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Legislating Common Sense – How’s That Working For Us?

The Miami Dolphins made the news by “seeming to be open to suspending their players up to four games for protesting during the national anthem.” The leak was, apparently, premature. They really hadn’t decided what they were going to do in the coming season.

Over 40 years, the United States has attempted to legislate behavior. Don’t discriminate in pay because of gender. Don’t discriminate in housing against minorities. Track affirmative action to make sure discrimination doesn’t happen.

So, how’s that been working for us?

We are waking up to the fact that it hasn’t worked at all.  In fact, in many issues of equality we have made no progress. Women still trail men in compensation. African Americans find themselves victims of bias.  Frat boy behavior that has been going on forever in corporate America is only recently being outed. Our country is so polarized that we just keep our mouths shut for fear of offending friends and family.  And then there is the media…

Honestly, I don’t want to legislate football teams kneeling at our National Anthem. What good does it do? Sure, it gives a great photo op for national television – look how united our states are! In reality, it just deepens the resentment.

Honestly, I don’t want to legislate football teams kneeling at our National Anthem. What good does it do? Sure, it gives a great photo op for national television – look how united our states are! In reality, it just deepens the resentment. What resentment? I’m not sure we know.  We talk and listen in 10 second sound bites. We glom onto a statement that seems to fit our own personal stand on the issue, and we dig in. Perhaps Colin Kaepernick had a well-thought-through rationale for his behavior that was rooted in personal experience. Or maybe he listened to media sound bites.

So, he became a media sound bite that created a movement. Is there racial injustice to protest? Yep. Is there unconscious bias at work? Yep. Let’s get all the celebrities to proffer their support for [something]. The media loves them, so they pepper television and the internet with fuel to stoke the fire. And we eat it up.

Legislating behavior change is just about as worthless as training behavior change. Until we start talking far more deeply than sound bites, it won’t change. Change happens willingly when people believe that the change is good – for them, or for the greater good.

I get to this point in my writing – the point where I list “three ways to [add the objective here.] Yes, even we bloggers are reduced to actionable sound bites. I can think of three ways, but that’s when I realize just how quixotic it is to think that we could actually STOP the sound bites and talk about just how much we really do have in common. Then I get depressed. But I have been called quixotic before, so I shall give it a try.

  1. Muster up the courage to talk with someone you know holds a different polarity than you.
  2. Consciously look for common ground. We all probably do care about the environment. We all probably do want to maintain peace. We all probably do want to help others thrive.
  3. Keep talking. Spread the word that you want to dive well below the sound bites and understand the core of the argument. Open your mind to others’ perspective and have the courage to share yours. Somewhere, there is middle ground.

What do I really think about football players taking a knee at the National Anthem? I think it is childish and grandstanding. I think the basic premise – racial injustice – is real. I think the players probably see that they have influence via national tv, so they use it. I think this is something our country’s leadership should be talking about, finding the root cause, and beginning the process of changing our culture. I love our country’s diversity. I love our country.

There’s a lot of scholarly research out there about culture change. I’ve studied it. We are going about it in the absolute wrong way.

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Carol Anderson
Carol Andersonhttp://andersonperformancepartners.com
CAROL is the founder and Principal of Anderson Performance Partners, LLC, a business consultancy focused on bringing together organizational leaders to unite all aspects of the business – CEO, CFO, HR – to build, implement and evaluate a workforce alignment strategy. With over 35 years of executive leadership, she brings a unique lens and proven methodologies to help CEOs demand performance from HR and to develop the capability of HR to deliver business results by aligning the workforce to the strategy. She is the author of Leading an HR Transformation, published by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2018, which provides a practical RoadMap for human resource professionals to lead the process of aligning the workforce to the business strategy, and deliver results, and writes regularly for several business publications.

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