The Focus on Rights is a Worrying Indicator

When someone asks me to find out whether an enterprise’s organisational culture is unhealthy, I will typically look for one surprising indicator.

To really get a sense of the health of an enterprise you need to get into the enterprise and see what is going on underneath the surface. To do this you need to have a close look at the nature of the interactions between people within the enterprise. One of the surprising indicators I look for is how often individuals raise the issue of their personal rights when interacting with others. In other words, when I see that the people in an enterprise typically engage each other on the basis of what they should be given as their right, my prognosis for the enterprise will not be good. When people focus on their rights, it is a worrying indicator in an enterprise.

What is Wrong with the Focus on Rights?

Paying attention to one’s rights in a situation means emphasising what the other owes the self. The focus on rights is therefore similar to the focus on expectation and needs; it cultivates the psychology of a victim in the self and breeds a worldview of entitlement. By contrast the focus on duties places a person’s attention on what they should be giving, and it therefore cultivates the psychology of freedom.

To construct one’s intention on expectations, needs and rights is to become the slave and the victim of the other. To pay attention to one’s contribution, values and duties is to cultivate freedom. Freedom is concerned with basing one’s intention and attention on one’s duties, on what one should contribute. This is what you actually have power over, this is what sits in your hands. Empowered people are people who are able to concern themselves with making a contribution.

It is for this reason that I say that the liberal understanding of human rights fundamentally undermines the individual’s accountability and therefore entrenches his/her disablement. This establishes the conditions where people are permitted to pursue and remain equal to the worst in themselves. This destroys the individual and the organisational culture at the same time.

You only have a successful enterprise and successful teams and empowered people when the people within the organisation do not focus on their rights but rather focus on their duties. This translates into interactions in which people within the organisation are trying to set each other up to succeed, what they can contribute, rather than what they are entitled to be given. When people engage each other on the basis of what the other can do for the self, i.e. what they should give me, then the organisation has a culture which will breed failure, not success.

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