As one with limited experience as part of an organization per se, answering questions regarding how I have learned to fit within or respond to challenges found at work is difficult. However, my most recent example of organizational functioning, a fairly rapid rise from a regular board member of the Norrie Disease Association to President of the whole thing, has provided me with a rich array of understanding of leadership, mission, and the effort it takes for one to make both of those continue to mesh within a group where everyone brings something different to the table.
Arnett, Fritz and Bell (2009) define Community of memory in the following way: “The community of memory within an organization is a sense of organizational conscience, retaining what a given organization deems as good” (p. 145). The NDA’s Mission statement mentions the ideal of “Supporting people with Norrie in just about as many contexts as one could ponder, thereby clearly demonstrating support as our good. We allow folks to write on the mailing list and Facebook page about issues they are having, especially with their Norrie children, and give them helpful feedback. It is our general position that we do not judge, even if another’s approach might not mirror that which we would take.
For the most part, this sort of agreement and willingness to work with each other to try and understand how best to support others has occurred. Of course though, there is going to be a “bad apple” as it were, someone who just refuses to contemplate how things might not be done their way. This particular parent railed against another parent, because the latter individual wasn’t able to take her child away to one of the best clinics to get help with a problem. The first parent had lots of financial resources and a job that would allow her to take off for an extended period without risk of losing it. On the other hand, the second person lived “check to check” and could hardly afford to hop on a plane and commute to the other side of the country besides. So parent 1 even went as far as to say that parent 2 apparently didn’t love her child enough and was a horrible mother, attacking her in a way that just seemed entirely unnecessary.
This created a significant rhetorical interruption for the NDA, defined as “a communicative event that disrupts our sense of the routine” (Arnett, et al., 2009, p. 165). Given that none of us had even confronted such blatant attacks against one of our members from another we were initially uncertain how to react, even though the policies contained clear language that such action was not acceptable. Ironically, or perhaps not, it was the rank and file community members who kind of talked both sides down and got them to be more willing to understand where each other was coming from. The more ethical response certainly was to respect our culture of continued support, no matter how we as an individual felt about the other’s actions. In the end though, I think parent 1 at first just pulled herself from the group entirely and allowed herself to regroup, then she came back and offered a great amount of assistance not only to parent 2, but to others who found themselves in a similar position. Her challenge was to understand that not everyone starts out from the same field of play (I. e.) financial stability, easy access to resources, and to be more empathetic. And it taught us a whole lot as an organization about willingness to implement policies that keep the public space open and safe for everyone, which harkens back to previous discussions in this course.
Arnett, R. C., Fritz, J. M. H., & Bell, L. M. (2009). Communication ethics literacy: Dialogue and difference. Sage Publications.