Are there "power games" in sociocracy?

While sociocracy aims to distribute power and foster collaboration, like any human endeavor, it is not immune to power dynamics and potential “power games.”

Power games can emerge in any organizational structure, including sociocracy. However, the principles and practices of sociocracy are designed to minimize and address these dynamics effectively.

Here are some ways power games can manifest in sociocracy and how the sociocratic approach seeks to mitigate them:

  1. Circle Domination:

In sociocracy, circles are intended to distribute power. However, a dominant individual or faction within a circle can attempt to control decisions. Sociocracy addresses this through the double-linking structure, allowing information flow between circles and ensuring broader participation in decision-making.

  1. Obstruction of Consent:

In consent-based decision-making, a power game can arise if individuals consistently withhold consent without valid objections. Sociocracy addresses this by ensuring objections are reasoned and that facilitators are skilled in discerning valid objections from mere power plays.

  1. Information Hoarding:

Power games can involve hoarding information to control decision outcomes. Sociocracy promotes transparency and open communication, reducing the potential for information asymmetry.

  1. Subverting Facilitation:

Manipulating or undermining the facilitation process can be a power tactic. Sociocracy emphasizes skilled facilitation, which helps ensure that meetings are conducted fairly and efficiently.

  1. Circle Favoritism:

Individuals or subgroups may try to exert influence to promote their interests within a circle. Sociocracy promotes a culture of inclusion and equality, where all members’ perspectives are valued.

  1. Hierarchy Reemergence:

Sociocracy is designed to be less hierarchical, but power games can lead to the reemergence of informal hierarchies. Sociocratic practices, such as circle selections, encourage rotating roles to prevent entrenched hierarchies.

  1. Gatekeeping:

Limiting membership or voice within circles can be used as a power tactic. Sociocracy encourages broad participation and inclusivity, reducing gatekeeping practices.

  1. Emotional Manipulation:

Emotional manipulation can be used to sway decisions. Sociocracy’s emphasis on empathy and compassionate communication helps counter emotional manipulation.

While sociocracy is not immune to power dynamics, its principles of distributed power, consent-based decision-making, transparency, and inclusivity serve as mechanisms to address and minimize power games.

Ongoing education, training, and a commitment to the principles of sociocracy are essential for creating a healthy and collaborative organizational culture.

Addressing power games requires vigilance and a dedication to the core values of sociocracy.

If you want to share your personal reflections on this topic, please feel free to do so in a comment below. Thank you.

Best wishes!


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