Robert's Blog

Five Dichotomies of Interpersonal Politics

Posted in psychology and sociology by mrob27 on 2010.04.14

2010 April 14th

First a couple limiting qualifiers:

  • I do not imagine these to be the only five, or the most important five, dichotomies. They just happen to have been on my mind lately.
  • By politics, I simply mean the ways in which people interact while deciding what to do.

These dichotomies exist as characteristics/traits of people, as ways of behaving or interacting, and as points of view — and most are a combination of all three.

In no particular order, here they are:

1. The Personal vs Team dichotomy is strongest in situations where several people are working together and risk their individual well-being in order to achieve important results that benefit all. I discuss this and give examples in MCV03, Everything That Depends on You Depends on Your Well-Being.

2. The dichotomy between Individualism and Collectivism is similar but involves the tradeoffs between the individual(s) and a much larger entity such as an entire society. This dichotomy often factors in political ideologies, such as Ayn Rand’s Objectivism (which falls on the individualist end of the spectrum) and Socialism or Communism. I have written a bit more on my Collectivism page.

3. There is a dichotomy between Task and Purpose, or between the means and the end, or between the method and the ultimate result. I think of this as a succession of several things connected in a chain. Roughly in order they are: Task, Goal, Project, Mission and Purpose. They have a cause-and-effect relationship, in that each results from the ones that come before it in the chain. Also, at any point in the chain, there are typically several alternatives any of which can be used to achieve the next link in the chain. I have written a lot about this on my Priorities page.

4. That dichotomy relates closely to the dichotomy between One-Time Planning and Ongoing Re-Evaluation. This is a spectrum of individual preference; each person will tend to choose how much energy to spend on thinking and planning, and how much risk to take from the adverse effects of failing to adapt or to be flexible. I discuss this on my Decision page.

5. Finally, there is a dichotomy of management style between Hands-Off Management and Micro-Management. This appears when decisions are being made about what how to carry out a task or how to accomplish the results expected in a person’s job. There is a spectrum, ranging from a completely worker-oriented extreme at which the person doing the job decides how to do it, to a completely manager-oriented extreme at which every detail is specified to the worker by another person, or perhaps by several or many others.


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