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Managers’ Liberation


The workshops I’ve led for managers on managers’ liberation have tended to focus on three areas:

1) how managers are oppressed as workers;

2) how managers are agents of oppression toward other workers;

3) assisting managers to take charge and change their organizations and the economic system in which these organizations operate.

Given the current emphasis in the Co-Counseling Communities on counseling on oppressor identities, I’d like to share what I have learned so far about counseling managers.

Goodness as the Foundation

I always spend a significant portion of managers’ liberation workshops repeating over and over that managers are completely good people and that managing is an essential human activity. Providing a foundation of goodness is necessary and has several aspects:

1) the counselor needs to know his or her own goodness;

2) the counselor needs to continue, throughout the session, to put attention on the reality of the client’s complete goodness; 

3) the counselor needs to watch for the client trying to prove his or her goodness and direct the client’s attention toward knowing his or her goodness;

4) the counselor needs to love the client. Many of us have feelings about managers, especially in regard to their oppressor roles. We must discharge those feelings. It is no manager’s fault that he or she has oppressor patterns. I have spent many sessions discharging my feelings about other managers and claiming my love for every single manager—even the wealthiest Corporate Chief Executive Officer—as a human being. 

Claiming the Oppressor Identity

Co-Counselors often use the phrase “claim it, clean it up, and throw it away,” with regard to counseling on identities. People with an oppressor identity often feel a strong pull to “throw it away” before ever claiming and then discharging on it. Layers of pretense and denial often need to be discharged in order to fully claim it.

Managers participate in the exploitation of other workers. There is no good reason to sugar-coat this reality or pretend it isn’t true. The role of managers in society is to help keep the lid on, to be the visible hand that keeps people in their roles and therefore the current system in place.

Managers collude with the oppressive system. This can take forms other than the direct oppression of other workers. To the extent that managers are not fully acting as agents for liberation and are instead maintaining the oppressive system, they are operating inside of their oppressor patterns. As counselor I strive to identify the specific form the collusion takes for each particular client and to make this explicit. For example:

  • To someone who fundraised for a progressive non-profit organization I gave the direction: “Every day I go to work and sell out my beliefs, the ideas I hold most dear, in order to raise a few pennies for my organization.”
  • To a white worker in the United States agency responsible for public broadcasting I gave the direction: “I work hard to satisfy the intellectual curiosities of white middle-class men.”
  • To a Chinese-heritage woman who managed a group of under-paid Chinese-heritage workers in a university I suggested: “I exploit my own people.”
  •  To an African-heritage human resources manager I said, “You are the man,” playing off the black neighborhood parlance associated with someone who “makes it” by taking advantage of and controlling people in the neighborhood.
  • To myself, an executive at a large multinational corporation that generates billions of dollars of profit, I’ve given the direction, “I am a leader in an organization that does a superior job of transferring wealth around the world, except that it takes it from poor and working-class people and under-developed nations and puts it into the pockets of the owning class.”

When offering these directions, I have found it useful to be matter-of-fact in my tone of voice, to not in any way be hard on the client while at the same time offering no reassurance. Managers need help facing the reality that they act out oppressor patterns, while remembering their complete goodness.

No manager wants to exploit other workers. No manager wants to collude with the oppressive system. Managers are completely good human beings who have been hurt in ways that allow them to be manipulated into oppressor roles. One of my favorite directions is, “There is a human being in every suit.”

We can help managers, and all others who play oppressor roles, to notice and discharge on how they collude with the oppressive system.

Mike Markovits

Information Coordinator for Managers,
Administrators, and Executives

Greenwich, Connecticut, USA


Last modified: 2018-03-23 21:11:52+00