Distance Doesn’t Equal Different

Internships offer a unique vantage point into the dynamics of an institution due to the limited length of the program. The newcomer may interpret problems that cause employees to complain or place blame differently. My experience today at a staff-wide meeting further reiterated this concept; it also emphasized something I have noticed since arriving in South Africa: institutions worldwide face similar issues.

The communications department hosted today’s meeting and highlighted an issue that most Americans relate to. Despite speedy communication devices, people still struggle to contact one another and share relevant information. And as usual, it comes down to the protocols that have been set in place. No matter how sophisticated the system is, if the people outside the communications department don’t know the protocols, then they simply won’t follow them.

Today’s meeting set out to solve this issue, and it may very well contribute to fixing the issues in communication, but as an outsider I felt that neither side came out of the meeting compelled to whole-heartedly tackle the problem. It seemed as if the staff felt accused by the communications department of ignoring simple rules, leading to aggressive questioning of said department by the audience. Which ultimately led to defensive retaliation from the communications department that made them appear arrogant in their stance. Each side offered solutions (e.g. intranet database of protocols, interdepartmental committee to revise communication forms, etc.), but I think these were lost in the hostile environment of the room.

I tell this tale of a sour meeting, not to headline an issue specific to Iziko, but to highlight the similarities between this country and the rest of the world. In my other jobs and internships in the United States communication has also been a key issue. Our world becomes more and more globalized every year, and as a result people face similar struggles worldwide. Now that isn’t to say that America and South Africa don’t have their own distinct challenges, I just feel it’s important to note the sameness between our countries. It often seems when I talk with people here they feel burdened by problems they considered strictly South African. Yet, I share stories with them of issues back home that seem parallel. I know I feel more at ease knowing  the challenges we face in America are common elsewhere, and I hope that by sharing with people here I help them feel a little less alone in their issues.


One thought on “Distance Doesn’t Equal Different

  1. Ahhh, yes, the dreaded communications protocol meeting! So true that it is a common predicament of all institutions. I’m always fascinated too by all the articles/studies describing how our insistence on communicating via devices is eroding our ability to actually say anything to each other.

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