Relationships in a World of Individualism

  • rWorld

    The rWorld is about more than Dale Kuehne's book Sex and the iWorld.
    The rWorld is a New England based, non-profit (in formation), that is composed of a growing number of people and organizations from many faith and ideological backgrounds worldwide. We believe that much of the fulfillment for which women and men are looking can be found by enhancing the quality of our relationships. While the individual freedom we enjoy in the West is a gift, the love and intimacy for which humans yearn will not be found in self-serving materialism or hedonism, but in a variety of healthy relationships.

    Contact us if you'd like get involved:

  • Dale Kuehne

    Sex & the iWorld

    Professor of Politics and The Richard L. Bready Chair for Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH.

    In this blog I'm highlighting signposts of the world in which we presently reside as a means of helping promote a civil, and meaningful dialogue about what kind of world in which we wish to live. I am particularly interested in exploring how might we reconcile the individual good and the common good, and where reconciliation isn’t possible, which should take precedence and why.

    I also blog at

    [Content Caution]

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rLiving 4: Corporate Trust (Power)

Posted by Simon on December 3, 2010

This tweet caught my eye, and had me wondering about the relational basis of trust:

The article by Stephen J. Gill, Ph.D includes this quote from Nick Sarillo, the owner of Nick’s Pizza and Pub, describing how performance and employee turnover was wrecked for a time because of a lack of trust:

Managers trained in command and control think it’s their responsibility to tell people what to do,” Sarillo says. “They like having that power. It gives them their sense of self-worth. But when you manage that way, people see it, and they start waiting for you to tell them what to do. You wind up with too much on your plate, and things fall through the cracks. It’s not efficient or effective. We want all the team members to feel responsible for the company’s success.”

Relational Proximity Dimension #4 is “Parity”. The greater the asymmetry of power between me and someone else the greater the potential for difficult and strained relationships. This asymmetry can be real or perceived, and its affect on relationships can be more about the use and misuse of power than the mere existence of power disparity.

The reality is that Sarillo and all his managers have power. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s what makes them managers, empowered to carry out their responsibilities and make decisions. Arguably, it’s their proper exercise of power that enables others to trust them and so get on with their own responsibilities. And command-and-control is not always in opposition to trust. The armed forces rely on it (not absolutely and not in all circumstances, however).

But a pizza company? The misuse of power and/or the identification of power with status – as in the quote above – resulted in gross mistrust.

What can someone with power (whether it seniority, physical, monetary etc.) do to build trust without necessarily giving up that power? I’m 6’2″ and my daughter is 3’4″. How do I exercise my power in such a way that enables the relationship to flourish? So in thinking about your relationships with others, to what extent does real or perceived power imbalance make the relationship harder and erode trust? What can you do about it?

[Click here for the introduction to this series and the five dimensions of Relational Proximity.]


2 Responses to “rLiving 4: Corporate Trust (Power)”

  1. Hello Simon, I appreciate how you have indentified this parity and also mentioned “perceived power”. One subtle and important thing we (the managers or leaders) do when having a performance conversation with a team member is to sit down in a chair so that we are physically at the same level as the team member. I feel this really has an impact with our high schoolers.
    Thank you for referring to my story as well,

    • Simon said

      And thank you for adding to this story, Nick! That example you give of physically sitting at the same level is a great visualization of ‘parity’. It’s amazing the number of very subtle things a manager does that can establish or destroy a sense of parity. For high-schoolers especially I can imagine that subtle choice to sit on a level is a powerful sign of your respect for them.

      Thanks for commenting!

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