What do you stand against?

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Or how focusing on what a company has in common with you may not the best starting point to find a team that really suits you best

Airline passengers & all customers don’t deserve to be treated like numbers on a balance sheet & cattle in a cabin“. So wrote Richard Branson on Twitter, in reaction to an incident where a United Airlines’ passenger was forced out of a plane earlier this year [ You can watch the dire-incident here ]

As journalists later reported, the need to remove someone from that plane was due to an overbooking. Meaning, United Airlines had sold more seats than the actual number of people it could accommodate on that particular flight. Overbooking being a widespread practice among airlines.

A few days after the incident, United Airlines’ pilots union issued a statement. A few lines in which they wanted to make it clear they didn’t endorse how the overbooking situation was handled. Also explaining that treating passengers in a disrespectful way wasn’t what they stood for, as pilots. [ You can read the actual statement in this article ]

Last fall, Wells Fargo was caught in a scandal for having opened as many as 2 millions fake bank-accounts, without its clients consent. [ Here‘s an account of what led to the scandal ]

In the weeks that followed the news of the fraud, journalists were able to get some Wells Fargo’s employees to talk about what led to this situation. Again, wanting to take a distance from “ways of doing things that don’t align with what we consider to be good practices” was clear. [ Here is a sample of interviews with Wells Fargo employees ]

It’s not the first time in History that employees oppose corporate behaviors or practices and say “It’s not who we are, It’s not how we’d do things”. Labor unions were formed that way; to go up against abusive and unsafe work conditions, in their case.

Civic rights movements also came to be because groups of citizen didn’t agree with the way “things are done and people are treated”.

To go up against authority when we believe something is unfair is also what any teen crisis is about.

Interestingly, “knowing what we don’t want” has also proved to be a powerful trigger to bring people together and help create different communities. For instance, the Peace and Love movement was against the Vietnam War. The Punk movement was against the late 70’s establishment. The Suffragettes were against the prohibition for women to vote.

Companies like Apple, Warby Parker (online eyewear), Virgin and many others were also built to go up against the way things were done in their industries.

Yet, when we’re looking for a new job and can’t seem to find a position or company that “inspires or interests you enough to send your resume”, most advises point in a different direction; sameness.

Define what you stand for, identify your values, and then look for a company or a team that shares the same.”

Trying to answer “What do I stand for or value?” out of thin air is hard. Because it offers nothing to rub your thoughts against.

It’s one reason why many people struggle with defining a work environment or team they would “fit” in or feel they “belong to”.

The same for when they’re looking for someone new to bring onto their team for a special project.

On the other hand, answering “What do you stand against?” spontaneously gets people talking. Providing you with that (often long) list of things they dislike or would never accept.

All because that one question has given them something to push, rub against. Not only a bowl of “thin air” to work with.

Just like when editing a text, once you’ve taken out all their “dislikes” from the list of “All possible things a work environment or team can be about”, what you’re left with as great value. Because it provides a much clearer image of what someone likes and stand for as well. Moreover, of where that person feels she would “fit” in… because that team or company would suit her best.

Finding such clarity gets pretty hard to achieve when someone only focuses on finding sameness and where she would “fits” in.

The challenge becomes easier to tackle when, instead, you take it from a different angle; defining where you would feel like an outcast.

It all starts with a simple question: What do you stand against?

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Photo credits: captain_ambiance

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