Dependence, Independence and Interdependence

When at work I use a model for helping people integrate into new roles and new organisations.  This model has three stages; Dependence, Independence and Interdependence.  I first came across it when at Ernst & Young.  At the time I had just been promoted to a new role as part of a small group of partners running a firm wide change programme.  The move involved transferring from the Bristol office to the London office.  Yet despite the excitement of being promoted and in a new large role the first six months were terrible.  I ended up being expected to pay for my travel to London and being on less money than I was on before being promoted and the more I highlighted this the more resistance I got from my boss.  The insightful points I raised a team meetings were argued with and rejected and gradually I began to feel more and more on the outside.  I was definitely in a black hole.  I considered leaving and tried all that I could to try and change things.  In the end, this model of Dependence, Independence and Interdependence came to my aid.  I realised that if I wanted to succeed I first had to be included.  In order to be included I was dependent on others.  I realised that my attitude had been one of “finally they have recognised my brilliance and promoted me” whilst they seemed instead to be excluding me and rejecting my brilliance (strangely I’m not sure they defined it as brilliance!).  I realised that I had stumbled over the issue of how to make transitions.  If I was going to make a contribution, I first had to find a way of being accepted and this brought me up against the issue of modesty.  I decided that even if I just made tea and coffee for everyone at the beginning of the meeting, it was an expression of my modesty and interest in them.  If I wanted them to be interested in me, I was first going to have to be interested in them.  Things began to change quite rapidly.  At the same time, we also had the difficult event of our second child being still born a week after he was due.  This re-inforced my position of vulnerability but it also opened everyone’s heart to me tremendously.  Somehow my vulnerability and dependency on others was the key to everyone’s heart opening up to me.  I also gave up on asking to make changes to my salary and simply accepted the situation.  What amused me to notice was that within a year my boss was fighting to get my salary raised as high as he could whilst I had genuinely given up and was less concerned.  Once I really felt that I had been accepted (and I had accepted others) they began to really listen to the unique or independent points I was making and to value them.  I found my own independent role and within time a strong sense of teamwork and interdependence was created.  A few years later, when I went on secondment to a new organisation as coach and change manager for a high profile transfer of a local education authority to private ownership, I found myself in a similar position, pushing to show my worth and value and make a contribution yet this time after two weeks I could see that I was stuck in the same black hole and changed my approach to work on modesty.  The difficulty with being included is that we are dependent on others to include us, we cannot make ourselves included.  This is why modesty is the key attitude to a situation of dependency and being included.

A few years later in the midst of another transition, I found myself in a similar black hole, but this time, it only lasted half a day.  In my coaching of others, I have found this model of Dependence, Independence, Interdependence (or Inclusion, Assertion, Co-operation as it is sometimes called) very valuable for helping people understand the black hole they often fall in when joining new organisations or taking on new roles.  The temptation and pressure is very high to prove oneself, so we often go into assertion mode of proving we have a valuable contribution to make and showing we can stand on our own two feet, but this only leads to frustration, competition and conflict.  Once people see that they need to do the modesty or inclusion stage first they are able to adapt and put right their poor start within quite a short space of time.  I have been surprised that this has been the basis for most of my coaching where I have been asked to work with individuals who are on the verge of being rejected by their organisations.

Recently, I have been experiencing (with Neptune squaring my Mercury) the nature of this in a different respect.  My son at nineteen, is a fully grown male, standing some inch and a half taller than me.  He wants his space now and to be respected as an adult, yet he lives under my roof, supported by me.  In January he went to Tignes in the French Alps to ski for the season.  Having been independent for three months the return to being at home was not easy.  My friend Chrissy told me that I was being a wimp when I was disturbed by this and that I had to explain that since I was head of the family and supporting him, he was going to have to be respectful or he could set up his own household and become independent (for information on this see the following:….html).  I explained therefore that I was top dog and expected to treated with respect but that he was free to set up his own household and be free.  Luke being an Aries responded well to this direct approach and has been a quite brilliantly helpful and dutiful son ever since.  He said he found it very helpful to have it clearly spelled out.  I realised in this, the nature of our interdependence.  I was dependent on him to play his role as a son and not make my life untenable and he was dependent on me to still support him and help him make the transition.  As long as we understood this, all was well.  The I-Ching places great emphasis on this in Hexagram 37 The Family it states that “When the family is in order, all the social relationships of mankind will be in order”.  This is in many ways what we are struggling with globally at the moment, what is the right relationship between dependence, independence and interdependence.  As the nature of the world through global business marketplaces and the internet become more global we are increasingly recognising our interdependence.  We have made attempts to create a sense of interdependence through structures such as communism but this was flawed because it sort to eradicate independence (individuality).  Europe is struggling with the same issue, if you don’t allow countries a degree of independence or ask them to be independent in being able to stand on their own two feet, you create a mess.  Fortunately, getting in a mess is the very thing needed to learn about it and put it right.  Luke and I would not have learnt and put the relationships in their right relation if we had not first got in a nice black hole.  We are in a collective black hole currently with the financial position in the world and also with things like global warming but it is important to understand they are part of a growing process where we are learning about interdependence.  The recent disputes over rivers and dams in China and other countries illustrates this learning stage we are going through.  If a river runs through a number of countries all are dependent on it and the river cannot be said to belong to one country, China’s damning of major rivers from their sources in Tibet is causing havoc in Bangladesh and they are not the only ones doing this.  We are getting to a stage where we are being challenged to learn how to get this balance of dependence and independence right so that we can make the transition to genuine interdependence.

I suspect as we begin the process of exploring space further (as is bound to happen now that space exploration has been taken out of government hands and released into the private sector) we will encounter increasing pressure to agree on how we manage interdependence.  If asteroids start to be mined then who owns them?  Who owns the moon?  Who owns Mars when we get there?  We have started to address this with areas like Antarctica but the challenges will increase.  Bodies like the United Nations are likely to become increasingly important.  On the financial side, it might well take a global solution to deal with our financial issues and at the very least we will be much more mindful of our interdependence from now on.  The internet poses similar problems with its virtual nature and the fact that no one country can legislate about it.  Interdependence is intriguing, it seems to me that the key is how the individual and perhaps the most vulnerable individual is treated.  When we can treat the country or person who is most vulnerable with the greatest respect or compassion then everyone can trust us.  In this respect how we are now treating Syria is critical.  I am not sure that we are doing it well.  We must have compassion for everyone and be on everyone’s side to get this one right.  I noticed that when I first heard about the recent attacks and killings of families and children it came in the same news bulletin that detailed a family in Afghanistan having been killed by bombing.  I struggle to see the difference between these two.  If we are going to generate the trust to achieve true interdependence then both must be a source of sadness to us and learning so that we work to make sure neither happen again.  Recognising that the west is as culpable as the leaders in Syria would be an act of genuine interdependence because it would recognise our common ground of complicity and need to change and we would not be condemning the leadership of Syria whilst perpetrating the same acts ourselves.  We would instead, recognise it is all us and acknowledge our common humanity.  It would be intriguing to see setting the example of what we want to become and mutual learning being the currency of global influence rather than military might and power.

Personally I love Star Trek and I would love to think that we are taking our first baby steps towards a collective view of earth; a federation of every country and person.



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