Sunday, January 30, 2005

Abusive Organizations and Individual Responsibility

Some people believe that organizations cannot be abusive, only individuals. But I wonder if they are taking the phrase "abusive organization" too literally. In my mind, abusive organizations are made up of leaders in those organizations who abuse their subordinates, and these subordinates in turn often abuse *their* subordinates, all of this made possible by the corporate culture that allows or even encourages abuse and corruption. In the final analysis, I believe that organizations *can* be abusive since these organizations are made up of individuals.

Taking this to the next level, some people have said that the group of people who have contributed to the ex-jewsforjesus website and blog are themselves an "abusive organization" because their words have the potential to hurt individual employees at Jews for Jesus who might lose their jobs if donations decrease. I would have to say that this is comparing apples and oranges. The power differential that existed in JFJ and that led to abusive practices and policies and broken families and ruined lives cannot be compared to the unlikely possibility of some employee at JFJ having to find work in another company. I just don't think there is a comparison at all.

But getting back to the question of Jews for Jesus being an abusive organization. I think that individual evil and organizational culture are two separate but related issues. To affirm one is not to deny the other. Both can (and do) exist. Yes, it is true that an abusive organization cannot exist without individual evil. And yes, it is true that some of the abused in JFJ eventually became the abusers. And yes, it is true that we all have the capability for doing evil acts. But to acknowledge the abusive nature of the Jews for Jesus organization is not to deny individual responsibility. I don't think that any one of us would say that. It seems to me that an emphasis on individual responsibility to the exclusion of corporate liability is a bit of a straw man. After all, hasn't the U.S. legal system over and over again said that organizations that employ abusive individuals and allow them to continue working in that environment are culpable and liable for damages?

David Brickner says that Jews for Jesus as an organization cannot apologize for or be held accountable for the acts of individuals. Our legal system says otherwise.


Anonymous said...

JFJ continues to abuse even after someone has left JFJ.

The memory of how they "behaved badly" is never forgotten and archived forever.


Anonymous said...

Isn't that what the Enron scandal was all about? Corporate responsibility for the sinister acts of individuals in charge of that company?

The Board of Directors of Jews for Jesus are a bunch of "yes men" hand-picked by Brickner. The Jews for Jesus organizational structure specifically states that the executive director (Brickner or anyone else in that office), has absolute control of the organization NOT The Board of Directors.

When I approached the board of directors about what happened to me I was told by their representative (a well known voice over, move and television actor), I was told in no uncertain terms that I was right, Brickner was wrong, but the Board had no authority to do anything about it, despite the "grievance process" set up by the organization, because "all authority rests in the Executive Director".

I was further told that the Board would fight me at any cost to protect Jews for Jesus, even though they agreed that I was wronged.

How evil is that?