One Employee’s Passion Is Another’s Loss of Inclusion

Earlier this week I wrote about how people invest themselves outside of work. I think having passion about work is great, but work is work, you know?

Ask people how they spend their time when they aren’t earning their living, and you will find where their real passion is. Sometimes too much so.

I work for a company founded in Wisconsin, in an office in the middle of SEC/ACC fandom.  This means I am surrounded by Green Bay Packer fans and college football fans in general. My University didn’t (and still doesn’t) field a football team, so that wasn’t part of my college life. But once my children started college, and I started working in the south, I started learning about and enjoying college football. (With apologies to my mid-western roots, as I should be able to name the ten, I mean eleven, no, wait, twelve teams that make up the Big Ten).

Working for a global company, I have co-workers in the office in Atlanta who come from all over. The United Kingdom. Costa Rica. China. South Africa. New Jersey. Lots of different cultures and perspectives. Some with a different understanding of what “football” is. And some who don’t know the Yellow Jackets from the Crimson Tide. Or don’t really care.

One thing I have learned through over three decades of sports seasons: there is always someone who just doesn’t care about the game over the weekend. That someone might be the person who spent the weekend with their disabled parents, or maybe their troubled teen. Maybe they spend their time off working on their novel or their blog. And maybe they are ready for the Monday morning meeting to start and wish the chatter about “that fourth quarter fumble and did the refs get it right” would just end already so they can get on with their day.

There are some people who will come to work prepared for those discussions. They will watch SportsCenter and check all the scores and be ready to talk about how their fantasy team did. I’m OK with that. It’s interesting to them, and it is an interest that can be shared with many co-workers.

But I do worry about how the person who doesn’t participate in those discussions, or who is aggravated by the time they consume, is perceived by the rest of the team. That’s the person who, when feedback time comes, people describe with phrases like “He keeps to himself”, “Doesn’t engage well with the team”, or the dreaded “not a team player.”

It all depends on how you define “team”. The real question for leadership is – do you realize that these perceptions may be symptomatic of a lack of inclusion? We don’t all do the team thing real well. Or maybe not in the same way that you might be used to. But if the model of bonding excludes me because there are common interests that have nothing to do with the work we share, then that’s a problem.

If you have an employee who seems “detached”, you might want to think about what you are giving him to “attach” to.

One Response to One Employee’s Passion Is Another’s Loss of Inclusion

  1. I think you make some great points about the diversity of backgrounds in the workplace. I agree that sports events often creates friendship and unity within the office, but can also leave workers feeling left out. I especially like the point you make about how the office time consumed as a result of the sporting events can become a bother to those who are not interested. Here is a blog post that offers tips on maintaining productivity in the workplace during major sporting events such as NCAA football and the NFL. I hope you enjoy!

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