Rift management: Eight execs on closing the culture gap

Joan McGuire


Oregon biz leaders talk culture change, the social and political divisions that find their way into the office or factory and how they attempt to influence the hearts and minds of their employees. 

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As America enters the second year of Donald Trump’s presidency, social and political polarization has intensified.

An October 2017 study by Pew Research Center found that 44% of Democrats and Democratic leaners have a very unfavorable opinion of the GOP; and 45% of Republicans and Republican leaners view the Democratic Party very unfavorably.

By contrast: In 1994 fewer than 20% in both parties viewed the opposing party very unfavorably.

At the same time, the trend of urban counties voting for Democrats and rural counties voting for Republicans has grown stronger nationwide, a pattern also seen in Oregon for statewide elections.

With these trends in mind, we sought the opinions of eight business leaders about culture change, the divisions that may find their way into the office or factory, and how those executives attempt to influence the hearts and minds of their employees. 

Perhaps the most consistent message among the eight was the importance of communication – keeping employees informed to fullest extent possible about company business while keeping lines of dialogue free and flowing among all levels of hierarchy.

The workplace is flattening  — at Justin Yuen’s FMYI shop in Portland, employees can and do work from home while telecommuting proliferates around the globe.

And the workplace is more transparent, with a more collaborative and less hierarchal vibe: Try to find the chief executive’s desk in the spacious Portland office building of the creative agency Swift — just try.  

Some of the executives described their workplace atmosphere as a natural evolution of how humans should treat each other – in the workplace or out. 

Their approaches may be working in the office or factory, but most of them were skeptical that any chief executive, no matter how well meaning, could successfully make the transition to public office.

Only one of the executives strongly endorsed the idea that a chief executive could thrive in government; of the others who chose to comment on the topic, most found the administration of President Donald Trump to be an argument against making the jump.

Click on the following links to read how the following execs think about business and political leadership, and how they build collaboration in their companies.

Frank Foti, CEO Vigor Industrial

Liz Valentine CEO, Swift

Charles Wilhoite, Managing Director, Willamette Management Associates

Kristin Quinlan, CEO, Certified Languages International

Justin Yuen, CEO, FMYI

Valerie Johnson, CEO, D.R. Johnson 

Carol Duncan, President, General Sheet Metal

Mark King, President, Adidas