“Human beings, like plants, grow in the soil of acceptance, not in the atmosphere of rejection.” – John Wesley Powell (1834 – 1902), U.S. soldier, geologist, explorer of the American West. Powell is famous for the 1869 Powell Geographic Expedition, a three-month river trip down the Green and Colorado rivers that included the first known passage through the Grand Canyon.
Social rejection is hard in any setting, especially during organizational change. When people feel isolated, they may either physically leave or mentally check out. When someone shares his feedback and it’s immediately discounted, his defenses go up.
Joe*, one of the brilliantly creative senior executives I’ve worked with, left his company after watching his input ignored year after year by his boss, Jack*. Jack made it clear that if you did not have the same marketing experience as he had, then your ideas would be as highly discounted as a Christmas decoration on December 26th. How unfortunate for Jack and Jack’s team that he did not know how to appreciate Joe’s diverse background in marketing AND operations AND technology AND change management AND process improvement. (*Names were changed to protect privacy and prevent public flogging.)
As a leader, you need to create a work environment that discourages rejection and encourages inclusion while your team adjusts to the change underway. Change the outer social environment to alter your employees’ inner, mental spaces. Here are some conversational rituals designed to help the people on your team regroup and become part of the group again.
When people feel excluded, they can’t be productive, innovative or collaborative. The result? Nobody wins. Progress slows. Business value goes unrealized. Try these conversational rituals to build a team that’s comfortable and confident navigating through the curves of change.
What rituals or tactics have you found to be helpful in creating a productive and collaborative environment?
Adapted from Harvard Business Review’s “Preventing Rejection at Work,” by Judith E. Glaser.