Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Refund on Your Marriage?

Written by: on October 21, 2016


In 1969, Ronald Reagan signed the “No-Fault Divorce” bill, which gave people the opportunity to divorce their spouses for any reason. We should note that his wife had applied in 1948 for a divorce, but the judge rejected it. Divorce before 1969 required two things: 1) both parties would have to show up to a hearing and (2) the judge would listen to both arguments and determine if a divorce was necessary. The vows of any marriage are supposed to be a lasting commitment, but we saw an increase of divorce, especially in the 1980s, which meant the need to ‘exit’ was stronger than the ‘loyalty’ of the vows to repair the relationship. Living in Florida, like many other states, we are a “No-Fault Divorce” state so when spouses (the customers) are unhappy (or dissatisfied) divorce becomes a product they can choose to buy (well, they pay to file for it). Most spouses have the option to seek council, but some decide to exit; maybe they bought the wrong product (marriage) and needed a refund.

cookieHirschman’s theory in this book, suggests that when customers are dissatisfied with a product, they can use their ‘voice’ to complain about it or choose to ‘exit’ to find the product somewhere else. His main argument is that our voice by itself only allows a platform to disagree, so it is hard to measure results without a corresponding action. Hence, when we combine ‘voice’ and ‘exit,’ a mechanism is created where we identify problems and possibly fix them. The voice has power, but it is reliant on the customer’s willingness to exercise that right. An obvious example of customers exercising their rights is this presidential election. We do not have the option just to leave our country and ‘exit’ to Canada, so our ‘voice’ is the decision through the voting process. If we never vote, political leaders would never know which areas are problems needing solutions.

The author continued by suggesting that our loyalty is the influence of voice. I am NOT a big fan of Walmart or Sam’s club because they are always crowded, and I do not like crowded places. However, I am very loyal to the company because they are cheaper than other stores in the area; plus I have the store credit card. It does not matter how many times they messed up my online order; I am always going back because of the loyalty. Since both stores have an in-store option, I can choose to go inside as a possible solution. One challenge we read was that of Adam Smith’s invisible hand, in which buyers and sellers form and destroy relationships as they move freely through the market; this is a sign of their exit. I can choose to go from store to store and speak negatively of each, or I can use my voice as a political landscape to communicate the need for change in the process. Exit and voice represent an economic and political action.

empty-church-pews2aThe theme throughout this book is the need to understand the existing relationship between exit, voice and how the effects of loyalty on these choices. These options create pressure because sometimes it is easier to walk away than ‘voice’ an opinion because it sometimes requires heated confrontations. These options are important to an organization because it helps to measure the decline in society. Let’s take a church, for example, when we have business meetings, the congregation has the freedom to voice their concerns. Whether the matter is trivial to us or not, it is a valid concern because their voice informs us of their opinion that might be overlooked; the ‘voice’ is informative. However, if people start leaving and we are uninformed, we know there’s a problem, but we cannot fix it; exit is simply a warning sign. Churches need these business meetings because if there’s no platform for feedback/criticism, people are only left with the option of using loyalty to guide their decisions.

Canada Geese Flying at Sunrise --- Image by © Chase Swift/CORBIS

Hirschman’s theory to emigration suggests that people can choose to leave one country to another as a safety-valve instead of voicing the option. The scheme also subscribes to the belief that people maintain strong social ties to their country of origin with intent to have a voice in its public affairs. Although a native of Jamaica, I have not visited since 2010 and have never voted or expressed my opinion in its public affairs. The emergence of transnational migration applies in my case, however, as an immigrant from Jamaica, I maintain no social ties with the country although I value the relationships with friends and family living there.

This book provides an excellent perspective in showing the relationship between exit, voice and the interplay of loyalty.

About the Author

Garfield Harvey

Garfield O. Harvey devotes himself to studies in cultural intelligence (CQ), global leadership and cultural anthropology. During his doctoral studies at George Fox University, he developed CQ Worship to help ministry leaders manage the tension of leading corporate worship with cultural intelligence. His research on worship brings a fresh perspective that suggests corporate worship begins the moment a church engages a community.

9 responses to “A Refund on Your Marriage?”

  1. Marc Andresen says:


    When you are leading musical groups and conducting rehearsals how do you deal with voice (no pun intended for choir)? How do you deal pastorally with a musician who has a “complaint” about how you are handling a piece, musically? Have you had musicians who didn’t feel their voice was heard, so they exit?

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      Thanks for the questions. When I was hired to lead the orchestra and bands, some of the guys didn’t believe they had a voice so for six months I had to reassure them each week that they did have a voice. I know there could be chatter behind the scenes but my teams know that they are always free to ‘speak their minds’ without judgment.
      Call it unorthodox but what I told them was: “this is your band and my job is to ensure you play each week.” The orchestra grew three times the size in the last year because the idea of everyone invested works very well. I’m very relational with the team so they know they have a voice, it is their voice that grew the orchestra because we grew without posting an ad or holding an audition.
      Sometimes the guys don’t like my approach but my consistency outweighs those moments so we all leave smiling. At the end of the day, they know who’s in charge but they appreciate having a voice…ALL THE TIME.


  2. Claire Appiah says:

    I always enjoy reading your posts—so full of wisdom, keen perceptions and creativity.
    I’m delighted to see the freedom of the voice option in full operation in your ministry. Do you think you could identify or discern individuals who are a part of the larger church that continue to attend out of sheer loyalty because of family tradition, convenience or other interests? That is, exit would be unthinkable; exit is viewed as desertion.

  3. Phil Goldsberry says:

    Great post! Your analogy about church business meetings amazes me. People in church’s have the ability to exercise their “voice” at these meetings and they do not show up. On top of that they sometimes fail to express their “voice” before they exit.

    At your church what are you doing/have done that seems to mitigate the issue of the exit?

    Do you feel that people have a “voice” and they just don’t express or they just choose to exit without saying anything?


  4. Pablo Morales says:

    Garfield, thank you for a good overview of the book. In the immigration section, I was reminded of a couple of Americans who have left the country as an act of voice. One left to Canada and the other left to Costa Rica. The legalized use of Marijuana in Canada and the low cost of health care in Costa Rica were the main reasons they left. It is interesting that even though so many people immigrate to this nation, there are those who decide to exit.

  5. Aaron Cole says:


    Great thoughts and insight! I too, do not like Walmart’s due to crowds. I agree with the given tension between exit and voice. As well the role of loyalty. How do you see loyalty when it comes the church, do you think it is here to stay or is leaving with the graying of the church?


  6. Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Garfield ,
    Great overview, in helping one to better understand the author’s theory by defining the” existing relationship between exit, voice and how the effects of loyalty on these choices”
    Here is where Hirschman’s theory comes to our aid. The alternative to exit is voice. The best companies find a way to reduce exit by giving customers a simple and painless way to exercise their voice. The process is called building loyalty. This principle is related to well known management principles, which point out that you get the best work out of your subordinates if you let them influence you.
    As Always above excellent! It was great sharing with you Rose Maria

  7. Garfield,

    Thanks for your insight and thoughts. Do you think that loyalty can be built within the culture that exists in the church today? Do you think the trend of exit can be overcome by giving people a voice within the church? One last question: is the business meeting (which we call a victory rally) the only place to have a conversation? Can it happen on a weekly basis?

    Love reading your stuff!!


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