No, we don’t have to agree. In fact, that’s part of the problem.
One of the more obnoxious things that has come out of the last decade plus of my political awareness has been the not-so-subtle divide in political beliefs. It’s getting worse, not better. And it feels like it is also invading our personal lives as well. Brinksmanship isn’t just something you do with a tax cut, judicial appointment or debt ceiling in the halls of Congress. It’s the 4th of July family picnic. It’s online and offline conversations with friends.
The crazy part is that, somehow, this all comes back to just getting with one another.
Let’s put aside our differences you guys! We can make it work! Really!
That’s not how it works in real life.
Here’s what I do know: you don’t have to like the people you work with (or are related to), you don’t have to love your job (or going to family functions) and you can still be good at it.
I had two peer-level managers who were at each other’s neck constantly. They were both top performers in tough to fill positions so the company did everything they could to get these two to get along with one another. When company-initiated meetings didn’t work, they brought in an outsider they hoped could counsel them and get them to get along.
Let’s cut about five more iterations and hundreds of hours of painful meetings out of this story: none of it worked. As far as I know, they’re still at each other’s throats.
What everybody ignored (including myself) is that they did their jobs well. When they needed to work together, they did so. Projects that required both of their efforts came in on-time and on-budget.
We focused on the wrong things and asked the wrong questions. We focused on their disagreeable nature, not how they accomplished their work. We asked them what they needed from the other in order to get along, not how we could better get them to work together when it counted.
We’ve made a grave mistake of equating getting along with one another to doing great work together. And that’s warped our sense of entitlement about our politics, our workplaces and our lives in general. We feel we shouldn’t need to work with people we can’t get along with and we can’t do great work unless we can get along with everyone. The problem isn’t that we can’t get along or that we disagree, it’s that we can’t get past that sense of entitlement that tells us we shouldn’t feel uncomfortable, angry, suspicious or disagreeable. Ever.
So no. No, we all just can’t get along. But guess what? You still have to go to work next week, you still need to keep in touch with your siblings and you can definitely demand that your politicians should do the same.