We think that the standard vocabulary as is used for New Public Management, doesn’t suit New Public Stoicism. That is why we want to try to build the right vocabulary that holds the essence of New Public Stoicism. In this blogpost, I will elaborate a bit on the words “trust” and “building relationships”.
In the Third Letters from a Stoic (Seneca, p. 34-36) one can read: “After friendship is formed you must trust, but before that you must judge.” We may not need to go as far as building friendship, but we – as research managers – will be judged by researchers before there can be anything like trust. And we ourselves will also judge the researchers.
The mutual judgement will be on the expected capabilities of one another: Will the researcher be capable to write an excellent research proposal? Will the research manager be capable to understand the research proposal? And what about being judged on ones knowledge? Maybe the judgement will even be on the person: is there a so-called click on both ends? The latter bears the risk of judging on character instead of actions. Therefore both parties should remember to stand back and take time to evaluate the actions or situations as objectively as possible. Don’t judge straight away because this brings the risk of deciding by emotion, be it negative or positive. And that is not the stoic way of acting.
Given the above, it becomes clear that the judgement takes time. But this time is necessary because it is the only way trust can be build. So, even without the trust being in place, the researcher and the research manager need to collaborate and start building their relationship. This can be a scary process. The scientist may be reserved in sharing the draft proposal. The research manager may be reserved in providing feedback. It is only on a step-by-step basis that progress in the relationship is made. After completing a first proposal, a first sparkle of trust may be build. That is: if the experience was a positive one. But to go to the full, more frequent collaborations are required. And the reservations need to fade away once the mutual judgement results in the knowledge that both researcher and research manager can fully trust each other. The draft proposal will be handled strictly confidential by the research manager, while the researcher will accept feedback even if it seems harsh at times.
Only if and when this state of mutual trust is reached, in the relationship built, you can “welcome one another heart and soul, speak as unreservedly with the other as you would with yourself and […] share all your worries and deliberations” (Seneca, p.35).