Graffiti, Gangs, And (Your) Teen(s)

While walking through a neighborhood recently, I noticed some graffiti writing in the middle of the street. I immediately thought to myself, “wow, do people STILL draw graffiti these days”?… Now this particular neighborhood was “nice”, “quiet”, and everyone pretty much kept to themselves. “So”, I thought to myself, “WHY would someone(s) purposely target a street in an area like this?… unless, there is more to the story here.

Upon a little further research, I discovered that this may have been left-behind traces of an unruly group. This made me wonder if this could have been some type of gang-like activity (sometimes I am a little naive to things that are outside of ‘my world’). As I continued to ponder on this, it made me realize that our teens are becoming more and more involved in troublesome behaviors and self-destructive affiliations.

My mother always said that life is FULL of C-H-O-I-C-E-S.

The current events in the news show young men (and women) spending countless years that equal MORE than the REST of their lives behind bars, because of the choices they made previously to join a gang. It saddens me to think that they will NEVER have the chance to re-consider their actions again.

On my way home, I came up with my own list of reasons why we are losing our kids to “the streets”, and violent activity. Maybe this list of reasons will reach at least one parent, Youth Leader, or even a teen who may be able to get through to a loved one, a close friend, or someone special to them and help them decide AGAINST joining a gang or making ANY potentially violent/harmful decision(s).

My list of why…

– a sense of belonging. He or she may not feel connected to his or her own family.

– this group may represent the ONLY thing they recognize as a sense of community.

– he or she may be BORED. Having nothing of interest to them to keep them busy, or to positively impact their time

– he or she may be trying to fit in, feel accepted as a part of a larger crowd.

– he or she may be HURTING, and searching for SOMEone who understands them.

– it MAY be a cry for help or attention that they may feel they are not getting at home.

– he or she may have a NEED for an authority-type figure, or someone to look up to in their life.

– he or she may want to be viewed as “cool”, or stand out to their friends.

– his or her environment may not be very positive or productive, so they may choose what is “common” and available to them. Thus, falling into a stereotypical-type scenario.

– he or she may not feel that they have inner leadership instincts, so they may choose to follow the crowd (we were taught to ALWAYS be a leader… NEVER a follower)

– he or she may not be much of an independent thinker, so they allow others (and other things) to influence their mindset and thought process.

I remembered reading an article in a Teen Voices Magazine on the realities of gang-life, and how a young 16-year old girl shared her story of how and why she joined a gang. Her story was very insiteful, and REAL. She mentioned that she was searching, trying to fill her need for someone to show her affection, and that they loved and cared for her. She wanted to be accepted, protected, and respected. She understood that many kids join gangs; believing that selling drugs, etc. would eventually fulfill their inner desire for “fancy”cars, and nice(r) clothes. She said that many feel that it is the ONLY way; not realizing the REALity of it all.

Gang violence and acceptance is a part of our society today. This issue is RARELY addressed (until someone is shot, injured, or death occurs as a result). My deepest belief is that the RIGHT decisions can be made in a teen’s life, and it all starts with the RIGHT conversation. So, let’s get talkin’.

Team Building Using Your Water Cooler Gang

Very rarely do we as leaders acknowledge our water cooler gangs. For the most part we have taken great strides to limit the grouping of individuals around, or in, a common place for very long to just chat. But, even though we have tried through building pantries, varying break times, monitoring staff time usage more vigorously, this small group just seems to be there. And, for those die hards that still meet we more or less just ignore them.

What is a Water Cooler Gang

The unique feature of a water cooler gang is that they don’t have the normal caste system that is found in other parts of our business or organization. They are comprised of members of all departments, staff groups and general workers throughout your business. The other unique thing about these groups is that they seem to be drawn together as information seekers and sharers, not for a specific purpose or limited time.

The gang is primarily composed of an information seeker, an active listener, a negative personality and an information sharer as well as members who change roles depending on the subject being discussed.

Using the Gang for Team Building

This group of people shares information throughout your organization faster than any newsletter, email or verbal distribution method. Because they come from all different departments and groups across the organization, the information that they get from their group “meetings” is shared with staff across the board. For the most part these individuals are not gossips, however they are speculators. If you are not getting accurate and timely information to your staff, the water cooler gang will speculate on the most logical answer to a question based on the input of the entire group.

