Monday, September 12, 2016

Loneliness in the Community



I am working on an article that will deal with many aspects of loneliness in the community.  The material below should be considered a draft of a work in progress.  It is the first part of the study.  I will still need to do a lot more research.  Please give me ideas, comments and stories. 


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Loneliness and The Jewish Community

By Daniel D. Stuhlman (MS LS, MHL, DHL)  

אלקים ברא אתו זכר ונקבה ברא אתם. ויברך אתם אלקים ... פרו ורבו מלאו את הארץ

God created people both male and together. God blessed them and said be fruitful and multiply.
Genesis 1:27-28
לא טוב היות האדם לבדו אעשה לו עזר כנגדו
It is not good that the man (Adam) should be alone.  I will create a helpmate (a partner) for him.
Genesis 2:18

The book of Genesis in the two stories of creation recognizes the need for companionship and partnership to make this world work.  A man by himself is not complete.  Together men and women are partners in first commandment to be fruitful and multiply.  The people are created to continue the Divine creation of the world.

It is no small wonder that we have a society based on community. In order to have a society people have to learn to give up part of the self to gain the greater benefits of partnerships and community.  No one person can do everything.  The Torah starts us thinking about society, but reality hits us saying that people have a hard time peacefully working together.  In Devarim 48:18, Moshe appoints judges and officers to administer and adjudicate civil laws and resolve disagreements. God’s plan is for a society, not loneliness.  Mankind is made to be social, but finding partnerships is hard work.  Why then are people lonely?  Why do some people feel left out?

This article will attempt to explain what loneliness is, describe the types of loneliness in the community and attempt to present ideas on how to help people less lonely and more connected to partners and communities.  

Here’s a list of events that I attended in the past couple of weeks, a wedding, brit milah celebrations, bar/bat mitzvah celebrations, shevah brachot,  and Shabbat meals.  All of these have family orientation in common. Our community is great for sharing happy and family events.  We also share sad events such as funerals and remembering those we have lost.  That is the situation.  Not everyone has a happy family to share time with.  Not everyone has a partner or family support system. The synagogue and community events are often family events or perceived by singles as family events.  Singles (never married), divorced, widowed, newcomers to the community, empty nesters are all subject to loneliness. Even married people can feel lonely.  People who have active families and are involved with the community have a hard time understanding what it means to be lonely.  The community may see an active shul member with a high powered profession and wonder how such a person can be lonely. The community is totally not tuned or sensitized to the need for companionship and partnership.  The community has a hard time comprehending the concept of a lonely person. 

This is not just a sheduch (matchmaking) problem.  Not all lonely people want a spouse. A spouse may help some people not feel lonely, but not everyone. Some married people are lonely.  By tuning out singles and other lonely people we are not achieving the goals to make this a community.

A shul dinner or luncheon whether it is on Shabbat or a gala fund raiser is very often a coupled or a family event.  A few months ago the local yeshiva had a Shabbat luncheon.  No one made any efforts to make sure people were not alone. Perhaps many singles did not attend because they thought they would be uncomfortable?  No one made an effort to introduce people to new people. How much extra effect would it take to add a line to the publicity encouraging singles and people new to the community to join the event?  Some people, who are “sticks in the mud,” need encouragement.  Some people probably eat alone because of a real or imagined feeling that they would not be welcome.

Academic studies of loneliness.

What is loneliness?  Loneliness is not the same as being alone.  Everyone needs alone time as well as time to interact with others.  Some tasks are best done alone; some are best in a group. Loneliness is the pain experienced because of the inability to have a relation with another human being. The feeling is subjective.  A person could have a feeling of loneliness and be surrounded by lots of people and feel lonely. Part of the reason people like to go to events as a couple is so that they have at least one other person they are relate to and socialize with.  If the people at the event are boring or hard to talk to, at least one has a date or partner to support them. Being with people (or socializing) is a basic need of everyone.  The symptoms of loneliness cannot be described in precise clinical terms.  One person in solitary confinement could be lonely and another not.  An elderly person confined to his/her home may find social interaction via electronic connections such as phone, social media, or email or via print and recorded media and never feel lonely.  You cannot say, “He is lonely” without the person’s confirmation.  Loneliness is a kind of detachment when you want to have meaningful connections.[1]

Loneliness has been linked to many kinds of social and health problems (Russel p. 472) such alcoholism, suicide, and overuse of the health care system. J. Alspach in "Loneliness and Social Isolation” on page 9 summarizes all the health problems that researchers have associated with loneliness[2].   It is to the community’s advantage to help its members be less lonely.  Loneliness is hard to study from an experimental perspective because the experimenters can not create situations that have controls are variables.  The moment someone know it is a study, s/he is not alone.  If the experimenters are present, the subjects are no longer alone.  Studies are based on self-reporting, interviews, stories, and informal observations.  Even with the UCLA loneliness scale (Russel p. 475), getting a precise measure of loneliness is difficult.

