Can you work with people you disagree with?

The question is rather straightforward, though I imagine it can be interpreted in many ways. In writing the prompt, a few things came to mind (and were likely up or downstream from the question in some capacity — meaning they are connected but also likely operating at a different level).

One thing that came to mind was this notion or question rather of if you can separate art from the artist. You probably have heard people say this before, in either a sarcastic way or in a serious way — they are bringing up this idea that perhaps it is possible to appreciate art (which could be substituted for words like music or vibes or progress or ART) without needing to appreciate the person behind the art. This commonly comes up as we learn more about our heroes. Or your heroes, rather. And we learn that time and time again that “heroes” of our past are not at all impervious to humanity’s flaws. In fact, the accumulation of capital (economic, political, social == celebrities) may actually breed the worst in us in many ways (information overload, channel overload, etc.).

We sometimes distort reality when looking at things we like and imagine that the people who made said things are inherently good just because we appreciate the output of their work. We do this to protect our own identity and so that things “fit together more nicely” in our brains. (At least I think that is why we do it).

This distortion is a distortion. While we would hope for a causation or at least correlation between the two poles — someone doing something we like and us liking the person doing the things — I am not sure we can always find that (and yes, if we are looking for something, we can often fabricate it, but when I mean find, I mean genuinely find it).

This distortion gets extremely distorted as we look towards history. Because, well, and we have written about this before, history contained different systems. With different social systems in place, you can only imagine that the people (who were clearly overpowered by said systems) held widely different views and values than that of today.

And you can similarly imagine that 100 years from now, we may look back on the morality of today with disgust (this is an interesting prompt that I have touched on once before but what do you think those categories will end up being? What are the things that we do today that 100 years from now you may go to prison for or at minimum be banished from culture for? Or do you think we will move beyond that and recognize that people’s views are really the product of the systems they participate in — micro or macro — and then also simultaneously still find ways to hold people accountable for their actions…not the most straightforward problem)…things that come to mind for me that are hard to socially talk about today but I can allude to here: eating animals (though I do it), raising kids (I would imagine most people who raise kids are grossly under-qualified and underperform)…(this list goes on but this is a digression!).

So what do you end up doing in a situation where you are admiring a thing that was made by a person you not only do not admire but actually despise?

It is a tricky situation to find yourself in.

A related situation is at work. Would you work with someone where you have fundamental disagreements. Fundamental maybe could be better substituted for a word like foundational. Like can you work with someone who has a totally different definition of life than you? And different relationship with death? Is that diversity? Or will it breed diversity in your work? Or will this cause too much chaos? Is there a line here?

Could you work with someone born in 1700? Or would your foundational understanding of moral ethics around what is allowed to say versus not allowed to say so bad that you would not be able to coordinate and thus not be able to get anything done?

Similarly, when you are choosing who to work with in life (and really who to spend time with in general), are you choosing people who have similar definitions of the foundations to you or very different? Why? How intentional are you being with this?

I think about my own life as one where I probably naturally gravitated towards people who are at least in my neighborhood of foundational definitions. At least in the same area. But then sometimes I am surprised to see quite large differences. And that makes me feel distant. But also perhaps special? I can see both neighborhoods, perhaps some people cannot.

A large piece of me nowadays is pulling towards the idea that I should be surrounded by people with different definitions than me. That piece of me is growing but is still overpowered by experiences of massive frustration working with people who I claim “just don’t get it.” When in reality my downstream reaction is probably a product of an upstream misalignment. Really upstream. Like purpose of life level upstream. Perhaps words have not been made explicit but I think you can probably trace a lot of the output disagreements to something higher up. In the souls of the people.

So can you work with people you disagree with? Surely, yes, but disagree on what would be the question worth marinating on?

What are the show-stoppers? What are the okay I can live with it? When does it make sense to make any compromises?