Lines divide us – inclusion lessons from Twix

I lead my local office’s Diversity and Inclusion chapter. In multiple meetings this month, employees have mentioned that there is escalating rivalry between different groups within our facility. I knew that there was some rivalry between our two buildings, but they reported that the worst cases are occurring between each half of the same building.

In one case, an employee shared that someone had moved desks to sit closer to those he worked with, while still maintaining the same position. He had lost friends for “moving to the dark side.” The individual I was talking to was concerned that he would be ridiculed just for coming to my building to meet with me.

I’m in a fortunate position that I am able to speak about these issues. I had my company’s full support with the activity I wanted to run. Below is a transcript of what I said, and while I know that one activity can never completely resolve an issue, it is a start. I have had many employees come up to me since and offer me their thanks for saying something that needed to be said years ago. I hope that by sharing it online, others might be able to use it in similar situations.

I’m here today to talk about how simple lines and differences can divide an otherwise equal and inclusive company. First, I’d like to show a video that I hope everyone can find a little humor in.

[While I can’t share the video directly for licensing purposes, anyone can find an example of the Twix factory rivalry commercials that aired a few years ago if they so desired.]

This may seem a little far-fetched, but how easy could it be to fall into this situation – where our left and our right sides just cannot see eye to eye?

As many of you know, we are in the beginning stages of forming a Diversity and Inclusion focused employee resource group. One of the primary goals is to take a diverse workforce and transform it into a culture that is inclusive and respectful of each other’s differences. We would like to see more participation on our committee and are actively looking for participants who would like to take on a leadership role to drive this within our facility.

First and foremost, we want to bring everyone together so that our aims are aligned even when our backgrounds are diverse and our positions and functions are different.

There is a reason our “One Company” message began, and it was to gather each factory and each business out of their silos and into the collective goals of our organization. To imagine that a factory could be divided between buildings or between halves of the same building takes the need for this message even further. We are one company.

As we think about how differences divide us, many of us may have chuckled at the video shown, but the reality is that simple lines separate us more than we would like to admit. The entire concept of a line often implies a separation, and from an early age we’re taught to always stay within the lines. Not long ago, lines of segregation were used for terrible reasons, and it seems we still have more to learn. If you consider the division symbol itself, it is a line of separation. Lines between the Twix bars jokingly divided the candy factories. Lines are used in ultimatums and wars. Lines in the road dictate direction or they separate the fast from the slow. Rivers separate land-masses. There is a lot of dividing that goes on in our lives, just because a line exists.

However, if you bisect that division with another line, you find one other thing a line is good for – a bridge. Every time you cross through the foyer, instead of seeing it as a line of separation, imagine you are instead crossing a bridge that connects the most critical pieces across a large divide.

Crossing that bridge is necessary.

Today we have some treats to hand out and I hope that they serve as a good way to remember this. We have Twix bars for everyone, so as you make your way forward to take a package, I want you to take a moment before you dig in. If you grabbed a package, please turn around and find someone who does not have one to share it with, either someone you do not know or work closely with. Please share it, make a new connection, and choose to build a bridge. Thank you.

Watch a video of this speech here.

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