Stuck in a City Partnership?

Get Your City Partnership Unstuck.


Are you currently feeling stuck in a partnership?  Don’t panic.  Nothing good comes out of actions based on fear or panic.  Just because you feel like you’re “stuck,” you think you’ve got to get OUT immediately.

That panic or anxiety you’re feeling about being stuck in a relationship or partnership is often a sign that you may be a “control freak.” Because you can’t control the situation, you can’t micro manage the partner, and so you can’t possibly know the outcome. You think that if only you could control everything, you could manage the outcome and things would work out beautifully. As a result, you find yourself as a person who has to quickly get out every uncomfortable situation rather than “working through the issue.”

The truth is, all partnerships have some similar essential dynamics. To get from “stuck” to “flow,” you merely need to realize that you have made a commitment to your partner and your mutually beneficial outcomes, and that you are making a conscious decision to bring a happy resolution to the issue you’re facing in your partnership.  The goal is to see the partnership you entered with your City to fruition.

Please excuse my use of labels, but do you know any control freaks?  I ask the question because I myself tend to be a control freak.  Hey take it easy, I’m working through this weakness.

Did you know control freaks tend to have an issue within commitment?  It is not that they have a problem with making a commitment, it is that they need to control most, if not all, aspects of the partnership from within it.  And when issues do arise, they (we?) freak out and panic and sometimes choose to irrationally end the partnership rather than remaining loyal to it and moving through the issues.


All of these tendencies often stem from gamophobia.  Gamophobia is Fear of Commitment, though it can also be the excessive, persistent, uncontrollable and irrational fear of marriage. It is derived from the Greek word gamos, which means marriage, and phobos, meaning fear.  So when you find yourself unhappy, struggling within a partnership, ask yourself, am I currently feeling “stuck” in this partnership (with an employee, marriage partner, etc.) because I’m suffering from gamophobia?


Trust is a fundamental requirement in the formation of a partnership.  Without a trusting relationship with the other party involved in the partnership, you cannot move forward. You may try, but it will continually falter, and eventually fail. Trust is an issue that is easy to spot up front, so watch for it, and act accordingly. It is always better NOT to commit to a partnership to begin with than to commit to a partnership that you think you may be unable to see through to fruition.


A colleague of mine recently helped me understand that in a partnership, whether it is in place for a long- or short-term period, you need to put trust in the relationship.  If you entered into the partnership with your eyes wide open, with the same goals as your partner(s), you must be able to trust that you made a solid decision and that the issues you’re facing may actually have nothing to do with being “stuck” and are instead simply a matter of being “in transition.”

You can and you must work through this “transition” period, even if you’re overwhelmed and feeling stuck right now!  The benefits on the other side are too many to discount. Working through any transitional phase will leave you feeling more satisfied, clearer on your goals, and stronger as a partnership.

Again, don’t panic!  If you panic, this irrational, impatient behavior could make you feel pretty silly after you realize you are allowing normal partnership issues to result in your drowning in what is just a glass of water.

I’m not calling City Managers control freaks, but as a City Manager, you engage your City in partnerships all the time.  You have the executive authority to enter into partnerships with other governments, vendors, and of course your City Council.  But do you think of hiring your Finance Director, or any other City Director for that matter, as a partnership?  Of course you do!


Hiring a City Director is a partnership with potential for positive synergy value as well as negative consequences if you partner with an individual with whom you might later find it too difficult to manage, due to your lack of patience, tolerance for diversity of thinking, or just perhaps your overall commitment to this employment partnership.  That City Director can be your strongest supporter or your worst nightmare, but he or she is nonetheless a partner with you and your City.

Most likely you realize hiring an individual to serve your City as a Director is a large COMMITMENT, akin to a legal partnership.  You do your best to hire a City Director who will embrace your leadership style and internalize the goals of the City organization to assist you in carrying out the vision and plans of your City Council and your community.

Just be careful not to get gamophobic; you need that City Director on your team! J

But City Managers are not the only people at City Hall who enter into partnerships.


Whether you are a City Manager or a City Clerk or a Maintenance Worker, we all enter into partnerships everyday with people we work and live with.  And everybody is our partner or we would not be speaking with them right now.  Even at Starbucks, every member who works together to serve you the best cup of coffee is called a “Partner.”

Imagine if we called everybody at City Hall a partner, how empowering that would be!

Thus, if you ever feel stuck in a partnership with a partner who is not happy, don’t panic.  Just rest in the knowledge that your partnership is in “transition.”  With good communication, patience, and care, most partnership issues can be worked out and turned around as a win-win success story.  Only YOU can decide which partnership is worth the effort to continue and bring to fruition.

I have found that most, if not all, issues in City partnerships we enter into can be worked out with a little patience.  We just need to remain rational and NOT act from a place of fear.  We must remain committed to our core values, our ethics, and our commitment to ourselves to remain happy and productive.

If you’re suffering with symptoms of gamophobia, talk to somebody about that.  If you have commitment issues keeping you from moving forward on new partnerships, well that is a subject for a future CitySpeak newsletter. As for commitment issues with existing partnerships, you can pray, meditate, or do something useful to help you remain committed to the partnership.  Nothing has changed the fact that you’re in control of your own feelings and actions.


It is also good to remember that sometimes people just need time.

There’s obviously a time limit to how long you can give your partner to work through their unhappiness or to get back to their “happy place”, to get back to the productive partnership you entered into.  Just remember the Golden Rule, treat others as you would like to be treated.  When you’re not at your best, how much do you appreciate that people give you space and room to get back to your better self?

The same is true in all of our people partnerships.  Don’t be so quick to pull out the legal “out” clause.  That will only hurt everybody affected by the partnership in a negative way.

And with an unemployment rate of just 3.8%, this is not a time to be rash with decisions to end partnerships, especially employment partnerships.  Better to exercise patience and give partners time to work through issues, or at the very least have communication to retain the partnership on a positive level.


n a future CitySpeak newsletter I will discuss the most important partnership in most people’s lives: Marriage.  There is much we can all learn and apply from the marriage partnership to all other partnerships we face at City Hall.  It takes a willingness to trust people and a commitment to the people we partner with to succeed in our partnerships, not gamophobia!

I wish us all success as we work through any rough patches in our partnerships.  Let us forge ahead with our successful partnerships!

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