“We all hate the man”

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Excuse me? Run that past me again.

I’d just taken on this new job. And here’s one of my team telling me that “we all hate” another manager in the team.

“The man” who was apparently hated was Japanese. His colleague was British.

I’d worked a lot with Japanese managers by then. So I knew we were different. I knew, for example, that Japanese managers work hard to develop consensus, can therefore appear to be slower than Western managers, but that once they say “go” they really mean “go”. Unlike Western managers who often reserve the right to change their mind!

So not easy, but all a question of learning to adapt. On both sides.

But note that “We ALL”.

Not just one person’s challenges in working with somebody from a different culture then, but a whole group who had perhaps been co-opted into his viewpoint.

This group stigmatisation can be a huge issue when somebody new joins a culture. An “outsider”. Someone from another tribe. Someone who hasn’t grown up in the family.

They do things a bit differently from us. Possibly the very reason they’ve been introduced in the first place.

Maybe they question some of our cherished ways of doing things. Perhaps they are more decisive. More empowering. They say, just a bit too often, “when I was at X we did it like this”. Or they take decisions we don’t like.

And so, quite frankly, we gang up on them. We blame them when things go wrong. We find ways to marginalise them.

And so, often, they move on.

But those of us who remain don’t move on, in any way, shape or form. We stick with our comfortable old ways of doing things, and we fail to learn. And everybody loses out.

So let’s find ways of welcoming the newcomer in our workplaces. They might even have something to teach us.

Just imagine!