When is Climate Change a GOOD Thing?
“Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything.
How to sleep, how to eat, how to work, how to wear clothes…
You may ask how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you.
I don’t know.
But it’s a tradition!” – Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof
We all know that traditions can be sacred. We also know that traditions can be comforting. But when you think about some of the interpersonal and institutional “traditions” that our organizations uphold, they can feel crazy-making and soul-sucking.
Traditions like what? Like:
“We openly and honestly express our opinions…unless we’re talking to someone who can write a big check.”
“Supervision meetings are the first to get cancelled when something’s got to give.”
“We talk about the importance of work-life balance but reward those who come early, stay late, and are on e-mail ‘round the clock.”
We call these traditions our organizations’ “culture,” as in, “that’s the culture around here.” And we often say we want to change the culture, and then get defeated when we feel like it will take too long, or we don’t have the authority, or we can’t get the buy-in.
My take: stop trying to change your culture (“the way we do things around here”), and start working to change your climate (“the way I do things around here”). Think about how you speak, behave, and interact with others, as well as the messages you share about your colleagues, volunteers, organization, and community, and focus on contributing something powerfully positive. Ask that the people with whom you work directly do the same. You may not be able to create a massive shift in the well-worn traditions of your organization, but you can certainly make a healthy and helpful difference right now in the work and lives of the people you touch everyday.
After all, as David Ben-Gurion remarked, “Tradition must be a springboard into the future, not an armchair for repose.”