Perhaps another way to explain loneliness to explain what a meaningful relationship is and define loneliness as the desire to have a meaningful relationship?  These characteristics fit a spousal or other committed relationship and also fit a friendship.  We seek someone who can actively listen and share their thoughts, someone to share a smile, someone to appreciate us and our effort to help them, someone who will be there in a time of need, and someone who will hold our hand when it needs a human touch.  Sometimes the relationship can be a handshake and the exchange of a few pleasantries at a social event like a kiddish.  The sincere greeting and handshake may be what the person needs at the moment. Sometimes people need to share inner feelings and thoughts for many minutes or hours.

When someone has a long workday and comes home to an empty home, they could feel lonely.  They have no one to share the events of the day and make them feel better. There is no one to share their day with. They have no one “on their team” at home no matter what happened in the day. This may be perfectly fine if the person is getting some of what they need in meaningful relationships in their work.  However, there are some feelings that just can’t be expressed to co-workers[3]. 

---to be continued --


[1] This definition is based on page 75  of
Hobson, Robert F. "Loneliness." Journal of Analytical Psychology  1974 19.1: pages 71-89. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection.


[2] Alspach, JoAnn Grif. Loneliness and Social Isolation: Risk Factors Long Overdue for Surveillance. Critical Care Nurse Dec. 2013: pages 8-13. Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition 
 Here is her list.  In the article all the sources are listed.   1. Diminished physical activity; 2. Diminished motor function; 3. Symptoms of depression; 4. Disrupted sleep and daytime dysfunction; 5. Impaired mental and cognitive function; 6. Increased systolic blood pressure; 7. Increased sympathetic tone and vascular resistance; 8. Increased hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical activity; 9. Altered gene expression related to anti-inflammatory responses; 10. Altered immunity.

[3] Such as when the co-workers are the problem.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Frustration



Frustration

For six years I have been writing about management issues and the shortcomings of organizations as the imaginary president of a college. I think that I am preaching to the choir.  After trying to understand power, I now see striving for excellence is just a dream.  People want power more than excellence. They want short term results while sacrificing long term prosperity.  They want a job more than they want to really make a difference in the world.  In my college years I survived the frustrations of Americans concerning the Viet Nam War.  We actually thought we could make a better world.

I have tried subtle hints, but no one seems to listen. Does anyone want an expert in figuring out how things work?  Does anyone want to hire someone with experience in multiple academic fields? Does anyone care about how information works in our world?

This week’s Torah Reading -- Ekev

In the first aliyah God gives a pep talk to the Israelites who think that they can't defeat the Canaanites. He tells them they can defeat them and outlines some of the ways it will work.  In verse 7:13 the Torah says:  ואהבתך וברכך והרבך "and He [God] will love you, bless you  and cause you to multiply..."  Since I have been studying organizational stupidity the past few weeks, this is the kind of pep talk administrators should be giving their people.  "Love" translates as I respect you as a person, a member of a profession, and valued member of our team.  We have our disagreements, but because we have love, in the end we are both satisfied with the relationship.  "Bless you" means as the manager, I give you the power to do your job.  I will guide you and give you resources, but in the end this is only a blessing.  It does not mean you are always right.  "Multiply" means if the organization succeeds, we will grow.  Our wealth, our resources, and our effect on ourselves and community will multiply.
The Torah continues with God's speech telling the Israelites that just as He delivered them from the Egyptians, He will alleviate the fear of the enemy and make them victorious.  The Israelites are reminded to keep the commandments.  Some of enumerated commandments include brit milah (ritual circumcision), educating the children, and eating and be satisfied (i.e. making the proper blessings before and after food).  For organizations this translates to giving everyone an ID and corporate identity, making the organization a learning organization where the experts teach the neophytes, and to be thankful for the benefits and resources for the organization.
Shabbat shalom for Parashat Ekev.     

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New President Interview -- Part 38 Organizational Power


Organizational Power


Preliminary remarks

This article continues the study of stupidity.  In the preparation of this article I asked for stories of management decisions that were made without consulting those affected by the decisions.  Some of the results made the situation worse.  Since the story tellers wanted anonymity, all the stories used here are composites; retold to support the ideas expressed in this article. That is the reason the examples have no citations.  

