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Tribalism: Culture Wars at Work

Summary: As mergers and acquisitions became a popular growth strategy, a peculiar form of tribalism has emerged. Workers compete in tribes that resist interdependent teaming and appreciation for diversity. It is natural for people to want to belong, and when they feel anxious and fearful about the future, they often bond against the enemy in a "them against us" response to the unknown. The roots of tribalism are anchored in highly stratified business cultures that create a perceived gap between upper management and those they supervise. Additionally, new hires and old hands may face off. With the increased demand for diversity in the workplace, an artificial sense of tribalism becomes an increasing threat to an organization's ability for successful, fast change. Leaders must learn to view problems as opportunities for continuous improvement and involve those affected by the problems in diverse problem-solving teams empowered through their own creative solutions. This spirit of turning problems into opportunities can quickly knock down the walls of tribalism.

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  • Topics: Teams, Change Management
  • Keywords: Human factors,Interpersonal skills,Organizational culture,Team building,Team effectiveness,Change management,Competitiveness
  • Author: McGee-Cooper, Ann
  • Journal: Journal for Quality and Participation