51 Chapters
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Ten: Human Resources Ending the Practice of Paternalism

Block, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Ending the Practice of Paternalism

THE PROCESS OF managing people, just like managing money, is everybody’s job. The human resources function, as a staff group, is a focal point for defining practices and policies that embody our intentions about how to govern. Our belief that consistency and control are the cornerstones for running productive organizations is visibly reflected in our human resources policies and in the way we expect this staff function to operate. HR too often evolves into a caretaking and enabling function whose assignment is to take responsibility for the morale and emotional well-being of employees.

 

THE TRADITIONAL ROLE of line management is to be in charge of patriarchy, their primitive statement to employees being “We own you.” To balance this, human resources has been put in charge of paternalism. Their primitive statement to employees is “Don’t worry so much about the fact that they own you, because we will take care of you.” This combination creates the golden handcuffs that make living in a world of dominance and dependency so tolerable. As employees, we yield sovereignty with the expectation that those in charge of us will care for us in a reasonable and compassionate way. As leaders, as opposed to stewards, we think that if we have protective and caring human resources policies, we have ruled with grace and kindness. Leadership does not question its own desire for dominance; it asks only that the dominance be implemented humanely. The handcuffs of control become golden when they are fitted with the promise of protection and satisfaction.

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CHAPTER 14 Designing Physical Space That Supports Community

Block, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Physical space is more decisive in creating community than we realize. Most meeting spaces are designed for control, negotiation, and persuasion. While the room itself is not going to change, we always have a choice about how we rearrange and occupy whatever room we are handed. Community is built when we sit in circles, when there are windows and the walls have signs of life, when every voice can be equally heard and amplified, when we all are on one level—and the chairs have wheels and swivel.

When we have an opportunity to design new space, the same communal consciousness applies. We need reception areas that tell us we are in the right place and are welcome, hallways wide enough for intimate seating and casual contact, eating spaces that refresh us and encourage relatedness, meeting rooms designed with nature, art, conviviality, and citizen-to-citizen interaction in mind. And we need large community spaces that have those qualities of great communal intimacy.

Finally, the design process itself needs to be an example of the future we are intending to create. The material and built world is a reflection of the connectedness, openness, and curiosity of the group gathered to design the space. Authentic citizen engagement is as important as design expertise.

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5. Sustaining the Touch of Intimacy

Block, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


sustaining the touch of intimacy.         The second condition for acting on what matters is to choose intimacy in the face of an instrumental world. The challenge is to sustain our humanity when all around us is in the process of being automated. Intimacy is about the quality of contact we make: It values direct experience over electronic or virtual experience. It is immersion into the world of feelings, connection with the senses, and vulnerability—all of which, not incidentally, are considered liabilities in our institutions. In an instrumental world people are considered assets, resources to be leveraged; they are not valued as unique and highly variable human beings. Institutions are based on consistency and predictability, while intimacy relies on variation and surprise.

Instrumentality turns our bodies into tools—or, in the end, crops. My friend Peter Koestenbaum tells of conducting a Philosophy in Business seminar with an oil company. As he begins to speak, one of the participants interrupts and says, “We want you to know, professor, that we have brains made of cement.”

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Two: Choosing Partnership over Patriarchy

Block, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

MOST OF OUR organizations are geared to solve problems and make the most of opportunities through strategies of control and consistency. Primary responsibility for these strategies lies with top management. Vision, direction, and leadership are expected to come from the top. If these are lacking, those at the top are held responsible. This approach to governance is best characterized by the concept of patriarchy. In its softer forms, patriarchy behaves like a parent. In its harsher clothing, we call it names like “autocrat.”

 

PATRIARCHY IS NOT about leadership style; it is a belief system first and foremost, which to some extent we all share. Its fundamental belief is that in order to organize effort toward a common goal, which is what organizations are all about, people from top to bottom need to give much of their attention to maintaining control, consistency, and predictability.

Control means that there is a clear line of authority. Decisions about policy, strategy, and implementation are the domain and prerogative of the leader. People at the middle and the bottom exist to execute and implement. In the context of patriarchy, the definition of service for those in charge is to provide clear goals, well-defined jobs and responsibilities, and mechanisms to make sure all are headed in the right direction. The definition of service for the worker is to commit to this direction and to be accountable to those above. Not too complicated—we live it every day.

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CHAPTER 13 Bringing Hospitality into the World

Block, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We usually associate hospitality with a culture, a social practice, a more personal quality to be admired. In western culture, where individualism and security seem to be priorities, we need to be more thoughtful about how to bring the welcoming of strangers into our daily way of being together.

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The six conversations have power when they occur in a context of hospitality. Here are the design elements for structuring hospitality into our gatherings.

Greet people at the door; welcome them personally and help them get seated. People enter in isolation. Reduce the isolation they came with; let them know they came to the right place and are not alone.

Example: Carlsbad, California

When Ray Patchett, city manager of Carlsbad, California, decided to involve the community in determining its future, he and his staff placed a red carpet from the street to the front door of the meeting place. They had people at the door to welcome people and escort them to the meeting room. At the meeting room, each citizen was personally introduced to other citizens. A local group was playing music, light food was offered. Photos taken by children were on the wall. Get the picture? When you came to this meeting, you knew you had come to the right place. Of course this took some time and effort on the part of the city manager team, but what a message of care and inclusion for the citizens of Carlsbad.

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