Rights, Responsibility, and Reality

My Rights!  You hear a lot about my right to do certain things, or to make certain decisions.  Our country was founded with the idea of inalienable rights and yet today we struggle to understand how we balance our rights against the greater good.  Going too far in either direction brings negative consequences.  So how do we weigh this out in our workplaces and with our teams?

Individual right to freedom, equity and safety are critical components that we should all protect.  No matter who the person is, or what their culture or background are comprised of, every person should know that they are valued. That they are invited to be their whole self, and to know that they can work in a protected and safe place.

This is more difficult to define when those real or perceived rights begin to create difficulty for the team.  We are seeing this in real time as companies struggle with the question of whether to mandate COVID vaccinations or masking.  When the government reviews these questions, they do so against the backdrop of the greater good.  How will someone using this right not to become vaccinated impact the community or country.

First, let me be very clear that there is no one size fits all when weighing out these tensions.  Leaders must thoughtfully consider the following factors:

  • How will a company wide requirement impact various individuals within the team?
  • How will allowing personal choices impact the team?
  • Do the risks outweigh the benefits?
  • Are there alternatives which would allow both personal choice and the safety of the team?

In the example of COVID vaccinations, some companies are using a combined approach. This combined approach states that you must be vaccinated, or work remotely, or wear a mask and be tested regularly.  It seeks to provide safety for the needs of the team while allowing individuals freedom to choose for themselves.

No one answer is right for every situation. Leaders must carefully weigh out not only what are they allowed to do, but also what is the best thing to do for individual team members and the team as a whole.  Likewise, individual team members must remember that they are part of a larger team.  That brings responsibility to other team members and the reality that their decision is not just about them.

The best teams and organizations are those that can see the bigger picture. They can appreciate the need to uphold the greater good while protecting individual rights.  Pushing for win/win solutions is the definition of successfully resolving issues.  This is not easy to accomplish, but if each person remains open to balancing the rights and needs of each person, with the needs of the team, we can overcome huge obstacles and issues.