Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

Letting another role represent a tension during Governance Meeting

Hello all!

Constitution says (3.2.2) that a role might be represented by another role in order to process a tension (proposal) if both roles agree on that. Recently one of the teams was considering the circumstances allowed for such an agreement to take place. 

For example, can this agreement be simply given during a GM? If role X places something on the agenda that doesn't come from his/her roles and is clearly a tension that should belong to another role, a facilitator may discard it as invalid proposal (I'm simplifying here). At this point, can a person (filling X role) ask the other role (that this tension definitely refers to) for a permission to represent? 

And more generally, have you yourself experienced any circle using this particular rule of representation?




3 Replies

Hi there - I was asked to bring a tension on behalf of someone one time to a meeting and it completely backfired. Actually, the person who asked me to bring the tension didn't support the proposal I suggested to solve "his problem" .. I vowed to myself to never bring another tension that wasn't mine to the meeting. Recall that tensions are effectively processed only when the tension-holder "has what they need". With them not present, it may create inefficiency in use of meeting time if the depth of their concerns are not addressed. I suppose a person who can't make the meeting can ask someone else to bring the tension to the group that they anticipate is not going to be controversial. Otherwise, if he/she is looking for another person to "float" a hot potato, I would recommend passing that one back and not wasting your circle's valuable meeting time.

Sally McCutchion

Hi Gabi,

Hope you're well.

My interpretation is that if you ask someone to represent a tension for you it still has to be a tension from one of your roles to be valid. It sounds like in the case you described that the person was not sensing a tension from their role? In this case, they are able to ask the relevant role holder if the tension and proposed solution makes sense to them but that person is under no obligation to take on the advice.

Like Tracey, I think representing another role's tension is risky and would generally advise a role to make an asynchronous proposal or call a governance meeting to process their own tension.

If someone does ask another role to represent their tension at a meeting, it must still be grounded in a real situation and be sensed from one of their own roles.


Brian Robertson

You can't represent someone else's tension - it's unconstitutional in any case, and, as Tracey discovered, a terrible idea to try!  :-)

You can represent someone else's role, with permission, to process a tension you sense in that role, which is a totally different thing than representing someone else's tension.  I think that's what Gabriella was intending to ask about, although there's nothing that allows a role to be "represented by another role", just by another partner.  And then they can represent the role just as if they filled it, and process any tensions they actually sense in the role.

There are no rules about how/when that permission is given, so it's up to everyone involved to use their judgment there.  I often use this when I'll miss a governance meeting, and I know someone else who will be present has a good sense of my roles, so I invite them to represent my roles so they can raise objections from them if needed.  You could also use it when someone senses a tension that limits your role, which you also sense but think for whatever reason that they'll do a better job resolving the tension than you would (e.g. perhaps they used to fill the role for a long time and you're new to it).