We are reminded daily about the divisive world we live in. Whether it’s in our government and politics, the different cultures we may encounter, or simply interacting with each other, our ability to get along with one another sometimes appears to be almost impossible. Yet we rely on each other for most everything we do and what we need so it only makes sense that we can accomplish much more working together than we can individually.
When we work with groups, we help groups understand this idea of achieving more by working together. We do an exercise that helps to emphasize it. I’m not going to go into more detail about it because I don’t want to give it away, but the exercise also demonstrates how our own innate sense of individualism, whether it’s as a person or as a workplace department, sometimes can get in the way and that kind of creates a struggle in itself but that still doesn’t prevent groups from working together.
What can help to bring us together, though, are many things but if we look at our own individual needs that are driven by our concerns, desires, or fears we might find we have some things in common with others. Once we realize we actually do have some common interests, it becomes much easier to work with others instead of focusing primarily on our own individual needs. I’ve listed some examples below on how people worked together or could work together based on their common needs or interests.
Several years ago, some of the large U. S. corporations and the unions that represented their employees had some common concerns and they felt they needed to work together. Each recognized changes, both economically and societal, that were impacting them. Neither side believed they would be able to accomplish what they wanted without the assistance from the other side so they decided working cooperatively would help each achieve their goals. Today, some of those large corporations and unions have walked away from labor-management cooperation but others have continued. They may have the same common concerns on certain issues or maybe other issues have come up but they know if they stop working together it will only be worse.
In September of this year in a guest commentary from the Kansas City Star, the president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO reflected on his positive experiences with the Kansas City Fire Department’s labor-management committee. Patrick Dujakovich wrote about a desire from both the union and management members to provide better services to the residents of Kansas City. He said it wasn’t always easy. Working together took some time. They went through training and came up with a lot of ideas on how to make improvements but he also said there was greater buy-in and support for the changes because more people had a voice and they were more involved in the process. They probably also had the same common interests of providing better services to citizens which also made it easier. Because the process was so beneficial, it inspired them to go beyond their own department and help with the development of a city-wide labor-management council. Even though Missouri, as well as many other states, have had some divisive labor issues come up, Patrick and his group still believe working together is too important to labor, management and the community to abandon.
In a small community here in Ohio, a volunteer group needed some help. They needed people with skills to help complete some of their projects they had started. It was suggested they contact the skilled trades unions to help them. What is so amazing is this volunteer group consisted of people who regularly complained about unions. When the volunteer group saw how beneficial the unions were and how skilled they were, they became new friends. This shows what happens when we look beyond our differences and see what we have in common. Unions strive to make their communities better just like the volunteer group. The volunteer group needed people with skills and the unions provided those skills. It also is a good representation of unions. Even though people can be against them, they still help and that begins to change opinions. Smart move!
And finally, in the larger scheme of things of how we gain by working together, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, Todd Tucker, explains working with other countries to strengthen labor unions can help everybody. Todd writes in Vox unions help improve economic conditions, help maintain democracy, and help strengthen political forces which is something important to other countries, not just in the U. S. Todd suggests developing a shared agreement that establishes the number of unions and members countries will have. Each country, of course, would have their own labor laws and regulations to help meet the goals but each country could help each other by offering ideas and suggestions. He believes everybody can benefit and it will help to keep political foes away that cause havoc throughout the world.
Despite the exploitation of the divisions between us that are being manipulated to create discord, the people in the examples above, and many other people, still recognize the need to work together because it’s better for all of us. Some are in difficult environments or situations but they still try to continue to bring people together by finding what they have in common because they know it’s worth it. They also know if they don’t try, nothing will happen, or if they stop, it’s very hard to go back. Keep trying. It’s worth it!