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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Get Happy

I think it’s possible to have arms-length friendship because that’s what I experience at work.  My supervisor (boss) and I are good friends, yet this doesn’t violate our professional relationship—we both know who's boss.  This understanding is what frees us to be friends.  Liberty would not be possible if we ever confused friendship with organizational equality—our working relationship does not prevent us from truth-telling equality on a personal level.  This undercuts my understanding of co-option.  Co-option is often touted in organizational literature as a tremendous problem in the integrity of oversight.  People who have the responsibility of professional independence are supposed to lose that independence of judgment through such things as friendly discourse, having meals together in which one side or the other occasionally treats, exchanging reasonable gifts at Christmas, sympathy and well wishes at times of grief, illness, or celebration--and so forth.  All these things which make living a delight (not to say deeply meaningful) are possible so long as the realities of rule are maintained.   Again, to be specific based upon personal experience, my boss came to my wedding, he expresses concern if I am ill, I enjoy the admiration and friendship of his wife, we exchange Christmas presents, to put it again simply, we are friends.  Yet this does not burden us, but frees us to be honest and truth telling.  My boss got on my case one time for being drowsy at work, for example.  Our friendship did not prevent him from confronting me when necessary.  I have nudged my boss now and then about things needing attention at work.  Difficult confrontations are facilitated by trust (not to say love) and a close working relationship.  In short, I think co-option is a sophisticated sounding concept that has serious problems.  It assumes that niceties that bring comfort, trust, and honesty to human relations are incompatible with organizational responsibilities.  I’m glad to know that’s not true.

I might add that this is also true I find at church where my Sunday school teacher is a friend to all, but in class is always in charge.  Don't sell short the human capacity to comprehend simultaneously the paradox of designated leader and personal friend.  Relax and rejoice--that's a great thing for everybody.  We are not regimented like ants, we are a special species, and we are made to be free and loving in mind and spirit.  Generosity is always possible and is the hallmark of humanity. Co-option is only a problem in appearance, not reality. This is not a friendship or human relationship problem; it is a personal problem in which individuals do not take their proper organizational roles seriously. It is important to get a true take on what redounds to organizational malfunction.

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