Earlier this week I watched a documentary called How to Become a Tyrant, and it included rulers like Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Joseph Stalin, and Muammar Gaddafi. The episode I watched provided some scripts followed by these power-hungry dictators, such as act as if you are a man of the people.
At some point during the documentary, a distinction was made between conformity and unity, and it resonated with me because I think there is too much conformity permeating today’s organizations.
Let’s first look at how they are defined …
Conformity: compliance with standards, rules, or laws.
Unity: the state of being united or joined as a whole.
The dictators noted above care only about conformity. They want to grab as much power as possible, which gives unmitigated control over the people. They demand total control of the government and the agencies that enforce the laws.
There is also power in the uniforms that are worn. I’m sure you’ve seen a video of the military parades where sharp-dressed soldiers march in a synchronized fashion.
This is conformity.
The rulers want people to appreciate the importance of rank, and everyone must know their place in society. When laws are violated, punishment is swift … even if the laws are unreasonable and one-sided.
Interestingly, dictators want their followers to think they are united toward an important cause. If they can get everyone to believe they are all united for a purpose, they have the control.
However, this is not unity. Unity can only truly take place when people from various ranks are allowed to express their thoughts, beliefs, and concerns.
What type of workplace do you have? When making decisions, do you care mostly about following the rules? Do you always handle customer complaints based on standards? Are you afraid your manager will be upset about how you resolved an issue with a supplier? Do you feel like your managers want you to be united for the company’s purpose but won’t allow you to share your thoughts or concerns freely?
Your responses to the aforementioned questions help determine whether you have a culture of conformity or unity.
The Watch Winder Example
I have a growing collection of automatic watches, so I purchased a watch winder about 18 months ago. Recently, I noticed some of the watches were losing the time, and eventually, they would stop ticking altogether.
I could tell the winder was rotating the watches much slower than when I first purchased it. Therefore, I contacted the seller via email and explained the situation. Based on my description, he diagnosed the problem as a motor starting to fail.
I provided my date of purchase and serial number, and he noted that it was out of warranty. However, he would allow me to purchase a new one at half-price. He could have told me I was out-of-luck and there was nothing he could do about it, but that would be conformity.
Instead, he created a type of unity, one that exists between a buyer and a seller.
In this case, unity translates to loyalty. I was able to freely express my concern, and he provided a solution based on a problem faced by an individual customer.
I plan to purchase another watch winder soon, and I know exactly which one I plan to buy … one from the same company who was willing to forego company policies and focus on the needs of customer instead.