Jun 7

The Dark Side of Care II

Stephan Polomski
Stephan Polomski is director human resources, coach and trainer

For me, care is a difficult notion. Karl Popper said: “The attempt to make heaven on earth invariably produces hell.”

Where does care begin, and where should it stop? When do we talk about care, and when are we dealing with business? Is it possible to care, when we are aiming at profit maximization? And are we caring, if we are not keen on doing business and growing wealth?

I feel, all of this is a big trap. Because, where ever you take your positioning, you will find adversaries who will certainly fight you with certainly splendid arguments. In other words: whatever you do is wrong – - or right, according to your perspective.

I started to think about it when we started to re-position Merck Thailand on the notion of CARE. And again in a blog I wrote in August 2009. And in March 2010.

In March 2010 I attended a 5 day professional training in systemic conflict management. One of the group exercises was to decide to rescue 6 people out of a cave in which the water is rising. You only could rescue them one after the other risking that the last of them might drown. The task was to provide a short list for the rescue-team, the only information given were the CVs of the six people.

This exercise was extremely painful as the group tried to find the seemingly right answers – - a hopeless undertaking. All of a sudden, you find yourself in the middle of fascist approaches and not even the “highest” values in the name of life would have ever justified your choice. Humans are no gods.

So, the experience showed me that even a value focused individual life; a value focused corporate identity with trustworthy and authentic actions in the foreground, will not provide a measure to take decisions in a way, that you will not find adversaries, opponents, people who are set back.

And this is true for a notion like CARE as well.

And even more, when it gets mixed up with business.

For you: yes, we care – and for you: no, we don´t. And at the same time, via CSR, I try to make a bargain out of it. Because it is about money.

So what? This is not a crime, when in the end the both sides have an advantage. What kind of morale is this??

Some of the Buddhist teachings I read recommend not to acting at all. So, how are we dealing with Amnesty, Greenpeace, street workers, the Salvation Army and, and, and?

“Look at the Catholic Church, look at politicians, especially the social ones; look at the green logo of BP. – All born to fail; all in the lead in certain contexts.”

Look at the Catholic Church, look at politicians, especially the social ones; look at the green logo of BP. – All born to fail; all in the lead in certain contexts.

And what about CARE now?

Friedrich Schiller, one of my favorite authors of the German classicism in the eighteenth century, said that the highest way to care for somebody is to sacrifice your life for somebody else. He calls it love sacrifice.

Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Therese, and all those, who are unknown… – what does it take, to integrate into your attitude what might be fallible, in order to hold up to your standards?

Arnold Mindell calls this: to sit in the fire.

In his book “Sitting in the fire” Mindell points out that even in humanitarian societies or companies the belief is widespread “First our interests and second those of the others, and second only in case they support our objectives.”

The challenge here is to accept all possible view points and integrate them. Because if not – marginalization takes place, minorities are created, powerless are created and will form up to be adversaries. This leads into conflict.

Sitting in the fire – and thus taking care by deploying a high level of awareness for this mechanism – means to endure conflicts and to pace them down to a balance or temporary solution. In terms of change management, this approach is based on the awareness of how humans really make a contact with eachother and build up relationships.

And actually, inside this kind of awareness (or care) there is everything in: all those suppressed emotions, unfulfilled needs, the search for happiness and meaning – all topics which are crucial for organizations, regardless of their vision and objectives, says Mindell.

And it is hard to be a caring leader at that point.

Because caring does not imply those, how do not want to care…

How to deal with use or abuse of hierarchical privileges, rivalry for power, racial issues, relationships in between men and women, old and young, misuse of nature, and spiritual questions. Mindell says, as long as we do not admit that diversity is existing, we kindle the fire in which we are actually sitting.

Integration by admitting diversity and thus balancing social systems could be a thin line to a trace what caring leadership might need to do in order to stay on the light side of CARE.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, Edmund Burke reasons.

Our turn now.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 7th, 2010 at 05:59 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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  1. Gerrit Pelzer Dr. G says:

    A profound analysis which I enjoyed reading.

    Two thoughts came to my mind spontaneously.

    1) With regard to the theoretical (and at the same time maybe not so theoretical) example of the rescue of six people in the cave: the worst thing the rescue team could do is wasting time by short-listing people based on their CVs, consequently risking the death of the whole group. Thus, I cannot agree with the alleged Buddhist teaching not to act at all. I fully subscribe to your Edmund Burke quote.

    2) I still wonder if “business” and “care” have to be in conflict. The question for me is what is the purpose of a business. If the ultimate objective is making money, I might just pretend to care for the people and abuse them in order to make more money. If I genuinely care for people, and the objective of my business is to make people’s lives better and to contribute to society, then I will be willing to sacrifice (short-term!) profit maximization.
    Personally, I am convinced that in the long run only the latter approach will be sustainable. But this is just another opinion…

    Diversity exists. QED.

  2. Sorry, for my late reply.

    I focus on your item 2 and quote what Michael Porter and Mark Kramer share on a Harward Business Review Release of 2002 on CSR (and CARE):

    “Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy – When it comes to philanthropy, executives increasingly see themselves as caught between critics demanding ever higher levels of “corporate social responsibility” and investors applying pressure to maximize short-term profits. Increasingly, philanthropy is used as a form of public relations or advertising, promoting a company’s image through high-profile sponsorships. But there is a more truly strategic way to think about philanthropy. Corporations can use their charitable efforts to improve their competitive context–the quality of the business environment in the locations where they operate. Using philanthropy to enhance competitive context aligns social and economic goals and improves a company’s long-term business prospects. Addressing context enables a company not only to give money but also leverage its capabilities and relationships in support of charitable causes. Taking this new direction requires fundamental changes in the way companies approach their contribution programs. Adopting a context-focused approach requires a far more disciplined approach than is prevalent today. But it can make a company’s philanthropic activities far more effective.”

    To me, this quotation still sounds ambiguous, as there is still the condition of the competitive advantage. A true gift is free of a hidden or less hidden agenda.

    If leaders find an attitude to commit their activities to humanity through business and money making, I will not see a conflict. What happens today is, that many leaders use live, intelligence and action for the sake of mere profit maximisation instead of using money and action and intelligence to enhance their own live and the live of others.