It’s true, here at Fringe HQ, we really can take ANY pop culture reference and make it about workplace dynamics. So after succumbing to the hit new Disney movie Encanto over the weekend, I got to thinking about Bruno. And yes, we are going to talk about him.
Besides the Lin-Manuel effect, a film like Encanto is such a smash because every person and every family can see a bit of themselves in the Family Madrigal. I felt both seen and personally attacked by Luisa Madrigal’s “Surface Pressure” number. Encanto got me thinking about all the Brunos in our lives and our zoom rooms. After spending the last five years working with organizations to unravel their internal communication issues, I have found that every company has at least one Bruno. Someone who people don’t understand but won’t engage with either.
The tragic thing about the Brunos of the world is that for so many reasons; fear, intimidation, uncertainty, no one will talk about them. This silence often leads to an outsized persona with very little basis in reality. Sure, sometimes reputation is an accurate gauge for who to avoid at work. But generally, people are good and have good intentions. So how do they become a Bruno in the first place?
Most frequently, I have found that a momentary lapse in behavior describes someone’s entire personality. The truth is, our Brunos aren’t all bad people; they
just behaved badly. Organizations would be better served to identify why their folks are engaging in this behavior rather than shunning them because of it.
Let’s add another layer of complexity to the mix. It is possible to unintentionally encourage this type of bad behavior through the silence and inaction of an organization and its leadership. Maybe you have a Bruno to start, a gentle soul whose communications can sometimes be scary. But, by never engaging with them, you end up with an absolute monster whose behavior is encouraged with silence.
So now that we’re talking about our Brunos, what should we do about them? I hope it’s obvious at this point, talk to them. Engage, ask them questions, form your own opinions about who they are and how they behave. If you are an executive or leader in your organization, it is crucial that you do this, rather than let rumor and gossip shape your view of colleagues. Most of the time, you will find out that people in your organization who behave outside of the culturally agreed-upon standards need something. They may need time, staffing, or even *gasp* empathy.
So, go out on a limb, leap across a cavernous pit, sit with a capybara, and please, talk to Bruno instead of about him.