Do you manage employees; are you a parent, spouse, police officer, teacher or anyone with authority over others? If so, you have certain kinds of rank, power and privilege that gives you power to use them in ways that help or hurt. Most of us aren’t aware of this. We tend to be aware more of the ways in which we don’t feel powerful, the ways in which we feel at the mercy of others or of forces beyond ourselves. However, when we’re aware of the rank and power we do have, managing power positively can change the environment around us. This has a lot to do with recognizing our rank.
What is Rank?
Basically, it’s a person’s access to power, privilege and choices in a given setting. What society values in a certain situation automatically gives those who have it more power, more privileges, and more choices, and those who don’t less power, privileges and choices. In some countries there’s the concept that everyone is created equal, and on one level, that’s true: formally, we’re all equally human. But on many other levels, it’s not true because some things are valued more or less in a given society, some are mainstream and some are marginalized. That’s what creates more or less power and the privileges that automatically come with each specific kind of rank.
Comparative Rank, Power and Privilege
Some examples of inherited rank are class, religion, culture, race, sexual orientation and gender, and some examples of earned rank are education, seniority on a job, expertise in a field, being a parent or grandparent of a child, and, in the case of the police, being armed with weapons. Any kind of rank you have, whether it’s inherited or earned, gives you power in relation to another person (or group) who doesn’t have this kind of rank. For example, in the US, a white person automatically inherits the rank, power and privilege that’s structured into being the dominant race in the U.S.—at least up until 2015.
Other groups with comparatively more rank include teachers vs. students, parents vs children, CEO’s and heads of organizations, political leaders, police officers, and people with high incomes or wealth. These people automatically have more authority in society because they have more power. In contrast, students, children, workers in companies and new-comers to a community have less rank.
Managing Power Positively is Key
Most of us are super-aware of the rank, power and privilege we don’t have and hardly aware at all of the rank, power and privilege we do have. Which tends to result in us using our power in ways that either are not useful in whatever setting we’re in, or using our rank in ways that actually hurt others. Managing power positively can have huge effects for good or ill on those around us. It’s always our choice. Becoming aware that we have this choice is also huge. Often, once we become somewhat aware of the kinds of rank we have, we feel guilty about the privileges and benefits that come with it. We try to “not have it.” The thing is, it’s impossible to “not have it.” It just is, it’s there no matter whether we acknowledge it or not. If we don’t acknowledge our rank, we can inadvertently use it in ways that hurt people. This not only adds to the hurt in the world, but makes people angry and resentful, which ripples out.
Managing Power Positively Helps Everyone, Including You
The best thing to do with our rank is to become aware of each kind we have, what it gives us, what power, privileges and choices we have because of it, to LOVE it, celebrate it, enjoy it to its fullest. When you can do that, you can also become aware of how you want to use it to try to create the surroundings and the world you’d love to live in. If you’re a CEO of an organization or company, you can choose to be aware of how much more money you make than most of the people in your organization and you can decide if that seems like the right thing for everyone or not. You have the power to choose what to do with that knowledge because you’re the CEO. If you’re a manager in charge of employees’ work schedules, if you choose, you can get feedback from employees about the effects on their lives of different ways of creating schedules and you can choose to set the kinds of schedules that work best for them—or not. You can notice how going either way affects the company in the short-and long-term.
You might be a busy parent whose child is starting to “act up,” “talk back,” or refuse to do what you tell her. Since you’re the person with the rank and power, you have a choice of how to react. Do you try to find out why she’s acting the way she is, realizing that children don’t have the ability to articulate what’s going on inside them as well as adults do, or do you start with punishing her, taking away TV or video game privileges?
One kind of rank is psychological rank—knowing how people’s minds work, and what makes relationships better versus breaking them down. If you’re one of these people, you have the choice to help relationships work better or to use your knowledge to get power solely for yourself.
If you’re someone with wealth, you can become aware of the many ways that things are easier for you than for others, and you can decide what to do with that knowledge. A few examples: you—in contrast to many other people—don’t have to worry about gas money when you hop in your car or the cost of plane fare if you need to visit a sick relative—or if you just feel like a vacation. You can choose to be aware—or not—that picking where to have lunch with a friend might have a big impact on a person with less money, where it doesn’t impact you at all. You have the rank and power to decide what to do with that information.
Rank Means We Don’t Have to be Aware
Ultimately, having rank in a situation gives us the unbelievably powerful choice to be aware of the powers we have—or not. Those with less rank don’t have that choice. They have to be aware of your powers. They have to navigate around your reactions, your desires, the effects you have on them. Thus, for you, managing power positively means that you know all this and try as much as possible to use your rank to benefit not only yourself but those around you. Because you’re the one with the power and the choices to do that!
Awareness around rank, power and privilege is useful in families and essential in organizations. For more information, see EFTtherapycolorado.com.