In Search for Power

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Let’s face it, we are a society that thrives on power. A manager strives to be more powerful than the employees, a husband strives to be more powerful than the wife and the wife strives to be more powerful than the husband. Siblings fight all the time for power and  cousins compete all the time for the title of “smartest in the family”.

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I guess we are conditioned since we are kids to appear powerful. A child gets more privileges simply because he/she is the oldest, or because he/she is the smartest in class. This power is not given in the form of more rewards  but rather in the form of a privilege to control. After all, what is the role of the class monitor exactly? If you think about it , his/her role is to tell on classmates that fall out of line. Of course, this role is only given to the student who shows academic distinction.

Funny enough, along with this power, which really is nothing more than the power to snitch,  comes endless praise from the family and envy and admiration from the peers.

Similarly, the older sibling has the privilege of punishing his/her brothers and sisters with age being the only judging factor. The siblings end up respecting their older brother and sister, and the parents praise him/her for his or her ability to discipline.

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The wife feels more powerful when her husband doesn’t visit his parents often , or when she doesn’t name her daughter after her mother-in-law. She feels that she won the major power struggle in which she gained control over the husband’s mom. The husband feels more powerful when he demands that his wife is home before 6:00 pm and when she obeys him out of fear. The father feels powerful when his kids fear him and the mother feels powerful when her kids do as she says. In fact, most Arab kids hear the phrase “Ra7 A7ki la Abook!” (Meaning: I will tell your father) . This is a mom’s response to a kid failing to behave. Thus, making the father appear as this big powerful figure one cannot disobey.

Within this conditioning many of us grow up well trained in  the actions of power which are really just the actions to control.  Others  resent the fact that they never had real power as kids so they make up for it by seeking a managerial role which , in Jordan, does grant them the power to control. In some cases, such people have no real interest in mentoring people, leading people, or motivating them, they just want to do all these activities that they have been taught make them powerful.

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This is exactly why some managers within some organizations forget to measure the output of employees and instead they turn their attention to issues related to attendance, dress code, tone of voice, and behavior.

I do understand that one ideally wants to work with people who combine all attributes of good image, good behavior, and good work. However, there are times in which we take the exterior image too far. A very efficient employee can get a warning for arriving late to work . Power seeking  managers will turn their attention to other issues like when and how many times the employees left their desks during the day. They feel it is within their right to question employees about issues related to their personal lives.

For example, some employees can be questioned and interrogated about their interests and activities  outside working hours or even where they went out with friends, as these managers have come from a society that rewards good deeds with excessive control.

I am not making this up. This line of questioning and this managerial line of behavior does exist in Jordan. An employee can also be interrogated and even asked who they were talking to on the phone. Or, they could be asked about a post they put on their personal Facebook page. Forget freedom of expression, it doesn’t exist according to some people.

I assure you that I was once required to write to an HR employee a written explanation as to why I arrived 4 minutes late to work, right after she actually placed a leave form on my desk for arriving 9:04 instead of 9:00 . I don’t work in that organization anymore. However, I do remember feeling pathetic for having to fill in that line in the leave form.

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I think that many people forget that true power comes from inspiring, and not from controlling. It comes from motivating and magnifying what your team did right, instead of magnifying what the team did wrong. It comes from a manager standing with the team and not with the administration against the team. Its real measure comes from how much your team wants to work with you, and not how forced they feel to work with you.

Therefore, my post is a call to all leaders out there to know the difference. After all, it is always better to gain power by your actions,. instead of having to demand power through force.

Regards from the severely demotivated

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