Helena Clayton | This organisation is just like me



This organisation is just like me

16 Mar 2022, Posted by Helena Clayton in Monthly Blog

As a consultant, brought in to help change an organisational system in some way, I can often get frustrated with that system.

There’s one thing I increasingly do that helps me that. And that’s apply some of the things I do when I’m irritated or frustrated with, or judgemental of a person.

It starts with the belief, found at the heart of systemic constellations work, that organisations have a consciousness, just as we do.

And not just a consciousness but has an unconscious too. Just like us.

And that just like us, it also has:

• Wants and needs, including unmet needs

• It seeks balance and completion and wholeness. It wants to flow. It has potential and a unique purpose that it wants to inhabit and bring to life – and does its best to move in that direction.

• It has a history and an evolution, a back story, a story of origin. It would have had at least one parent. It’s gone through the stages of being born and growing up and finding its way in the world. It had growing pains. It learned. It had highs and lows, successes and failures.

• Tough things happened to it. Maybe ‘big T’ trauma like near-collapse or a brutal takeover. Or ‘small t’ trauma that map onto Adverse Childhood experiences. Our parents divorcing when we were small = the founders splitting in a divisive fall out. Having violence in the family = a culture of toxic bullying. And if it’s true that the effects of our personal trauma live in our bodies, then wouldn’t it also be true of organisational bodies?

• It’s not a closed system or separate from anything else that exists. It’s an inherent part of the wider world, intimately connected with nature and the more-than-human world. Although often massively disconnected from that knowledge. Just as we are.

• And then, just like we do as individuals, organisations also bury stuff they don’t want to look at. They have secrets, like families do. Things that don’t get acknowledged but need to. Organisations, just like us, deny their shadow and act like their darker and less welcome aspects don’t really exist. Bullying. Cut throat competition. Sexism and misogyny. Burnout. And yet we know that what we resist, persists. And so these things, just like in our own lives, leak out and show up anyway.

So it could do its own Lifeline. What would it be like if your organisation could tell you the story of its life. And how what has happened in the past has shaped it into what and what it is today.

And this applies not only to an organisation itself but also parts of an organisation, like the Board or particular function like Purchasing or Engineering.

Knowing this helps me be more compassionate with an organisational system. It helps me see that:

• This system is only doing what it needs to do to keep safe and be successful. Just like me.

• If ‘every obnoxious act is a cry for help’, for every so-called dysfunctional behaviour, there will be a good reason why that behaviour exists. However odd, ‘bad’ or warped that might look to us. Just like me.

• The organisation is just trying to muddle through as best it can. Just like me.

The more I can understand what an organisation has been through – if I can walk a mile or so in its shoes – then I’m more likely to be able to access compassion for the way it shows up today.

I don’t know that it makes me a more effective consultant. But it definitely makes me a more loving and understanding one.

H x

Three good sources for exploring this thinking further can be found in Systemic Constellations, the work on trauma in books like the Body Keeps the Score, and in the field of Shadow Work.

And I have a Newsletter, and you can subscribe here. A monthly offering – leadership, organisational culture, love in the workplace, what I’m reading and learning …

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