Collaborating is working with others, to produce or create something. While manipulation is the proficient way something can be employed for specific purposes. Manipulation is admissible when it comes to things or assets. We can and should manipulate tools and resources in skillful and effective manners. However, manipulation is unethical when it comes to people. For Christians, as their conscience should dictate, the correct approach is collaboration.
Through collaboration, two or more people (often entire organizations) come together to accomplish a set of goals strategically, effectively, and harmoniously to move forward the mission of the institution. Collaboration is what leaders should create, nurture, and foment in their organizational culture to help advance its mission.
How can we recognize collaboration vs. manipulation?
Collaboration is never deceitful. It’s upfront about its ends and means. Collaboration seeks to bring the team into a shared vision, which can be actively and collectively pursuit. Manipulation, on the other hand, will often play into selfish motives, a sort of “what’s in it for me/you” mentality. Collaboration will seek buy-in from all stakeholders and communicate towards that aim intentionally. Above all, collaboration is truthful and seeks the good for the team, the institution and society. Manipulation does not concern itself for anyone but the manipulator. Manipulation uses people and discards them when they are no longer useful. Manipulation fails to see the dignity of the human person.
Both manipulation and collaboration can often be at work in interpersonal relationships, between spouses and friends, as much as in the workplace. The line that separates collaboration from manipulation can be blurred out when the manipulator rationalizes his motives and actions. In these cases, it’s good to remember people and the dignity of the human person should always be the end of everything we do, not the means. A good question to ask ourselves: is what I am trying to do preserving and upholding the dignity of all involved? Reflecting on the answer can help bring clarity to some very complex situations. If the dignity of the human person does not come first, above everything else, the entire enterprise, project or initiative must be reconsidered.
Judging the tree by its fruits
Eventually, the fruit that comes from collaboration as well as the rotten fruit that comes from manipulation will become evident to all stakeholders. Those involved will see the way goals or objectives were achieved. Collaboration can only result in the good of those involved and the good of society. On the other hand, no matter how many material determinants of success can be referred to, manipulation benefits only the manipulator, and ultimately works against the interests of the other stakeholders. The ultimate test to recognize collaboration from manipulation is our intentions. Whether it is something someone is leading us into, or it is ourselves who leads the effort, we should often check on and pray for the purity of our intentions. If God is our compass and preserving and upholding the dignity of the human person is always the first consideration, we will lead through collaboration.
Cristofer Pereyra is the Chief Executive Officer for Tepeyac Leadership, Inc., a global non-profit organization dedicated to civic leadership development for lay Catholic professionals. Through its signature program, TLI, the organization provides a catalyst development experience which equips professionals to become virtuous leaders, influencing the culture and serving the common good. Pereyra’s professional career started in media, when he worked for Univision Communications as a television news reporter. He is happily married, and the father of four.
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