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“Did you see last night’s primary?” Scott says to his staff during their morning coffee break as a team.
“Yeah. McAllister is going down! That ‘lefty’ annoys me. Talking about big government and ways to spend our hard earned money. No one in their right mind will vote for him. I’ll be celebrating when he loses come November,” Joe notes.
Scott replies, “If this liberal trend keeps up we won’t have any more freedoms. None of us will have jobs when big government steps in.” He sees his colleagues nodding their heads enthusiastically and hears echoes from his team, “Yep, that’s right.”
Scott notices that Amber, who he hired as a sales assistant to the team, is quiet. Maybe she is one of them, he thinks. “Hey Amber, you’re kind of looking quiet over there. What are you, red or blue?”
Amber is a bit hesitant. This is her first professional experience since graduating from college 6 months ago. Most of her teammates are in their mid 40s and have been working with the company for 10 years or more. She does not want any ill feelings, but she also does not agree with the language that is used and the conversation. She certainly does not want to create a bad image of her to her boss. “Well, I don’t think it’s about big taxes. I just don’t like the views of the new GOP candidate,” she says, carefully.
Scott quickly replies, “That doesn’t matter. If you’re voting liberal you’re going to bankrupt our country, and that’s it.”
Amber is taken back by the fierceness in her boss’s tone of voice and decides she will not participate in conversations like this anymore. However, in the next couple of months, her team finds ways to comment about her political views. They have even nicknamed her, calling her “Lefty.” She finds it disturbing that every time she speaks up about her viewpoints, her team instantly fires back with a counterargument—Scott included. When she has gently brought up the issue to her team, they laugh and say, “We’re just joking. Don’t be so sensitive, Lefty.”
Over time, Amber’s motivation and passion for her work decreases. She has become more guarded in her comments, and, at times, she argues back with just as much passion as the others. On the surface, the team gets along but the tensions impact their work together. Amber notices it but is afraid to say anything to Scott. She decides she wants to find another job—it is just easier that way.
As a leader, Scott needs to evaluate his self-concept and the impact it has on the team’s culture. Having awareness for how he learned his belief systems and the ways in which the beliefs and attitudes influence the team environment can help Scott to build a more inclusive team. As a leader, he needs to build all areas of his cultural intelligence (CI) including helping his team to understand their ability to work with different cultural situations. If they do not, they isolate anyone who is a part of their team that does not hold the same political beliefs.