!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: "You WILL get along"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"You WILL get along"

One of the more memorable experiences I've had when interviewing a subject matter expert came when I was talking to the editor of a newspaper (about 85,000 circulation). He was describing a problem he's had with two of his reporters who were hostile to each other. One was in Sports, which was housed in a walled-off portion of the newsroom, and the other was in the main newsroom.

The editor recounted that he was unwilling to tolerate the disrespect and poor working relations between the two men, so he decided to fix the problem by doing two things. First, he got rid of the walls separating Sports from the rest of the news department. Second, he put the two reporters on a joint project and told them they were obliged to make the project a success. How they managed to accomplish this was up to them.

In other words, the editor insisted on good behavior. He didn't tell the two men that they had to purge their souls of ill will toward each other. He did tell them that they had to behave in a professional fashion and get their joint assignment done well. The results, according to the editor, were positive. The reporters realized from the experience of working together that they really could get along and put their past sniping behind them.

What brought this story to mind was an article in today's New York Times about the well-known phenomenon that "birds of a feather flock together," i.e., people have a strong tendency to interact with others who have similar beliefs and tastes.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the world of business is aware that diversity has become more than a pious buzzword in forward-thinking companies. The value of having different types of people working together is increasingly recognized, as businesses compete to achieve high customer satisfaction, attract talented employees, and speed innovation. Instead of passively accepting that employees will tend to form cliques of like-minded associates, these companies are taking active measures to foster collaboration and teamwork that tap a range of perspectives and individual strengths.

One can hope that at least some people build on the often quite rewarding on-the-job experience of opening themselves to others different from themselves, by seeking similar experiences with "strange birds" in their nonwork lives.


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