Bringing it ALL to Work

I remember it like it was yesterday. I still remember this supervisor looking at me and yelling, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WOULD NOT CHOOSE THE MINISTER?”
Ok, Ok – this is a pretty old memory (from the late 1980’s), so it could be that I don’t have the details quite right. Maybe she did not really yell and maybe everyone in the room did not turn and stare at me and maybe I did not turn beet red. Or maybe some of this is how it really happened. In any case it was definitely one of my first lessons in how ALL of our various belief systems come to work with us.

This lesson was brought to me courtesy of what started out as a harmless team building exercise. Or so I thought! Now here is where I really do not remember all of the details, but the exercise/game went something like this:

  • You are going to be stranded on a desert island (why isn’t ever a dessert island, with lots of chocolate? Oops sorry.) You are going to be stranded on a desert island and you can only have five people with you, who do you choose?
  • The choices you are given are roles like, doctor, fireman, (hey it was the 1980’s, and I don’t think we were being politically correct yet), police officer, minister, construction worker, manager etc….
  • Each person selects their list of five choices and then brings their list of five to a group discussion.
  • Within the group you discuss and debate and then as a group you must select the people you would have with you on the island and present this to the rest of the class.

I made my five choices. I don’t even remember what my five choices were, but as you can tell I still remember what one of my choices was not. I did not have the minister on my list of five and this really upset our group facilitator. Which lead to her yelling out, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WOULD NOT CHOOSE THE MINISTER?”

I am sure I had my own strong reasons for the choices I made and silly me, I thought that my choices would be taken objectively and not as an affront to anyone else’s belief system. By the way, this was at a Savings and Loan, not a church or a company with a religious affiliation. And I was not the only who left the minister behind (sorry Reverend).

What I learned that day was that at work there is no separation of church and state. At least not for some of us. Of course later I understood that her reaction was extreme and unprofessional, but I also realized we are all a product of many factors. And most of us don’t just check those factors at the door on the way in.

When we come to work we bring EVERYTHING with us. Placing extremism aside, this is truly a good thing. How boring would it be if your department potluck consisted of all peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Isn’t it great that your potluck includes curry, dim sum, sushi, carnitas, fried chicken, spaghetti and meatballs and all kinds of good things? Of course. And of course it is wonderful when you get to work with people from different backgrounds and with different belief systems. When we can all bring our whole self to the table, everyone benefits from the exposure to different perspectives.

But I still consider myself lucky that that supervisor from the desert island game did not write my reviews.