Q: In the Bible (Deuteronomy 1:12-18)[1]  Moses admits that he does not know have the power to govern without help.  He is told to appoint heads of tribes, captains, and officials who will help lead and adjudicate disputes. Those appointed should be wise and men of knowledge.  Rarely have I seen a job description or written job requirements that require wisdom.  Those running for political office here have no requirement concerning knowledge, wisdom or academic preparation.

Given that officials or officers need some kind of power and authority to do their jobs, how does one use power wisely?

A:  In order to form any kind of group one must give up a part of one’s self.  Group living even in two
person groups means surrendering part of the individuality of the self for a greater good.  At any given time in the group’s existence one member has more power than the others.  People need power.  How many times did you hear of oppressed people who felt powerless? Many therapists treat people who lack control over their lives and feel powerless. Since people need power over themselves to succeed, it is no small wonder that when put in positions of power, not everyone is able to understand how to act for the common good and use power for the group’s advancement.

Let me start with some descriptions of power that effect those involved every day.   1) An architect designs a visually fascinating building that is artistically beautiful.  The architect has the power to make the space fit the needs or the customer or fit some sort of artistic vision; 2) A space designer designs an office that looks great, but doesn’t serve the occupants needs; 3) A member of the information technology staff orders and installs equipment that does not fit the room or solve the users’ needs.

The architect and space designer think that because they have done x number of projects, they are the experts in buildings.  They are not the experts in knowing how my company uses space.  The IT expert may know the computer equipment, but not how it is used in a particular space.  They have the power to design as they please.  That is not the best way to use power as an administrator I have to empower my managers and supervisors and trust they know how to do their jobs.  If I can’t trust them, it is time to part company.

Q:  How does institutional power flow in the College?

A:  We have an academic side and an operational side.  The operational side includes financial, building maintenance, human resources, and infrastructure.  The operational side has to work similar to a business or any other organization.  On the academic side we have departments and faculty.  Faculty are managers of their classes.  Some of the power and authority comes from the district office. The district office controls the finances such as collecting tuition and fees and authorizing disbursements.
One of our complaints is how the decisions are made that the College has no input.  I can tell you my theory of how I want the College to be run, but I am limited by outside forces such as state laws, federal regulations and district operations. Power flow from above.  The organizational structure dictates who has what powers.

Q: Is there another kind of organization?  I’ve heard of something called a matrix organization.

A:   A matrix organization has multiple reporting lines.  It has a great ability to work on projects and solve problems.   People with similar skills work together.  A limitation is people working on multiple projects may have multiple bosses. Middle management sometimes gets frustrated because they are unclear as to what should be the priorities.  They may find a lack of clarity and feel overburdened.   One advantage is that people can be assigned according to their abilities.  The departments may compete to the get the job done better or at a lower cost.

Some of the matrix management ideas can be applied to the college. For special projects we can appoint a project manager.  An academic committee operates with this theory.  A class that divides into group projects uses this kind of management. The class or committee has one member who is in charge or the chairman.

Q: How does one use consultants in the college? I have heard of some organizations that bring in lots of consultants and just ignores their advice.

A:  We work with consultants for computer systems.  They have the global knowledge of many companies, but recognize that we have the knowledge of the College’s people and hardware.  We work well together because we understood our roles, knowledge, and limitations. Consultants are needed to augment internal knowledge.  They can learn about products and processes that internal people don’t have to time or ability to master. For short term projects consultants may be cost effective. For long time needs, consultants can bring outside knowledge that internal people don’t have and can’t easily obtain.
In a non-functional organization, management hires a consultant to prove what they already decided.  Or the consultants spend a lot of time doing analysis work and the management ignore their advice. Management just wanted to show that they did their “due diligence.”

Another example of not listening occurred many times when school is building a new building.  For example:  The powers that be budget for a building, but forget about furnishings.  They build a library, but make no provision for staffing and books. They build beautiful spaces, but forget to properly sound proof them, making working difficult.  They build spaces that make future changes costly or impossible.  They build spaces that inappropriate for the age of the students.   Architects even forgot about locating light switches and power outlets in ways that are easy to use.  I have heard of classrooms with light switches on one wall and the other side of the room had the switch for the computer projector and screen.[2]

Q> How does an organization encourage the cooperation needed for the success and well-being of itself?

