After writing my piece on Sunday, I have kept quiet for the last 24 hours trying to give myself some time to step back from the immediacy of the issue and reflect. We sent our four girls to MLC and spoke to Rosa on many occasions. That makes it hard for me to evaluate the issues calmly. Regardless, I’ll give it a go.
In psychodynamics there is a phenomenon called “splitting.” This is where people in stressful situations “split” the world into “good” people and “bad” people. That is “You’re either for us, or you’re agin us.”
Splitting is a classic phenomenon in public debate. We take sides. Think Lindy Chamberlain, Shapelle Corby or Julian Assange. In public debate it is particularly destructive because we take sides on the basis of the barest of facts.
In the case of the very public sacking of MLC Principal, Rosa Storelli most of the public commentary can be categorised as “Rosa is good and the Board is bad.”
Splitting is always counterproductive. It reduces the range of options open to us. We get locked into “I am right, you have to change.” This is how wars start. There is alway good and bad on both sides. Both sides always have a right to feel misrepresented. And both sides can never be proud of every one of their actions.
In this case the Board’s public handling of the issue has and continues to be appalling. There are a lot of stakeholders here and they all need to know more than they are being told.
On the other hand Ms Storelli doesn’t help herself when she describes this as an “execution.” When you’re outside a Board it’s easy to think of it as hard, uncaring and profit (or ego) focussed. When I think about it, it’s only boards I’m NOT on that are like that. The ones I am, or have been, on are made up of real people like myself. People who struggle with issues and their consciences as they try to balance all the competing pressures. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been on boards and leadership groups which have fallen foul of groupthink and I’ve been part of that process. But this is a constant danger of groups operating in levels of high ambiguity.
Looked at in this context, I’m starting to wonder. Who is most intransigent here? From a public point of view, neither side appears prepared to budge a millimetre. This makes rational analysis hard. From this perspective I have no option but to say “I don’t know” and remain impartial. This is really hard for most of us involved in any way in the issue. Most of us know Rosa Storelli at least by reputation. Few of us know much about the Board members. Our natural reaction is to side with the person we know and many would say “love.” Of course Rosa must be right and the Board must be wrong. Our natural reaction though, while an admirable expression of loyalty, is not useful in resolving the dispute.
I call on both the Board and Ms Storelli to show good faith and start by publicly admitting their mistakes in this affair.