Reciprocal relationships

A reciprocal relationship is one in which each party bears a responsibility for the welfare of the other and, thus, each has certain rights. The stability of the relationship comes from the extent to which those rights and responsibilities are balanced. In some sense this can be seen as a set of fiduciary relationships in which each person has rights because of responsibilities to the other.

Henry hears that they are hiring over at Universal Widget. He has some experience working in a factory and he needs the money. He talks to Frank, the plant manager about the job and they agree that Henry will start Monday. They have formed an agreement that constructs a reciprocal relationship.

Henry will work eight hours a day with a 15 minute break in the morning and another one in the afternoon. He gets a half hour for lunch, paid sick leave after three months, and vacation after a year. His quota is 100 widgets a day. He is to tell Frank if there is anything wrong with the widget machine and to call if he is going to be late. He will be paid $10 an hour.

Frank has a right to know if the widget machine is acting up. Henry has a responsibility to tell him if there is anything wrong with the widget machine. Frank has the right to know because he has a responsibility to support the welfare of the company which gives Henry his paycheck.

Henry has a right to a paycheck. Frank has a responsibility to pay him. Henry has a right to a paycheck because he is responsible for creating the product that keeps the company financially solvent.

Frank has a right to know how many widgets Henry has made in a given day. Henry has a responsibility to tell him. Frank has a right to know because he is responsible for maintaining sufficient output such that the company can continue to employ Henry.

Their relationship is constructed out of a set of understandings that balance rights and responsibilities. If Henry starts showing up late, Frank is going to feel taken advantage of. Henry is not keeping to the agreement. If Henry starts making more than 100 widgets a day, he is going to start thinking about getting a raise. He is being more responsible so he should get more rights. Their capacity to maintain a healthy relationship depends on their ability to clarify and adjust the agreement so that they maintain the balance of rights and responsibilities. If they are unable to do so Henry will get fired or he will quit. The relationship will collapse.

There is often a hierarchy in reciprocal relationships. In this case Frank is the boss and Henry the employee. Frank has a kind of authority which comes from his rank as the boss. Henry may have a sense that Frank has all of the power but Frank knows better. He knows that if his workers don't show up he is going to have to answer to the owner. Frank has rights Henry doesn't have, but he also has responsibilities Henry may not even know about.

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