Thursday, February 7, 2013

Holding Dilemmas Together in the Workplace: A Sneak Preview of the Future

by Miki Kashtan

Throughout human history, stories have been a source of inspiration and bonding. Especially in these difficult times, when we need inspiration about what’s possible, when so many of us are hungry for some faith that collaboration can work, I feel so happy to have some examples that nourish me in my own work. This is, simply, about what work can be like when we embrace a deep intentionality of collaboration.  (These are three real-life stories, two of which are changed in non-substantial ways to protect anonymity.) They all exhibit the path I think of as inviting people to hold a dilemma together. I have written about this path in other contexts, and I am truly delighted to share something that can offer a visceral sense of what the future could look like, however small the scale.

A Hiring Challenge

A colleague of mine, let’s call her Jennifer, was in the process of hiring an administrator. In the process of interviewing people, one candidate, named here Susan, stood out as being an absolute fit for the scope and quality of the job. The only catch was that Susan wanted significantly more money than Jennifer’s budget; more, in fact, than Jennifer herself was earning. She approached me, initially, to get a sense of what people at BayNVC were getting paid, to help her assess how to respond. After some back and forth, what stood out to me was that she was going to make the decision by herself, without involving Susan. Whatever course of action she was going to take – accepting what Susan asked for, turning down the offer, or negotiating with Susan about a lower pay – all of that was going to be inside of Jennifer. In this, our familiar and common world, she would be operating separately from Susan, and Susan from Jennifer. Each would decide for herself what works for her.

Here’s what I said in a final email: “Does she know she will be making more than you? Are the reasons for the ‘minimum’ she wants about sustainability or about dignity/value? Dialogue with her, invite her into the dilemma, make a decision with her.”

This idea – inviting people into the dilemma – is one I am more and more drawn into. It’s one of the ways that I see myself supporting people to embrace collaboration. It’s revolutionary in its simplicity, and in general doesn’t occur to people. Most often, when I find a specific enough application, people welcome and embrace it – whether parents or bosses. In this case, with Jennifer being an NVC trainer, she was very happy to experiment, and invited Susan to have a conversation.