Does the self-management movement lead to more divorces?

The ripple effect of more authenticity… in all areas of our lives

Sorry for the click-bait title of this story ;)

My partner told me that someone once sued an Non-Violent Communication trainer (NVC) for causing a divorce.

No idea whether that’s true, but it’s a good story so let’s make it up the way we want to:

Imagine Paul decides to study NVC. His wife, Grace, is skeptical and chooses not to join him. Soon, Paul is deep into his new journey, exploring his own needs, his own truths, how he relates to the world and how he wants to contribute to the world around him. While there is a lot of motion inside him, his marriage stays stagnant. At some point, the gap between his mindset and the habits and mindsets around his marriage becomes too big. Grace does not follow him where he is. His belief system has changed. They have grown apart. He ends up getting a divorce.

Of course, someone can also get deeply into a hobby or into their new job, pulling them away from their intimate relationship or exposing them to lots of other people. But liking soccer or the new job is not as “threatening” as authenticity is. Authenticity has a power that often affects everything in people’s lives. And I think that is a factor that is not talked about enough in the self-management world: the personal transformation. Not only as leader, but as a person. The example from NVC — a framework that support speaking your own truth without hiding behind excuses, and taking responsibility for your own needs and the impact your behavior has on others — is highly connected to self-management.

Self-management is more than a system that serves more effective collaboration. It’s a system that, if done well, is based on willingness instead of coercion. Truth instead of expectation. Feedback instead judgment. And that will ultimately affect any other area of people’s lives. To answer my click-batesk question in the title, I am aware of divorces that can be attributed to that journey. We see it with our sociocracy students — they come as seekers, jump in with enthusiasm. Often, they go oddly silent after that. And then they show up again and tell you they quit their job, filed for divorce or moved countries. I am sure sociocracy is not the trigger but it’s part of the syndrome of seeking more authenticity in how we relate to each other. Our interest in sociocracy is one part of it. And making the changes in our lives that go along with that authenticity is part of it.

An example: sociocratic organizations (and many others) start their day with a check-in: How are you right now? What’s going on for you? By far not every employee appreciates that. It is scary to face how you are, as a person. For many, especially in traditional work environments, it is safer to compartmentalize. Leave your shitty marriage at home when you escape to work. Leave your shitty workplace at home when you go home. However, it is exactly this separation of spheres, this lack of integration between our different roles, that leads to less authenticity in how we show up. After all, our shitty marriage at home will affect how we show up at work. Our well-being at work — where we spend a good part of the day — will affect our well-being overall and therefore also at home. We can’t be whole people at work and compartmentalize at home. We can’t be whole people at home and compartmentalize at work. At least not sustainably, without it taking a toll.

When I talk to business leaders, I hear their stories of how their role as a leader has changed in the process. It’s very alive and beautiful. They sometimes solicit that this personal transformation has also changed their marriage or their relationship to their children. Which makes perfect sense because parenting is leadership as well. Children deserve the same kind of guidance with respect that leadership in management requires. And intimate relationships heavily rely on connection and authenticity.

Another example is my own gender transition. Even after decades of making it work in my assigned gender somehow, being in a work situation that depends on presence, showing up for real, reflecting on my own role had its impact. In addition to that, being in an intimate relationship that is immersed in NVC wore on my sense of fragmentation. It is not sustainable to be authentic without being yourself, no matter how badly you want to avoid the changes that being yourself implies.

And even though a gender change might be an extreme example, there are other realms where people make big changes: they might quit a job, move, cut their hair, grow their hair, end or start relationships, take on hobbies, travel, or just change how they show up at work. They might listen more, talk less, tell stories about their kids “even though” they’re the boss. Or they might work more or differently because they see more purpose in it. They might take time off to help someone in their personal lives.

This is a huge, often unacknowledged factor in any discussion around self-management. Authenticity is, to me, a necessary precondition and side-effect of self-management. And we have to be careful what we ask for. It will change us. And it will change everything around us — in an interconnected world, one person changing their ways affects all relationships around them. So in addition to the transformation at work, there are all the potential ripple-effects in everyone’s personal lives. We can’t take this lightly. It needs to be acknowledged.

Is that something you find to be true? If so, what’s your favorite story? And what are we doing to help each other on that journey?