Nikki Walker, diversity & sustainability director at Cisco Europe guest blogs for WITsend. Nikki joined Cisco in 2009 and won the inspiration of the year award at the 2011 CWT everywoman in technology awards.
I’m in the middle of planning an annual summer family gathering. There’ll be 20 of us ranging from young to old. It’s great to spend time with everyone but thoughts and feelings can be mixed in anticipation of the family gathering.
Family dynamics are always interesting in that each person’s role in the family is defined in their youth and doesn’t seem to change, no matter how old you get and even having children of your own. There’s the joker, the organiser, the one who was always spoilt and so on.
The natural inclination of people is to fall back into these roles when they get together, even if it is no longer the way they normally behave. It’s as if it is expected and to act differently would upset the balance. It’s no different in my family.
These dynamics are complicated further with the introduction of step-relatives, half-siblings and of course in-laws. Family occasions can become more difficult as you are used to ‘your’ family’s way of doing things and now you have other people bringing in their traditions, stubbornness can set in, as “that’s not the way we normally do it”.
It’s very easy to be closed to new ideas and to feel resentment that your traditions are, in your eyes, being set aside. It’s important though in these circumstances to remember that everyone has their way of doing things and, if you keep an open mind, you can often find that different is not necessarily disastrous. In fact the opposite is often true and the end result is a wonderful collaboration of all sides.
The same rules of course apply in the workplace – different departments and different countries have varying approaches to work and communicating their ideas. What can seem as direct and open in one country can be viewed as rude in another and seemingly radical ideas in one department can be seen as normal in another.
At Cisco Europe we all have a common goal and we have a wealth of talent and creativity in each and every department. To be able to tap into this we need to all be listening to each other’s ideas and be open to changing the role that we play and the way things are done.
As for the family get-together, I’ve noted my family’s best-loved traditions but I’m also making an effort to create new ones so that we all enjoy the occasion.
Think about what your approach to certain situations is, then take a look at how others potentially see your way of handling things, leave a comment and let me know what you find out.