• Rich Haglund

Have you found the cause or are you only seeing symptoms?

I recently read Foul Ball, a book by late professional baseball player Jim Bouton's attempt to save an historic ballpark from entrenched political and business interests who were looking for a quick buck by building a brand new stadium at taxpayer expense in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Bouton chronicled multiple instances of the mayor and county commissioners pressuring citizens who wanted transparency and a fair hearing for the ideas they proposed. This pressure included threatening one citizen's employer with harassment by the licensing agency. Bouton wrote about the cycle of damage that occurs when those with legitimate grievances are inclined to keep quiet because of their dependence on those they might want to complain about.

Fear of not getting a job, or losing the one you have, is the major instrument of control in any high-unemployment city. . . The tragedy . . . is that the citizens, in order to survive, must rely on the very same people who’ve harmed them. The best paying jobs are doled out by those in power, leaving the citizens no choice but to help keep the lid on their own grievances.

So, as you consider how to make your workplace or school or community better, I encourage you to see if there are conditions that keep people from sharing what they really feel and what changes they might want. Do your colleagues feel comfortable sharing concerns about a boss or even a peer's management? Are individuals or their family members employed by the company or large government agency that acts in ways that are ultimately destructive to the community?

Depending on your answers to those questions, how will you proceed? Will you choose to solve a more fundamental problem before trying to address the issue at hand? Or will you take a different approach to be sure you're understanding the situation better?

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