A> Positive communication and social interaction are essential for the success of most groups.  The group could be a couple, a class, or a formal organization. Leaders need to create or enhance social bonds so that members feel they have a stake in the outcomes.  Positive social bonds make members more committed to success.  When leaders fail to create lines of communication and create divisions among the group members, the leaders are failing to strive for success.  Divisiveness is counterproductive to the group’s success. This “divide and conquer” strategy is frequently used in military situations to defeat enemies.  It dates back to ancient times and is attributed to Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great.

According to Case and Maner leaders who do not enhance cooperation are protecting their power.  If the organization from the very top on down made people more secure i.e. not afraid to lose their jobs, people would be able to be more loyal to the success of the group?  Some leaders become more concerned with the benefit of power than fostering the groups goals and organizational success.  When leaders think their power is threatened, they start using strategies such as threats, intimidation, ostracization, and withholding of information so that power can be protected.

To encourage success these negative behaviors, need to be recognized and removed from the organization.  Sometimes the unwanted behaviors are so subtle that they are not recognized.  People grumble and senior management is clueless as to how to identify and solve the problems. The vicious circle repeats itself – misuse of power leads to a breakdown of social connections, which leads to unhappy workers, which leads to lost productivity.   Getting workers to recognize the misuse of power is a major role of senior management.  Misuse of power is not limited to managers.  Even a clerk or tradesperson can misuse his/her authority and power.  For example, a tech person may be slow to do his job because he has the power to fix or install a machine and does not want to have anyone take away his powers.  Case and Maner[3] conclude that understanding the divide and conquer strategy has important implications for understanding the fundamental forces that lead to group success.  If one understands the forces of misuse corrupt uses of power, we can build a better group.

Q> If I understand you correctly, all the stories of people not listening to subordinates or consultants is based on a misuse of power.  Is that correct?

A> Everyone wants power.  Everyone want control over their lives. Sometimes the misuse of power is a subconscious malady; sometimes is part of a calculated plan.  Understanding the flow of power helps the organization to root out the misuse of power and take step to make a better organization.

Q> We are out of time for this interview. This is obviously an emotionally charged issue.  Thank you very much.


Resources

Case, Charleen R.; Maner, Jon K. “Divide and conquer: When and why leaders undermine the cohesive fabric of their group” From:  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 107(6), Dec 2014, 1033-1050.  Retrieved Aug. 15, 2016 from: http://research.chicagobooth.edu/~/media/7880566048174CF589470DE074B18FAA.pdf
 
DeCelles, Katherine A. et al  “Does Power Corrupt or Enable? When and Why Power Facilitates  Self-Interested Behavior” from  Journal of Applied Psychology  2012, Vol. 97, No. 3, 681–689.  Retrieved on August 15, 2016 from :  http://www-2.rotman.utoronto.ca/facbios/file/DeCelles%20et%20al%202012%20JAP.pdf

Maner, John K.  “The Essential Tension Between Leadership and Power: When Leaders Sacrifice Group Goals for the Sake of Self-Interest”  / Jon K. Maner and Nicole L. Mead. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2010, Vol. 99, No. 3, 482–497. Retrieved on August 15, 2016 from: http://research.chicagobooth.edu/~/media/CAB26C2AD4CB4DDDBD9220FE274DA809.pdf

Stone, Emily. “Why Bad Bosses Sabotage Their Teams : Bosses who crave power but fear they might lose it can undermine their teams’ productivity”  : from Evanston, IL : Kellogg Insight, Northwestern University, January 5, 2015. Retrieved on August 15, 2016 from : http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/why-bad-bosses-sabotage-their-teams
Based on the research of Jon Maner and Charleen R. Case. 



[1] This was read in the weekly portion for Shabbat August 13, 2016. 
 
[2] In the example a person wrote about, the reporter said if she turned off the lights, she had to walk the length of the library in the dark to get to the computer.  She surmised that the electricians and the projector installers did not follow the plans.  The room light switch was next to a door that led to a service hallway.  It was not used to enter the classroom.

Another person reported that the room with the computer projector could not be made dark enough to easily see the screen.  There are other stories of administrators who move around teachers and librarians so much that no quality work can be done.  Administrators have been known to hire aids who are not certified librarians to supervise the libraries.  They have been known to hire library help without consulting the certified librarians in charge.

One librarian, new to her school, told a story about a volunteer who previously ordered books.  The volunteer had no concept of collaboration with teachers or building collections that served the students.  The librarian could stop her even when the principal supported the librarian.  The volunteer didn’t want to surrender the “power” even when it was harming the organization and possibly was illegal fiscal mismanagement.  

[3] Case and Maner page 16.