Is it best for you to stay out of the fray?  Is it wiser counsel to observe what is going on around you (or try to ignore it), or do you have a responsibility to step into the action, or at least to speak up?

National politics has taken over social media.  You could probably say that the U.S. is in what those of us in team development would call “storming mode”.  We just had a change in leadership, and the new President operates from an entirely different set of criteria than did his predecessor.  Some of this arises from a differing view of the role of government, and that is the reason why people voted for him.  And now as the implications of that change in leadership start to reveal themselves, some citizens are in an uproar.

Politics isn’t only on the national scale.  It is local, it is in your business, and it is in your house.  Political strategies (let’s differentiate them here with a small p) are used to win support and ultimately to influence decisions according to a particular set of criteria.  Relationships are built (or ruined) based upon where alliances are made or broken on the basis of mutual benefit.  “We versus they” dynamics occur, where a win for one group or individual results in a loss for another.

Unity only happens when the group shares common interests, values, goals.  When the ideas of

  • What do we believe in strongly enough that it is non-negotiable?
  • Who do we aspire to be?
  • For what do we want to be known?

become bigger than the individual and small group priorities – that is when the group jells and progress is made.

When, however, the group loses sight of common interests, values, and goals they revert to the win-lose mentality.  Life becomes about the fight to prevail, sometimes even obscuring the reason why anyone is fighting. Politics (with a capital P) overshadows collaboration, blocks progress, and shines a spotlight on differences rather than on similarities.  It vilifies the people who think differently, turning colleague, neighbor, even a family member, into an enemy.

There are times, though, of testing for any group.  There are times when the questions of common interests, values, and goals need to be brought forward into the conversation.  Sometimes – maybe most of the time – it is not a comfortable conversation.  Sometimes the volume has to be turned up in order for the message to be heard. Sometimes the group’s interests, values, and goals need to be renegotiated, and sometimes they simply need to be remembered. And sometimes there are unpleasant consequences for the person or persons pressing the issue. The fact that there may be consequences make it no less important work.

If you are wondering whether to stay out of the fray or to step into it, consider whether it is really about the win, the point you  want to “score” in the discussion.  That is probably not a sound reason to take the associated risk. But if there are issues of the fundamentals, of vision, of values – these may be issues about which it would be risky NOT to speak up.  “By the people” is one of the foundations of U.S. government.  Political wins and losses aside, this may be the most important reason for you to jump on in.