Listening can be difficult; that’s often an early lesson learned and hopefully one paid better attention to as life goes on. I’ll admit that’s been the case for me.
Listening is especially important in business. Customers, co-workers, suppliers and vendors all have points of view that are worthy of consideration. Listening is probably the most cost-effective form of research. Listening to family members is always helpful, too. That said, it’s surprising what you can hear.
Not long ago, a family member told me that COVID was like the flu — never mind that it has killed more than 4.6 million people globally in less than two years. The flu doesn’t even come close to that. Others will say they don’t want to get vaccinated because they don’t know what’s in the vaccine. Really? Do you know what’s in your fast food diet? Has everyone suddenly become a scientist or epidemiologist? More likely, they’re grasping for excuses to justify their behavior.
Beyond the vaccination problem, the magical thinking that what one chooses to believe makes it so can become even more extreme. Secret space lasers are causing wildfires? Bill Gates is using vaccines to implant the world’s population with computer chips? Who believes this stuff?
It seems as if there is now a global conspiracy theory for anyone willing to believe such things despite an overwhelming lack of any proof. Just because something can be found on the internet doesn’t make it true.
On Sept. 9, the Capital Region Business Forum, a joint effort of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce, featured a panel discussion with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser. When asked what the business community could do to help the economy get back to normal, these leaders were in broad agreement that vaccinations are a top priority. As Northam put it, “We are engaged in biological warfare and the enemy is COVID.”
The same day, President Joe Biden issued a new mandate for all companies with 100 or more employees to require vaccinations or proof of recent negative COVID tests.
Why is that a big deal? Some would say such mandates infringe upon individual liberties or that businesses should decide such matters for themselves.
Frankly, it is a relief for the business community to have the government taking a more proactive role in solving what has become a pandemic among the unvaccinated. Why should the business community have to take on the role of government? We already have our hands full trying to keep companies running under unusually difficult circumstances.
The individual liberties argument also falls flat. If you want to drive, the government requires a driver’s license. For safety reasons, there are posted speed limits. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), under which the vaccine mandate falls, has always set standards for workplace safety. Helmets, sturdy work gloves and steel-toed shoes have long been required for certain types of jobs. This is nothing new.
The U.S. just marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Since that time, the Transportation Security Administration has required everyone entering the concourse of a U.S. airport to be ticketed, show proof of identity, pass through a metal detector and subject their baggage to searches.
Battling the virus is about the safety of our health. In that regard, the vaccine mandate is no different from any other workplace or transportation safety policy. It is a legitimate role for government to play. Public safety should not be an individual or business choice. It is just the right thing to do.
It is time to move beyond magical thinking. Private industry should not usurp the role of government. That’s the only way we will ever get back to business.