Here at the Exponent, we have some interesting conversations on our blogger email list. We decided that it could be fun to do a series highlighting some of these threads.
Recently we were talking about the dynamics of being called in to meet with bishops. Many of us sense in these dynamics a power imbalance that makes us uncomfortable. The fact that we are called in without knowing what the topic of conversation will be puts many of us on edge. In our thread, we discussed preferable alternatives and strategies for dealing with these dynamics.
Deborah: Being “called in” to meet with the bishop has always been slightly anxiety-inducing for me because I hate the power imbalance from the get-go. The last time, I asked directly what the meeting was about, but he exec sec couldn’t even confirm it was about a calling! Why not an email that says, “hey, we are restructuring Young Women and thought you might be a good fit for a counselor. Give it some thought and let’s touch base on Sunday.” Our cultural habit of expecting an “on-the-spot” answer when you don’t know the agenda in advance in creates problems. A cultural habit of “here’s what we are thinking, think it over/pray about it/talk to your spouse and get back to me” = more respectful + less intimidating.
: I tell people that I am a professional and I don’t go into a meeting that doesn’t have a topic or an agenda. If the bishop wants to meet with me, he can present the topic to me, and I will decide if I think a meeting is necessary or something shorter like a phone call would suffice. Meeting in the bishop’s office on demand, without knowing anything about the appointment is so anxiety-producing for the person summoned. It sets the leader above the member, which is more like leadership/dominion and not the servant leadership that the church seeks to promote.
Professionally, I know a lot about how meetings and private appointments should be run. To show power over someone in business, set meetings in your own office, rather than in a conference room (neutral territory) or their office. This is basic business psychology. If you want to freak out an employee, make them meet with the boss but don’t tell them what it is about and don’t send them an agenda or allow them to prepare. These are business power plays. For that reason, when I meet with church leaders, I prefer to do so in my home, with dress that’s appropriate for the home and where we can follow our house rules about decisions and prayer, equality of the sexes before God, and the church being a supporting institution to the family, not the other way around.”
Jana: I would never again attend a meeting with a priesthood leader unless they told me what it was about beforehand. I know that it’s not ‘how it’s done,’ but the way it currently is does not respect the interviewee. I might also suggest a meeting at my home rather than at the church.
How do you feel about these dynamics of meeting with the bishop? Do you have strategies for dealing with this?