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Finding Wellness in the Workplace: Where does power come in? with Elizabeth Hunt

16 May 2019 8:16 AM | Jane Watson (Administrator)

For our last live session under this year's theme "Elevating Workplace Wellness Through OD" we welcomed Elizabeth Hunt to lead a group exploration of power and wellness. 

This highly participatory session allowed our TODN members and attendees to dig into their own conceptions of power and wellness, and asked the question "What if a critical aspect of wellness is acknowledging power?"

Elizabeth shared a power framework with us, but cautioned that it was just a lens to look through, not a definitive set of categories. The framework describes four different ways power manifests in decision-making:

  1. Power Over (directive, unilateral decisions, control of resources; boss/employee)
  1. Power For (advocating, decisions on behalf, managing resources)
  1. Power With (collaborating/cooperating, shared decisions, negotiating resources)
  1. Power Among (infinite, expansive, responsive decision-making, generates resources)

Power Among is a concept developed by Tuesday Ryan-Hart. Elizabeth shared that it differs from the other quadrants in that it does not rest on a transactional view of power (e.g. it’s not zero sum, where a finite amount of power must be divided between two or more people). Instead, its’ use generates more power, perhaps without limit. The small example Elizabeth shared really resonated for me: she told us about publishing a blog post and hearing from someone who’d read it and been inspired and energized to publish a short story. That empowerment from watching someone else take a risk, however small, is real and doesn’t result in the reduction of a finite pool of power.

We reflected in small groups on a challenge we were each currently facing, and closed out the session by revisiting that challenge through the lens of these four manifestations of power. It was a useful way to reframe these obstacles, and deepen our insight into how power impacts our perception, and may help us reconceive our options in addressing these challenges.

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