Thursday, October 22, 2009

Loyalty and Trust 2

@peterbregman has just posted a recommendation to Diversify Yourself (via @RSessions) prompted by the same topic as was my recent post on Loyalty and Trust, namely the alarming level of suicides at France Telecom.

Peter points out the danger of investing all your identity in your job. When a woman kills herself because she can't take the new reorganization, that sounds like a dreadful lack of work-life balance.

There is an apparent paradox here. In some organization cultures, loyalty and trust is understood to entail total commitment to the firm, which takes precedence over all other concerns. There is a sexist view that women cannot be expected to devote everything to the firm - not just the belief that women are more likely than men to take time off work at short notice because a child is sick, but the belief that women may be less willing to take the firm's agenda seriously. In such cultures, some women may feel the need to prove themselves all the more, either as individuals ("I'm not like other women") or collectively ("we women are not as men imagine"), and attempt to outdo the men in the loyalty and trust stakes.

And yet this kind of loyalty and trust is a brittle one. There is nothing loyal or trustworthy about jumping out of a window, or about stabbing oneself in the middle of a meeting. Authentic trust depends on a stable character, which depends on proper social and psychological foundations. 

When meeting new people at work, we often like to share some personal information, just enough to show that there is some life outside work. Part of the motivation for this sharing is because a more rounded and multi-faceted picture of a person generally makes it easier for us to trust them. Thus diversification of your identity makes you (among other things) more trustworthy.

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