Do I stay or do I go? That is the question! When I experience discontent within an organization, I have to ask whether my presence is still helpful to the organization or has the internal conflict I feel risen to such a level that I am doing more harm than good? If I should choose to speak up, am I able to control the tone of my voice so that it accurately conveys my concerns without crossing that razor’s edge into venomous? If I’m being honest, sometimes I do better at this than other times…
I think some of the leaders who I have served alongside (or under) during periods when my opinions have not been in alignment with their decisions would have been happy for me to take the “exit” option when I have chosen to use my “voice.” Most times I think (or I LIKE to think…) I offer a dissenting voice that is anchored in the purest of motivations — a desire for our organization to thrive and live up to its fullest potential. I’m simply trying to help our group overcome what Hirschman would refer to as “slack,” that “gap… between actual and potential performance,”1 right? Isn’t this what I have been divinely called to do as I selflessly give myself to the role of constructive deviant?2 I’m just trying to do my best, even if I have to become an organizational martyr in the process! Here again, if I am completely honest I must acknowledge at least a smidgeon of self-servitude, entitlement and greed. On some level I want the organization to serve ME, to fulfill MY needs, to provide a platform for MY substantial giftedness. So, do I stay or do I go? THAT remains the central question.
If my history up until now is any indicator, I stay… I’m a serial stay-er. And I talk pretty loud, both in word and deed. Here, I tend to agree with Hirschman. To stay and exercise voice is a much more messy proposition3 than to simply jump ship and find another organization to link up with. It would be easier, and probably less painful, to just exit but I really feel a sort of divine imperative. I HAVE been called here. So in a sense I am compelled by loyalty but not loyalty in a consumeristic manner, not because it has cost me a high price to enter nor because there is a steep cost to exit. My loyalty is to God and his design for his church. I really believe he has placed me here, both to shape and to be shaped. So I stay.
I finish with a question for consideration. If my life is really not my own, if I really am living as a follower of Jesus, do I really get to choose?
- Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), 14.
- See definition provided by Bella Galperin in “Determinants of Deviance in the Workplace: An Empirical examination of Canada and Mexico” (Concordia University, Montreal: PhD Diss. 2002).
- Hirschman, 16.