In many conversations, I have heard this aspirational statement especially from the head of organisations, leaders and even CEOs - that they are leading "one big family". The dynamics of a family and an organisation may seem very similar. However, psychologically people respond in the same way when they are under stress. Our mind cannot differentiate between the difference in the two contexts - whether it is at work or personal.
Virginia Satir, an American author and psychotherapist known for her work in family therapy, reveals that the present problem is seldom the problem. Rather, how people coped with the issue created the problem. Now, we know that family is made up of people and so are organisations. The only differentiating factor could be a difference in age groups.
Let me give you a little overview of what stress responses look like according to the studies conducted by Virginia Satir.
Under stress people usually
please the other person
become virtuous or
These are typical responses seen in a family too. Where there is a head of the family- a father, a mother and a child.
After a few calls and emails, a middle aged Ranjan (name changed) confessed to me that he had a boss from hell. He also mockingly called him the male version of "devil wears Prada". And with in-depth discussion, it became very clear that he was struggling with the same issues with his father that reflected in his interactions with his boss.
While as a coach this is not new information for me, as a reader this should not be an opportunity for you to take your or your family member’s or team’s issues in your own hand. “Inner work” requires patience and objectivity which can easily go missing if it is done from a space of fixing rather than just being.
After the pandemic there is a genuine concern in the organisations to look at a person congruently. And here are some questions from a coach to any organisation:
When the hiring team hires, do they consider the past experiences (not just professional but personal too) of the person? We live in a civil society where asking too many questions can be seen as prying yet remember when you are on boarding someone it is not just a person with few qualifications but a life full of different journeys. Are we willing to consider that in our hiring model?
Our prior experiences can add to huge amount of baggage if they are not reconditioned.
Team outings, off-sites and meals at expensive locations are really great. Yet, are you addressing the team politics and drama?
Diversity and inclusion is wonderful. But are we looking at the image of self? If we don’t accept all the parts in us- the good, the bad and the ugly - how are we ever expected to love the other who is so different from us? How do you really see yourself fitting in this diverse team?
Till the point smoking rooms are not converted into meditation rooms no real transformation can happen in any working organisation.
So while referring to our teams and organisations as a family may be the right thing to say it is really just a fancy idea unless acceptance of self is endorsed and self-empowerment does not happen.
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