A combination of wisdom, moral compass and social doctrine from the Catholic Church, scattered through a series of documents over decades, never put together in a single piece, constitutes what is called Catholic Social Teaching. For many years, it has inspired religious and non religious people, policy makers and leaders, covering a great deal of the political and socio-economic spectrum. Even fierce detractors of the Catholic Church acknowledge the significant contribution that these documents have made to global Social Justice.
There are seven themes: Life and Dignity of the Human Person, Call to Family, Community and Participation, Rights and Responsibilities, Option for the Poor and Vulnerable, The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers, Solidarity and Care for God’s Creation.
It was in this context that I was invited a while ago by a Catholic association to give a lecture presenting my views on Solidarity in the Workplace. The preparation for the talk made me think a lot to imagine what such a workplace could look like, beyond the nice words. I will share with you the 10 characteristics that I came up with, of a workplace were Solidarity is alive:
- There will be a strong sense of interdependence in the place. This is contrary to a culture of Social Darwinism, with excessive internal competition. ‘My safety is your safety’ or ‘my success is your success’, for example, would be wonderful examples of this achievement.
- It will require a great deal of Social Intelligence: listening, putting oneself in other people’s shoes. Something organizations desperately need and has become a topic of much conversation in recent years.
- It will engender a sense of ‘the collective’. Suddenly, questions such as ‘who needs to know?’ and the subsequent action and sharing, will make real sense.
- It will spread a sense of accountability and responsibility. You need to know what you and others are responsible for to be able to contribute. Vagueness will not be supported.
- It will also create awareness of the impact of my actions (of my work with others) on individual and collective commitments.
- It will foster genuine cooperation, beyond connectedness. Connectivity per se is not collaboration.
- It will go far beyond a defensive attitude (I can be hurt, I am likely to be a victim) to reach the proactive ‘we are all agents (of our destiny) here’.
- It won’t feel like ‘theory’ or just good works. It will be action (the word activism contains the word act).
- It will require authentic leadership that supports all of the above.
- It will generate trust. Vulnerability is OK—‘I won’t be punished, we are all in this together’.
My first reaction, during my own construction of the argument, surprised me in that this is not utopian. It’s an aspiration for decent workplaces and fine organizations that have purpose and that enhance the individual.
In 2014, purpose is the new black. In doubt, ask the new generations of workers and consumers. ‘Solidarity thinking’ maybe a good glue for the Lego pieces of the modern remarkable organization.