Will Sr. Managers Change? LO7496

Terri Deems (tdeems@unlgrad1.unl.edu)
Sun, 19 May 1996 20:04:50 -0500 (CDT)

Replying to LO7482 --

This thread has taken on an interesting tone for me, with
Brock/Keith/Joan's last messages concerning empowerment et al. Brock
recently wrote:

>It is difficult to get consultants into a serious discussion about
>such organizations, perhaps because they don't believe that such
>companies exist or that they are few in number.

I can't speak for others, but I tend to avoid discussing uncritical,
non-reflective managers/organizations because I see little sense in doing
so--when they "don't get it," I'm not sure there's anything I can say or
do that will help them "get it." I'd rather devote my energies to those
places that see other possibilities and just need some help moving from
where they are closer to where they want to be.

To some extent, though, I feel like that's something of a copout. I
believe very strongly that changing the status quo of business is vital to
changing society, and that the creation of a more just, more humane
society cannot come about without fundamental changes in our assumptions
concerning paid work (this is not to suggest, though, that this is the
only system that must be changed, only that it is one of several critical

Brock asked, in essence, how do we make people listen who aren't
listening? and What can be done on a national scale to get the attention
of some of these organizations? I think I'd make a nice sum of money if I
had sure-fire answers to those questions! But one thing I think must
happen is we need to become more vocal, more public, about workplaces that
DON'T perpetuate the status quo, and to live louder concerning more just
and humane workplaces. Perhaps we need to flood our local media with
articles, information, etc concerning alternative workplaces that
flourish, or do something like had been suggested before--a worldwide
campaign of LO folks (did someone ever get a letter started?). And some
of this will just take time; I think we'll be seeing more large
congolmerates going belly-up because of their short-sightedness et al.

On a slightly different note: I have some difficulty with the idea of
"empowerment" so I'll add this into the discussion. That's one of those
words many people throw around a lot, but I'm not always sure of what they
mean by it, or if this is really the word we want to be using. Typically,
to "empower" means to give authority to; a manager "empowering" workers is
giving them something they hadn't had before. However, the nature of this
interaction seems to retain the very power structures we are trying to
reduce or eliminate (a la Paulo Freire). The person who has it, gives it;
the person who doesn't have it, gets it.

I think it is important to consider to what extent we are doing something
FOR others (power retained) as opposed to doing something WITH others
(solidarity). Managers telling other workers that they will now be
problem-solving from work groups and creating open systems (or whatever)
are continuing to appropriate an experience of work--different verse,
maybe, but same song. Working "with," in solidarity, would see managers
and workers engaged with each other in shaping, reshaping, and reshaping
again, a workplace that doesn't just deal with change, but flexibly
absorbs it. It isn't a matter of "giving" more power to someone who hasn't
had it, but of eliminating power (or is it placing power in all hands,
rather than just in a few?). Any thoughts on this?

Terri Deems
Deems Associates Inc


tdeems@unlgrad1.unl.edu (Terri Deems)

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