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“Baltimore”…Coming to a Town Near You?

“Baltimore”…Coming to a Town Near You?

I’ve been reluctant to blog about the events going down in Baltimore. Most of us are not only overwhelmed by this volatile event, but also overwhelmed by the deluge of people’s opinions and emotions. And you know what they say about opinions. Yes, I have one to, but I’m under no illusion that people are sitting around waiting to hear mine.

As a blogger, I made a decision [way back when] to blog about serious current events only if I could offer something useful to my readers—and not simply create more noise with my take on things. In this case, I’m drawing on my many years of study and work experience in helping organizations manage race/human relations and conflict.

BaltimoreRiot

With events going down such as with Baltimore—and other recent similar events—the question I ask is, “How does what’s going on impact the average working American or community that is not directly impacted or involved?”

Is this a situation coming to your town soon? Probably not. But there are some things to think about–maybe to be concerned about.  That’s what I’m blogging about today.  And while there may be many things to think about, I’ll only point out a few—along with an action to consider:

 Be Concern About:     Simple Action to Take:
Becoming “virtual victims.” Check your mindset
What’s happening in your own
community.
Sit up, pay attention and ask the
question … “how are things going
in your city, town and
neighborhoods?”
The impact it may be having in your
organization and working
environment.   

Keep your finger on the pulse of the
human relations  climate in your
workplace, organization or business.


Be aware of becoming a “virtual victim”

I’m a big believer in looking inward—as this affects the outward. So let do that first by looking at our own mindset and behaviors.

I mentioned this in a previous blog…but it bears repeating. By way of television and social media, some (perhaps many) have become “virtual victims.” It seems that some have gone well beyond observing and empathizing with the real victims and have become one. Thus, walk around with exposed hyper-emotions of frustration, fear and anger.

Why is this happening seemingly more and more?

Neil Postman wrote about this many years ago in his book Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1986). One of books major themes is that the television—and now Internet and social media—has turned the world into one giant “virtual neighborhood” (aka the “global village”). In many ways this has been a good thing. But the down is when we become “virtual victims.” We go from be observers, “OMG! look at what’s happening in Baltimore!” to victims, “I can’t believe they are treating us this way.” We go from watching the horrors in Baltimore and Ferguson and start rioting in our own towns.

We go from empathizing to internalizing.

I think it goes without saying that I’m not talking about identifying, being concerned, caring, empathizing, sympathizing, or even getting down-right pissed off at what we are seeing being played out on television. What I’m cautioning about is…taking what’s happening there and treating it as though it is happening here. In fact, our objectivity is very important in helping to solve the problem. If we become outraged victims…that’s how civil wars get started.

So what do we do about it? At the risk of sounding like the “thought-police” I’ll just offer that we all simply have to check ourselves. We have to check our own mindset—perceptions, expectations and attitudes—try to keep things in the proper perspective, look at things objectively as possible, and as my wife always says, “let’s not borrow trouble.”

Be aware of what’s happening in your own community
All that I just stated doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention. In fact, some cities and towns need to pay attention and even take action for their own community. However, in a proactive way.

Whenever I hear about a parent who lost a child to texting-while-driving or to drugs…I sometimes hear the parent say “I never thought this would happen to my son [or daughter]!” And while my wife and I feel for the parent, we also look at the situation and try to learn from it. More, we likely take action. We have a conversation with our daughters and caution them about driving-while-texting or being in the “wrong” place. We sit up, pay attention and listen. We “hear” the parent saying “this could happen to you!”

Have you thought about or heard with Baltimore, Ferguson and others? Perhaps our communities and towns need to sit up and pay attention.

I’ve worked in the field of human relations and conflict resolution for many years. And I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve experienced organizations reach for help only after some big event has gone down. Only after a sexual harassment lawsuit, threat of a union petition, or after dismal results from an employee survey do they take action. And like Baltimore, the leaders find themselves in a nightmare scenario…and forced to engage in damage control.

The leaders in Ferguson, Baltimore and other communities knew, or should have known, there were ticking time bombs. But instead they ignored it and now they are paying a very severe price and trying to pick up the pieces.

Does every city need to go on “Red Alert?” Of course not, but what they should all do is sit up, pay attention and ask the question … “how are things going in our city, town, and neighborhoods.” Are there any ticking time bombs? Could Baltimore be us?

Be proactive and don’t be afraid of the answers.

Be aware of the impact that societal events may be having in your organization or workplaces.
Workplaces being more or less structured and controlled environments—and hopefully where folks are relatively content and busy—there is little concern for a major upheaval. However, if you are a manager in an organization, it is really important that, during times like this, you keep your finger on the pulse of the human relations climate in your workplace, organization, or business.

There are divisive attitudes and conversations taking place in break-rooms and cubicles, on shop floors, and in corporate offices all across this nation. And given the seriousness of what’s going on in our nation, the deep emotions being generated, and constant visuals and negativity from the media…all of this gives rise to the need for managers to keep their ears to the ground.

In most places, there is little to no need for concern. However, in highly culturally diverse workplaces or geographical areas where morale is already low—or where cultural divides and polarization already exists—this sort of thing can deepen the distrust, increase the tension, and lower the morale amongst employees. This of course will result in more conflict and less productivity.

So is Baltimore coming to your town?  Well…that depends on the climate, situation and circumstances in your town.

So…what is your situation?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.