Clarifying the Remit:
As the frustration in the team increases due to rising time pressure and it is not possible to walk through the department without someone complaining, I ask Mr. T if he may not be interested in investigating how he, himself, could improve the atmosphere. He agrees to this ‘coaching’.
It is shortly before Christmas and we sit down by candlelight, facing each other and with a pot of hot tea between us.
“How are you coping with the poor atmosphere between transport and customs?” I ask him. He sighs loudly and tells me how hard he tries to offer his people a good work place and how much time he takes for each person, how well he listens and how empathic and sympathetic he is.
“Yes, I can understand that well, harmony is very important to you.”
He nods and states that contact is the alpha and omega of a good employee – manager relationship. It is the most important thing!
“But is it possible to always be in harmony with everyone?”
“Yes, I can do that, it is my greatest strength.”
“From my point of view one must manage the balance between closeness and distance, otherwise one’s skill in making contact becomes a danger. You are in the grip of an unconscious pattern, fully automated and remote-controlled. I can clearly see, again and again, the degree to which you orientate yourself by the needs of other people and, in doing so, you are no longer able to perceive your own needs. When you adapt to the differing needs of others in this way, it is obvious that you then become forgetful. In that situation, I would not be able to remember what seventeen different people want, I would be completely overburdened.”
I give examples, but Mr. T. does not relate to them. It is only when I repeat to him his often applied sentence: “The management wants”, that he is clearly moved.
“Oh, God, I can hear my mother! The neighbours expect, the vicar says, your teacher means”.
He describes how much he hated that.
We continue to work on this subject for another four sessions. At the fourth meeting, he comes into contact with his fear of punishment, if he should ever set his own boundaries. He fears being fired, were he to go into conflict in the workplace. My question as to how realistic it was that he could be fired, he cannot understand. Of course, you can lose your job if you do not cooperate. For Mr. T. the engagement with this subject is uncomfortable and arduous. However, I have a suspicion that he is cooperating with me in order not to endanger our relationship.
After this meeting he cannot find the time for further sessions, as the change project requires too much strength and commitment. Nowadays he has a coach, who supports him to become ‘harder’. He has ordered his team to take up “Stress Management Training”. Sickness levels in the department are high.
Regulation of needs is one of the eight leading processes of Psychodynamics. The guiding distinction is the question: What do I want and what don’t I want? What belongs to me, what is yours?
In order to feel well, every person must be able to situationally regulate his needs for contact (closeness) and limitation (distance). To organise togetherness, one must be able to share and to understand the feelings and motivations of others well, but, at the same time, one must maintain the ability to hold one’s own boundary, even when this does not conform to the expectations of others. Mr.T’s emotional engagement with his own desires is, at the moment, still coupled with great fear and feelings of peril. Therefore, he avoids his own desires completely and conforms instead. As a result, he is unable to respond appropriately as a manager to the situation, and thus he delegates the problems to the outside.