The battle in Wisconsin over public sector unions has left the state terribly divided. This Washington Post piece from a couple of days ago quotes a range of people, describing an intensely polarized environment:
“My best friend is pro-Walker,” said Bruce Brewer, a Democratic in the Milwaukee suburb of Glendale. “We’ll talk about everything else and he’s been there for me and vice versa for 30 years, but suddenly something’s come up that’s divided us so intensely that we can’t even talk about it.”
Barb Johnson, a Walker volunteer, from Waukesha, said her sister-in-law was a teacher, a good friend, and an opponent of the governor.” We try to keep it — you know, we still talk to each other, but it’s hard,” she said. “I think it’s harder than it’s ever been.”
It’s a sad situation. I’m not so vain as to suggest org could have avoided the disaster in Wisconsin (it’s not exactly our classic client profile). But we do see in Wisconsin the “us or them” attitude that is so damaging – an attitude we've helped many organizations get beyond.
We enter organizations where, as in Wisconsin, there is intense antipathy. Both sides are entrenched in their positions and do not want to give any quarter. The parties believe there are only two possible outcomes: “They win, or we win.”
It's our role to find a third way. Using our innovative techniques and processes, we lead organizations toward fundamental, sustainable change. We engage and transform workforces. We help management and labor leaders communicate effectively to ensure success, both for the individual and for the organization.
Could strategies and processes like ours have helped in Wisconsin? I’m not sure. But I do think there is always another way of looking at a polarized situation. Organizations with once toxic and adversarial environments have transformed and rebuilt on a foundation of trust and collaboration. Change happens!
It’s hard to fathom that in Wisconsin right now. But maybe someday? Imagine …