Obligation is a funny thing.
And not funny as “ha-ha” but funny as in “Isn’t this a modern irony?”
The NFL owners voted almost unanimously this week, to move the Raiders franchise from Oakland to Las Vegas (a move fraught with its own implications in a professional sport full of people with questionable moral and ethical decision making practices…but bear with me) and their explanations to the fans of why they are moving, is reflective of a larger shift in our culture around the concept of obligation.
The attitude encapsulated in the owners’ comments following the vote reflects two views of obligation:
The first view is that of “we owe you nothing.” The franchise and the team played games, grew a fan base, and gave the entertainment to the fans of the sport that they craved. In exchange, the fans gave the team and franchise money through ticket sales and more.
The second view of obligation is that of “the only thing I ever owed you was a ‘good time.’” The players, the ownership (I’m a Denver Broncos fan, I know), and even the overall notorious behavior of the franchise reflected this “good time.” In exchange, the fans (both locally and regionally) gave the team, the owners, and the franchise attention, awareness, and an audience.
This is also purely transactional and reflects a view of obligation based not in attaining revenues of money, but attaining revenues of attention and trust. It’s the view that Frank Sinatra had about his life versus his performances, and that many celebrities of all stripes seem to have abandoned in recent years.
There are two large perspectives to consider here, both of which relate to conflict management and our real lives, as well as one small—but salient—point:
- Our lives are never purely transactional in nature. There is always an exchange of emotion for revenues (either trust or money) and that transaction has never been more valuable than now in our overall organizational and public cultures.
- Our conflicts are based on other people barreling past our obligations and asking us to give more emotionally, than we may be prepared to give. However, the reality is that our personal boundaries around obligation must expand, or our management (not to mention our resolutions) will be task oriented, thinly veiled attempts to get to a relationship based goal we don’t really value, with the other party.
The small point is this: The organizations and leaders that understand the nature of obligation and the power they wield in a transactional relationship, will attain far greater—and far more meaningful—outcomes from individuals, societies, and cultures, than those that don’t understand.
Or even worse, those that don’t care—or never cared—in the first place.