Every Day is Interdependence Day

Like many Americans you probably are excited for the upcoming Independence Day, more commonly referred to as July 4. While the independence associated with this holiday certainly merits celebrating, I’m not sure independence in and of itself is an entirely desirable goal today.

Too often we fail to acknowledge the impact our choices have on others' well-being. The debate over wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps the most obvious and current example. Our health and safety is somewhat dependent on choices that others' make. I wear a mask to protect you and hope that you wear a mask to protect me.

Homeowners are very interdependent. If your immediate neighbors don't maintain reasonable care of their properties, it most definitely affects the price your home can attract when you next put it on the market.  I don't have kids, but I need to be concerned about the quality of our inner-city schools or else I will live in a community that parents with school-age children find undesirable.

In our organizations, individuals and departments try to reduce what they perceive as “dependence” on others in order to get their work done. While independent mindsets can lead to greater initiative and speed-to-market, we might be better served in organizations if we acknowledged and embraced our interdependence.

Imagine right now if a portion of your salary was dependent on how well you contributed to the ability of your colleagues to complete their work successfully.  Actually, it's not necessary to imagine that's the case because it actually is.

But most of us have not really been schooled in what it means to be a true team player, to operate interdependently, or fully considered what it might mean for our individual choices. 

Interdependence also seems to go against the grain of the rugged individualism that many associate with America and that they will celebrate on July 4.  If my success is somewhat dependent on what you do, what if you don’t come through? 

What indeed? That’s the beauty (or agony depending on your perspective) of interdependence: it asks us to be as concerned with the efforts of others as we are with our own.  It asks us to own the whole, not just our individual piece of the puzzle.

It asks us to readjust our priorities for any given day at work in order to support colleagues who may need our time and attention in order to complete their necessary assignments.

It prompts us to be concerned with the welfare of those with whom we work and live.

It requires us to acknowledge that some things do exist that we simply cannot do independently.

It asks us to understand our self-interest is inexplicably tied to some community interests.

So by all means let's celebrate independence on July 4, but let's also acknowledge and celebrate the freedom we possess to intentionally act in and embrace more interdependent ways.

What does acting more interdependently look like in action to you?