations. At a time when our political landscape is incredibly polarized, in spite of the diversity of our nation, or workplaces are likewise polarized.

Think about it: human beings are naturally drawn to “people just like them.” So even if our respective workplaces are comprised of diverse people, our tendency is to stay within the relative “safety” of our individual groups. Not diverse and inclusive at all.

My guest today is Howard Ross. Howard is an author, social justice advocate and an expert on identifying and addressing Unconscious Bias. His latest book, Our Search for Belonging: How the Need for Connection Is Tearing Our Culture Apart, explores how to bridge our increasing polarized society.

Howard and I discussed a variety of things, including how the Whole Foods and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store factions fully exemplify our polarization—and other things that are happening in the workplace that we’re not paying close enough attention to.

We touched on:

  • How we have turned our natural need for belonging into an unhealthy, destructive extreme.
  • How our society is promoting segregation into “us” and “them” and the dangers that presents—for all of us
  • What the consequences might be if society continues to fuel divisiveness
  • What we can do, personally, to bridge these divides?
  • What can businesses and organizations do to create inclusion and a true diverse culture within the organization, instead of just talking the talk.

The ‘so what’ of my conversation with Howard was fascinating to me, and I think it might be to you as well. Here’s what organizations need to consider as it relates to culture, training, and the relationships their employees have with one another. While many organizations provide skills training, it’s just as important that they provide training in interpersonal areas, such as communication, inclusion, and addressing unconscious bias. This can be done, and it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable challenge.

From Target’s “Courageous Conversations” workshops that engage employees of all backgrounds to talk about difficult issues, to Kaiser Permanente’s team culture, smart companies are exploring ways to build organizational structures that promote inclusivity. They are finding that working to remove bias in recruitment, hiring, onboarding and performance reviews pays off. They are challenging norms by asking courageous questions, embedding a positive organizational narrative around belonging and the value of diversity, and creating safe places to have dialogue around topics that are often difficult.

You can find Howard here (and I hope you will, he’s delightful):

Howard J Ross Twitter

Howard Ross LinkedIn

Cook Ross (Howard’s consulting firm)

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