The freedoms of dissent, protest, and expression are bedrocks of a free society. These fundamental rights have and always will carry with them certain equally basic obligations. To be reasonable, dissent must show deference to opposing views, and it must be free from intimidation and threats. To be meaningful, protest must be peaceful, purposeful, and within the bounds of realistic and civil limits. To be credible, expression must be rational, responsible, and based in some degree of justifiable reason. Dissent, protest, and expression without an equal measure of objective accountability can be and often is dangerous!
Involved leaders appreciate and understand these time-honored, and at time conflicting, attributes of a free society. Freedoms claimed and exercised without regard for corresponding obligations can quickly unbalance both interpersonal and interorganizational equilibrium. When these delicate balances are damaged, the stage is set for abuses, and the rules of evenhanded, mutually beneficial engagement can be quickly victimized. Peaceful interplay, reasonable exchange, and social decorum are then easily damaged or destroyed.
Perceptive leaders continually monitor the balance between the expression of rights and acceptance of responsibilities within their organizations. Although difficult and challenging, doing so is essential, both in the moment and for the long-term good of the organization. If left untethered to each other, unbalanced relationships between those with dissimilar views can develop. When this happens, unstable relationships can take on a permeance thus threatening the potential for reestablishing well-adjusted rapport between the competing factions.
Any number of emotional triggers, such as anger, fear, frustration, and suspicion can blur or even totally obscure the link between freedoms and the obligations they carry. For example, one’s anger-driven right to level accusations at public officials, can completely obscure the corresponding responsibilities. Being angry isn’t an unfettered pass to say anything that comes to mind without some deference for opposing views, respect for the rights of others, and a measure of fact-based credibility.
Rights without responsibilities are laid bare for abuse!