Patriarchy,clan, people, organisations … not in that particular order

No, this post is to not bash either patriarchy or clannish culture. I have not posted for quite a while and have been busy with my consulting work with organisations. As I was looking back at some of the experiences in the past, I was struck by certain themes that seem to be repeated in many organisations, in groups of people and in our daily lives.

theme number one is “Hierarchy” – Socialism or communism or many other isms may be spreading the word of classless system or society, the concept of hierarchy is exceptionally strong in people’s mind. Many people and organisations that I come across, do dislike the idea of hierarchy when they look at the concept on paper , at least they consider it to be less desirable over other qualities. However, in their own behaviour with their own people or even among themselves, the idea of hierarchy remains very strong and it is all pervasive. It is present in the way they control information, they way they compete with each other, the way they would seek or demand services of who they believe are service providers, etc … and the list is endless.

Hierarchy does provide us with a sense of structure and consequently the safety and security of a given structure. It also binds our freedom, movement and choice making as per the norms of the structure.

What I have been finding interesting is how people perceive hierarchy from an outside in location where most find it less desirable, and how most people are almost blind to it when it resides in their own psyche. It seems as though the safety and security of the hierarchy are internalised but the rigidity and the oppression are externalised or projected out. This way, others can always be blamed for holding us captive while we do not have to take responsibility of our own captivity simultaneously.

The second theme seems to be “benevolence”: this in a way is a by product of hierarchy – benevolence can be shown in many ways. In most work systems, some of the ways benevolence is shown are by being socially polite to people, by being supportive in times of crisis, by offering facilities and social stature and by providing a patient hearing to people’s complaints and grievances. Often, in many organisations and system I have experienced, these are held with high degree of positivity and pride and so they should be as these are well intended gestures and intentions. However, in many organisations and in many groups, there runs a subterranean culture which often demands in return of those above, absolute obedience and silent acceptance of lack of justice. Often people in this culture are treated like “less than” but they will rarely be dignified by stating that up front. Resultantly, people will sense the indignity but since the above ground culture is strongly protective and benevolent, they will feel confused and will have self doubt or would blame themselves for not being good enough for the system; because they believe a benevolent system can not be unjust. Hence the culture of “not being good enough” can be a strong stick to beat people with in a benevolent culture while “we will be there for you in crisis” or “we are like one big happy family” will be the carrot to keep people within the fold.

I am watching some of these processes with avid fascination as these keep people in a stronghold and consequently finding an identity for the self as also for the group becomes synonymous with betraying the system, be it family, be it work organisation and be it relationships. Finding an identity would mean that one has to simultaneously look at the self, its own need, potency, desires, sense of respect for self and at the same time has to take into account the systemic need for compliance, conformity, collaboration and respect for systemic authority. It therefore is not very easy to straddle both the horses and often many people, groups or organisations find it easier to ride one rather than holding the tensions of the opposites alive.

what are your views on hierarchy, benevolence, etc? what other processes do you see in your respective systems? I would love to hear your stories and insights.

I live in Bangalore, India, and by profession, I am CEO of a consulting organization, an Organization Consultant and an Executive Coach. I write because I like writing my thoughts and reflections for me to review my life and the life as I see around myself. However, sometimes it makes sense to convey my thoughts to others and connect with others. Maybe it strikes a chord; may be it does not. My life has been my most outstanding teacher, which is why I like sharing my experiences, memories, encounters and other narratives that I build as I go along. I am interested in people, society, culture, ways of life, individual and collective narratives/stories as they lead us to discover each other as nothing else does. I also write about coaching, people's lives, culture, stories, mothering my daughter, believing in a feminine way of life, and most of all, believe that all politics starts from the self and personal convictions

6 thoughts on “Patriarchy,clan, people, organisations … not in that particular order

  1. >Hey Sharbori, that one went slightly over my head! 🙂 But from what I could understand, I can say that hierarchy is necessary in some organisations because there is some kind of order to it.As for patriarchy, you are right about people staying within the confines for fear of seeming to betray the system or appear renegade.


  2. >@zephyr – thank you for your comment. what I meant simply was that organisations would need hierarchy for managing their work better and it is necessary in that context. Often i hear in work org that excessive hierarchy or status consciousness,etc hinder in bringing people closer or come in the way of a more cohesive work culture. however, my point was that while people often look at the hierarchy in others, they are often blind to its existence in themselves, like the way they would behave with their subordinates, use information, etc.


  3. >Hi again!Hierarchy is important so that your orders are obeyed, so that ppl know where you stand on the ladder, it inspires the juniors to work hard.But it should not be so stiff that it does not give enough space for youngsters to show their capability.I have seen both stiff and flexible one's in my orgn., must say the flexible one helped me grow, but the stiff one made me work hard to get ahead in career!RESTLESS


  4. >Thanks for the explanation to simplify the matter! You are right, that people expect something from others while being unwilling to do the same themselves.


  5. >Hierarchy, can be said, is a ubiquitous phenomenon. There's hardly any organisation or social structure without it. It just disguises itself in different forms corresponding to the social it class, caste..or positions of authorities in companies, etc. And i completely agree with you that people sometimes are in constant denial on hierarchical question, though being in total compliance with it. And, i believe, no matter how much anybody advocates the notion of 'equality', everybody is, somewhere, in compliance with the notion of hierarchy. I believe, though, in case of class and caste, hierarchy shouldn't be followed…but in other social structures..say if there are no positions of authorities at all…it'll become an anarchy. But…hierarchy should never be complied with at the cost of somebody's self-esteem.


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