Words of Wellness: February 12, 2021

February 12, 2021 - Culture of Caring - Claudia Finkelstein

We have made it through a spring, a summer, a fall and a good part of a winter since the first Stay Home Stay Safe order.

As we face our second spring, we have much to reflect on. While reflecting, I drafted a ‘words of wellness’ update. I wrote it, re-wrote it, asked for feedback, and edited over the last week and it continued to fall short. I was writing about the importance of culture change, transparency, and psychological safety. Before hitting “send” I reread the piece and it rang hollow. Keep reading if you’d like to know why.

I continue to believe that we must acknowledge we have a long way to go. As a college, we STILL have not succeeded in creating an environment that encourages and rewards new perspectives or feedback. Many still do not trust that speaking up will lead to accountability for perpetrators and continue to fear retaliation for speaking up on any topic. We know from business literature that psychological safety is the strongest predictor of successful teams and we are not there yet.

But exhorting us to act as individuals to take ownership of a situation often beyond our control (as I did in the draft) felt misguided. We know that silence in the face of long-established authority is not only ineffective but dangerous. But the cultural norms which allowed egregious behaviors and crimes to go undisclosed and unpunished for years have not been shattered. Although we as individuals have the power to be kind, to give feedback, to respond rather than react, higher level changes are required before we can be a truly psychologically safe community.

But progress is emerging. There are dedicated and determined individuals working to improve our culture. There is an MSU team working on creating a respectful workplaceThere is work by the UCFA to establish an aspirational code of conduct. Policy revisions are underway in the office of the provost.

People can change. Behaviors can change. Culture can change. Change takes time. During this evolution, continue to do what you can to care for yourselves and each other. Reflect on your own philosophies, values and principles that guide your choices. You may consider checking out one of the many valuable resources catalogued here: https://sourcelive.hr.msu.edu/?p=15434

Read more Words of Wellness from the Culture of Caring.