About halfway through our Saturday morning conversation at Starbucks in Watertown Square I realized I was speaking with a different person than half an hour ago. It wasn’t just that we’d shucked our overcoats and were warmed by coffee. The more Abby spoke about her studies in adult development and her advocacy for workplace change, the more animated, the brighter she became. Her enthusiasm was contagious. It’s always energizing to be around people who know their passions and pursue them in every aspect of life.
Abby zeroed right in on my question. “How I answer will vary depending on which part of my life we reference: my work, my studies, my community, my advocacy.” But as we talked, the threads of Abby’s interests entwined to form an integrated whole.
Abby is an Organizational Effectiveness Consultant and chair of the Boston Facilitator’s Roundtable. “People say I started it, but I didn’t. I created what it is today. When I joined in 2000 it was a dying organization, but I didn’t know that.” Abby became president in 2001, and has held that post ever since. The roundtable now has 320 paying members and even more participants.
Abby is a disciple of psychologist Erik Erikson’s eight stages of personal development, further refined by Robert Kegan’s focus on adult development (Immunity to Change) and Carol Gilligan’s contributions to gender difference (In a Different Voice). “Erikson’s eight stages of development were identified during the 1950’s and 60’s. They are linear and male-oriented.” Kegen’s five stages, which he refers to as Orders of the Mind, describe how individuals progress from objects subjected to physical and emotional forces to subjects who can objectify emotions and therefore better control them. “Kegan describes how we learn attribution-taking; how we take responsibility for our actions and feelings; how we move from an either/or to a both/and. Gilligan highlights the collaborative nature of personal dynamics.” All three theorists are important in Abby’s endeavors to transform the workplace.
Abby envisions work environments that are harmonious, where people participate in their workplace. “I want to create joyful – that’s too big a word, but I’ve already used harmonious so it’s not too big – places to work. We need to end suffering in the workplace. We need to create workplaces based on adult relationships, not parent/child relationships.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“There are so many streams that lead to your question. I am a community member, a social activist, and work to involve more people in their own government, in addition to my professional pursuits. The future is now. Models of community employment are happening in many places around the world. The progressive vision of the future is already happening.
“If we are committed to the environment we need to create jobs in the environment. This makes your question a political question. There is a difference between how we will live and how we want to live. I want to see less jobs in defense. I want to see more in solar, energy, affordable housing, tidal change. I only hope that we can achieve this before the military overtakes us.
“It will start a the local level. In Watertown we are instituting a ban on plastic bags. We spoke up for citizen input on hiring the new police chief. These may seem like small things, but we are requiring that the citizens have a voice.”