Micronutiae in Binary America…Is It Killing Your Company?
As if it wasn’t clear enough in the past our recent election cycle has given a crescendo to the binary nature of our country. Equally clear is that binary has ever more narrow crossover to the middle. Espousing either perspective often seems to both send the disagreement in equal and opposite inertia and create negative feelings about the bearer’s of those differences. Micronutiae is a term I am coining to name another arrow shot into the dying virtue of journalism, news and productive discourse.
From a marketing/PR perspective one only needs to look at the recent New Balance backlash. A high ranking official expressed pleasure at the Trump win in the context of Pacific Trade Agreement and the opportunity to help their American-made shoe manufacturing. With or without the context of other pro or anti-Donald sentiments both sides used the opportunity to either demonize or deify the company. Those extremes included a loud voice in the Alt-Right movement proclaiming them “the official gear of white people,” and in the opposite direction images and calls for burning your NB shoes. The equal and opposite counter-reactions saw left-siders seeing anything, product, person or company, a Neo-Nazi embraces as horrific by association and the way right seeing anything that irks the left as part of some necessary cleanse under way.
A rational mind might look at that as crazy but consider two things: New Balance has had to continually defend itself, its public image, context for supporting a (pro-American manufacturing) trade policy and reiterate it’s core values that could hardly be considered anything other than both patriotic and sound business. I’ll confess my wide feet are exclusively in NB sneakers so like a moth to light I was drawn to see what the fuss was. Perhaps it is the next point that your business might need to examine around such fuss, what’s happening at the water cooler?
While social interaction has changed in companies large and small it still exists. Likewise, teamwork is still an essential element of process success in almost every organization. The old adage similarly endures that you don’t have to like someone to work with them. You don’t have to agree with them either but it is also true that process efficiency benefits from unity. Perhaps the more that positions are stated these days (in micro) pushing people to extremes the less likely they are to pull together, or to want to see success fall to one with certain “objectionable” views?
Micronutiae is maiming the opportunities for common ground in conversation. While there has always been pro and con on practically everything in our society we often agreed on the destination and could set aside differences on the path. That is because there was often a mutual goal at the center. People today don’t seem to share ideas and concepts and feelings about purpose and end results. At a client recently a conciliatory toned discussion mixed with reluctant hope between employees on a break changed in an instant when someone brought up, “Did you hear that Bill Clinton has a black child?”
Immediately lost was the initial direction of middle-grounding, however laborious, and turned into, “Where did you hear that?” “I read that…,” “That sounds like fake news by…,” “Who cares about…,” “You always…” In short, the minutiae of a candidate’s spouse, actual or created, relevant or insignificant, became a battleground to polarize left and right accusations, sources of information, truth in media, biased journalism…and a whole lot of ill will with an uncomfortable ending to get back to work with.
The counter to micronutiae, that compares to a tiny virus that can grow to irreparable damage in relationships, sentiments and teamwork, is for leaders to reassert common ground whether in goals, culture or company identity. Do not embrace right or left extremes, unless that is your purpose, not because you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe in but because in a company, team, society where people believe the opposite of whatever, taking the position to find what we can all agree upon, what can unite us, is where you will find connections, motivation and commitment.
Wearing your sentiments on your sleeve today, more than ever, is likely to attract micronutiae to you and have you seen as a divider rather than a unitor. Your company, your team is more likely to thrive on diversity of opinions, out of the box brainstorms, supporting and rooting for each others success than on uniting around some thought or opinion or even policy. Replace the insignificant with the ideal, wall off the detours with purpose, positivity and recognition. Journalism and news are choking for breath in today’s information age, that doesn’t mean you can’t control your company’s core message with leadership. Combined with an ideology of inclusive success you can battle micronutiae with macro messaging, passion, results and recognition.