This blog is an extension or inside view of my previous one which can be found here.
There are two sides to every story and in the earlier blog of ‘Is organisational culture becoming a scapegoat?’ we learned about the employee’s impact on the organisation and the culture. However how has this affected the employee, was their intention pure and in service to the organisation or were they seeking to ‘right’ a wrong? There is an element of social justice with this employee but, if we dig deeper this is about congruence. Here are two opposing narratives of the organisation in the previous article:
- We are passionate about D&I
- We hire known and liked people regardless of the process
These narratives create tension and what the employee did was to surface that tension. The question is why and what’s behind their thinking? Generally in our practice what is behind our own thinking? This is always worthy of exploration and an excellent question for supervision.
It’s no surprise when I tell you that the person in story is me, and this about how I operate as an OD consultant. OD work is not confined to OD practitioners, it was and is clear my earlier article that I was doing OD work without knowing it. What prompted me to unearth this organisational narrative? I have issues when people or organisations are incongruent, where the action doesn’t match the espoused narrative.
Why did I do this? Well I didn’t have the knowledge I did then that I do now. My hypothesis was that I was seeking to right a wrong in the organisation and it was a bit like a crusade. What has the crusade got to do with my personal life? One of the things most important to me is the action matching the narrative.
I noticed when I was younger what I was observing on a cognitive level wasn’t matching my own internal processing, I was brought up in a household which had 2 sets of rules. One that applied to boys and one that applied to girls. We notice what we notice, because of our own stories this informs (or leaks) and forms our practice, and I don’t mind using the metaphor of practice (a medical term). Underneath practice is what I would describe as our identity, and not everyone is happy nailing their colours to the mast, but I am.
I am sensitive to having a narrative match what goes on in the organisation and how people feel. It is how I became the inconvenient truth teller, because I unearth the hidden narratives in organisations and relationships. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube there no putting it back in. Once you know something, it can’t be unknown. I use confrontation in my practice a lot and it can make people uncomfortable, however there is a genuine reason for it. We need to stop bullshitting ourselves and each other. My style is not for everyone or every organisation, but it is powerful and pinpointed.
Are OD practitioners looking to heal the broken parts of themselves with the client work, most likely……..are they aware of it maybe. That remains the beauty of hindsight, a reflective practice and supervision. Where possible, I make my work about the organisation and check in to see if we have a matching shadow in the mirror, if I do notice something then it’s a piece I have to think about carefully and usually take to supervision.
Start questioning yourself if the work means more to you than your client, when you are giving more than your client is. It’s a tell-tale sign that something is going on and you have been hooked in. I am not perfect and I have been hooked in by my client’s and it’s been a painful experience and a reminder of how much of myself ends up in my work.
When my stuff becomes mixed with my client’s stuff, here are some helpful questions I ask myself:
- What’s the reason behind this?
- Who am I doing this for?
- What is it that I need, and what does my client need?
- Who or what is this really about?
- Is there a familiar pattern?
Nims is an Organisational Design and Development consultant at the MOD, she also freelances and supports SMEs. She is an executive coach and a trainee transactional analyst in the field of organisations.
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