There are so many blog posts I want to write but the beginning of this semester saw me chasing my own tail like never before. What’s up with this? Did I take on too much–probably. BUT there is also so much to fix, develop, improve, support, help. And everyone around me feels the same holidays weren’t relaxing. Some people just kept working–locked up in a flat with no garden, and not much greenery close by, others just vegetated–we so need to support the Arts, I think we have finished both Netflix and Prime, and are half way there with Channel 4. I fled into the phantasy world of a really badly written self-published book series–am down 40 books, I skip a lot of the nonsense. This is what annoys me, great ideas for plot and character but the writing is dire, and you feel like groundhog day with some of the phrasing, wish they would have worked with an editor. Anyway, interrupting my flow of consciousness for this Aside and let you continue to the actual blog post which I started writing in December. I think.
Thinking out loud about Barriers
I have been thinking about invisible barriers lately. I noticed one just recently, which is so subtle, and to a large degree so strongly linked with a person’s identity, that someone slightly more senior, definitely more confident appearing, with a transactional leadership style communicated involuntarily boundaries that aren’t actually there. But they are there nevertheless, only seen when observed, otherwise these mirages of hindrance go unnoticed. I don’t believe that these are necessarily born out of malice, rather than ingrained insecurities and cognitive fallacies on both ends of the communication.
Mirages of Hindrance
They are not bullying, they aren’t targeted exclusion. It seems as if this type of invisible boundaries come from the attitudes towards hierarchy: one person believing they are in the position to give, and another person believing this narrative and assuming the position of taker. Both believing in the power disparity (which institutionally is not there, but personally) and both enacting this narrative––unnecessarily.
The consequences can be not participating in something that is open to everyone, because of the believe that the one person (who assumes they hold the power) has the priority, and their voice is above the voice of the other. This time I was bearing witness, maybe noticing this consciously for the first time because having come out of a very difficult, soul-destroying relationship, having had to learn to find my voice again, made me more sensitive to the self-imposed voicelessness (according to spellcheck I just invented this word but you know what I mean), to unquestioningly accepting hierarchies that in this form serve no purpose.
I am just thinking out loud for now and have begun to investigate some literature around this topic. If you have any suggestions for further reading that would be very much appreciated.
But why am I writing about this?
The sudden noticing of this at large invisible narrative made me realise why mentoring schemes have never sat easy with me. Something about them kept poking the intangible, subconscious parts of my brain, but never emerged into a shape. Mentoring schemes—other than peer mentoring—inherently reinforce power positions, reinforce invisibles boundaries; mind
you this does not necessarily mean ill intent. It just happens as we are basing the relationship on the premise of a power disparity in which the gatekeeper can open the gate—or not. The factors influencing these decisions at a first glimpse seem complicated and nuanced.
Communities of practice are open spaces, transient, fluid. At their core is common interest and values, sharing with one another, and for one another is the core premise. A more experienced person might end up coaching a colleague through a rough patch or a new situation, a new colleague might inspire ideas and change. Leadership is shared. The door is open to all. These are safe spaces within highly competitive performative systems. Setting them up. Making them valuable and sustainable is a whole different ballgame.
This is how far I got in December and I am just going to put it out there to be picked up again at some point.