I started writing this post to talk about the obligations of becoming product in the world, being in relationship with people who sell product, including publishers and producers. People buy what they know, what they feel comfortable with, so to work with people who sell, you have to deliver what people will buy.
This weekend, I have been responding on a transgender list to someone who wants power in the world but refuses to do the hard work of building organizational power, refuses to assimilate in any way. They claim they don’t want to wait for others to give them scraps of power, but the only power they are willing to make is “non-organizational” power, the power of the gadfly to make organizations do what the troublemaker wishes.
In other words, they refuse to do the hard, thankless and messy work of the parent, building community and coalition that empowers others, taking care of the details and paying the bills. Instead, they want to stay the child, squalling in the back seat, demanding to be given power while refusing to take responsibility.
I’m sure they don’t see it that way. They see themselves as virtuous and radical, throwing bombs to destroy oppressive structures, trusting that anarchy will rush in to rebuild better and more liberated structures afterwards.
I’m sorry, but the feminist revolution is almost over and Audre Lorde lost, as brilliant as some of her insights were. Who won? Hillary Clinton, as pragmatic and compromising as she is. I’m cool with that outcome.
Well, here is my essay on the obligations of building community:
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When we go into partnership with one or more other people, we have some level of obligation to meet their expectations of us, just as they have some obligation to meet our expectations of them. You give something to get something.
That’s just the deal in human relationships. We trade our strengths to take care of each other, offer our own capabilities to lift the entire family, team or company. We do our part and others do their part and together we create synergy, creating something that is more and better than the sum of our parts.
On a personal level, this exchange is understandable, even if challenging. We need to listen clearly to what others need of us, to how they have seen us let them down in the past, and work to be better partners, coming through and delivering what they need from us.
On a corporate level, this exchange can be more baffling. When we are just hired to follow instructions, comply with the rules, the exchange is relatively simple, even if sometimes less than pleasant. They want more for less, and we want the same.
When we are expected to deliver our own creative product to the organization, the exchange gets more complicated. In that case, we have to follow the system’s rules, consider the expectations & fears that others hold to pressure us, and still stand up for our own understanding of what is right and effective.
In effect, we have to deliver product that is uniquely and effectively ours while also meeting the expectations and demands of others. Is this an unreasonable ask from any organization? No, it is not. Is this a hard thing to deliver for any individual? Sure is.
Being a manager is an act of service to the people who work with us. It is the obligation of the parent, the one who takes responsibility to lead the group in a way that both sets and achieves goals, but also fosters the growth and development of each individual so they can take their place and contribute more.
Everyone has these challenges. That’s just the way human relationships work.
(and if you want my notes on organizational power, just ask)