CM: Can a person "just" leave a circle?

Circle membership is an agreement based on consent. One becomes a circle member when there’s a proposal and all current circle members consent.
Ideally, for leaving a circle, the same applies. The person (or someone else) would make a proposal to leave the circle, and it would require consent. Why? Imagine a situation where Person A was hired because of their special skills. Let’s say the organization makes a bet that with this person, a certain project will be feasible. But now Person A gets excited about a different project and leaves the circle. Then other circle members - holding the care for the circle and its aim - could object and say “hey, no, you cannot leave, this circle needs you and your skills can’t be replaced here, and that will harm the circle’s aim in a big way.”
Ideally, this would now become a constructive discussion; it’s the regular way of integrating an objection.

  • How could we modify the proposal (“Person A leaves the circle”) so that it works? For example, the circle could still be coached by Person A on that very skill they hold. Or money could be freed up to pay someone with those special skills. Or whatever else works.
  • Could we shorten the term (e.g. Person A takes a break but comes back)?
  • Could we measure the concern? (We might just do without them and once there’s a certain level of “damage” they’d need to required to come back maybe?)

So that was the ideal level. YET, that’s of course not always the case. Sometimes people just drop everything and leave. We all know that’s not ideal. The way I think about that is that it can include the termination of the social contract we have. They leave the circle but also leave the agreements of sociocracy at the same time. While it’s easy to deal with a person shifting their circle focus – within the agreements of how that works – it’s much harder if someone leaves the social contract of consent. Leaving a circle without a process is a unilateral decision. Unilateral decisions are always prone to being power moves. Granted, their source can come from pain, but it’s still the case that power is held and played unilaterally, ignoring the interdependence we all share.

It’s a lot like the difference between an amicable divorce and an ugly divorce. In the first, one plays by the rules of decency and cooperation but still gets divorced. In the latter, all agreements are ignored and there’s no common ground anymore.

I question this. I think we can agree on a policy that when people need to leave they give as much advance notice as possible so a healthy leaving plan can be created, but when the decision ultimately concerns how a person spends their time and energy, they are the only person who needs to consent, not the circle. I also observe that the inability to leave is historically what causes the most harm: the partner who cannot leave an abusive relationship because their safety is threatened … the employee who cannot leave an abusive manager because they’re worried about money, etc. Having a policy that anyone can leave but with as much advanced notice as they can give respects interdependence without infringing on self-determination.

It might be a unilateral decision for all the right reasons! And people do what they need to do.
What I appreciate in sociocracy is the balance between people’s needs and the organization’s needs. What I did in my post was holding up the organization’s needs. There’s damage to the aim if people leave without consideration and intentional process.
I guess we agree that having a process (which could include the policy you’re describing) would be ideal. This is why I wrote, “Leaving a circle without a process is unilateral”.

1 Like