Water cooler gangs were the original model of team building. People of different job classifications, skills and abilities working together to gain new, or more information and then distributing and sharing that information with their co-workers. One of the perks of using these groups is that it is not only extremely cost effective but, when directed properly, an excellent tool in your team building efforts.

What Do the Water Cooler Gangs Talk About

These folks talk about anything and everything that affects your business, their job or changes in the company. This can be very detrimental if at least one member of the WCG does not have accurate and updated information or reasons for why certain events are taking place. For the most part if there is a knowledge gap the WCG will collectively fill in the gap and many times the speculation that results from filling in the gap is the “fact” that gets to your staff and employees before the official announcement that you may have been working on for weeks.

The WCG does not meet to complain, they meet to problem solve and share information. This is to your advantage and can be very helpful in both team building and implementing change management.

How to Use Your Water Cooler Gang Effectively

Whether you have one WCG or many, this is an invaluable resource for knowing what is going on in your company and spreading news throughout.

The first step, as leader is to identify who the members of each WCG are. Once you have identified them, invite the information seeker/sharer(s) to join your Team Building Group as well as any committees that require personal buy-in from your entire staff. This person(s) will be able to bring ideas to the table from throughout your business as well as share concerns and questions that may not have even been identified at the management levels yet. The added perk to this method is that you will be able to dispel some of the negative speculation that inevitably arises when staff are not kept informed throughout an organization.

Your WCG member will take accurate information back to the gang, who will then share that information within their areas of the organization. In addition, the WCG member can bring questions and concerns back to the committees and many of the problems which become negative deterrents to change management or team building can be addressed before they become problems. If nothing else the member can at least share that an issue is being addressed when a committee has not yet made a decision which will dispel the speculation factor.

Utilizing your Water Cooler Gangs actually provides two positive results for you with minimal effort on leaderships’ part. First, we are acknowledging the existence of these groups and the fact that they are not going to go away. Secondly, we are proactively working with the groups in an inclusive way to address concerns, share information and include them in the leadership process in a totally non-threatening way.

Conclusion

By acknowledging the existence of informal employee groups, such as the water cooler gangs we are proactively including a vital component of our company in our implementation efforts from the bottom-up. This action, in and of itself, will promote active participation and buy-in from your staff and will afford you the opportunity to discover the unique take on information sharing that your staff actually have on your change management or team building efforts.

If you would like information or assistance with marketing, team building or your website maintenance please email our team at the address below.

Why Teenagers Join a Gang

Studies show that children from single parent homes are more likely to join a gang. It has something to do with teenagers seeking to get the family support and protection that is all to lacking in the home. Teenagers are also thrill seekers hence, they are more susceptible to any group or activity that might offer excitement and or adrenalin related interaction.

When parents do not regularly monitor their children’s activities, which happens a lot within single-family homes, their children move toward impulsive behavior. When teens give into impulsive activities, the results are never good. Therefore, prevention is one of the better options.

How best to keep teens on tract is a dilemma for all parents, not just single parents. It is a more difficult task for single parents because they do not have the resources to help keep their teenagers on track. Single parents work two or three jobs just to pay rent and put food on the table subsequently there is no extra funds to sign their children up for activities that will keep them focused and out of trouble.

Parents should do everything possible and more to keep their children away from the gang environment. Once the gang recruits a member, the hold on that individual leads to a lifetime commitment, voluntarily or not. Being in a gang gives the individual street credit as well as protection from other unsavory criminals. As a member of a gang, the individual enjoys a much-needed safety within his community.

As a gang member, teenagers by minor association instill fear into their communities. They walk the streets engaging in illegal behavior with little or no consequences. They do not fear the cops because they believe themselves to be above the law; some members believe they are invincible.

It will be very difficult to deprogram teenagers once they join a gang so parents must do whatever it takes to keep their children within their protective fold. The first is supervision; teenage are not to be left to their own reconnaissance due to their adventurous nature. Next parents should work on keeping their children busy outside of school. Of course, there are many other avenues for parents to address to keep gangs away from their home. Parents, therefore should not rule out any option; parents then most realize what the best steps to take to keep their children safe and away from gangs.