The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts


Peter F. Drucker once described manners as the lubricating oil of an organization. He completed the image with the law of nature, that two moving bodies will create friction whenever they are in contact with one another.

Organizations are set up to connect people, inviting them to work with one another and do so with a common objective. What organizations rarely can pay attention to, however, is how much these people like each other. That is, how much friction may appear in an organization simply because people find it hard to like one another.

Using known and expected manners will not change how people like one another. What it does is reduce the possibility that they’ll perceive the other as lacking respect or manners.

Manners can be seen as rituals people developed and cherished over the centuries. They allowed telling the other how much power one assumed for oneself and how much one gave the other. This eased predicting but also declaring the relationship one saw oneself in. It thus became the information of how peaceful people intended to be. One can describe this as the function of perceived respect; it describes the status one attributes to oneself relative to the other.

These may be shown through subtle signs, like who opens the door for whom, or how much one bow or not in front of the other, or, for example, who smiles first. These signs tell us how much compliance or subservience one was willing to give the other. Or said differently, how quickly they would want to step into power plays to win over the other.

Manners have lost a bit of their link to power play and encoding of status. But forgetting about them quickly reintroduces an interpretation that one’s security might be at risk in the team. Their regular use on the other hand creates predictability. Which then eases a sense of feeling safe independently from one’s liking.



Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *