‘Going beneath the surface’
Above the Surface
Erik breathes a sigh of relief. Luckily he has found his team a new member. The team members will probably be as relieved. After the departure of their former colleague the position has not been properly filled. Colleagues came and went but now there was an applicant who seemed to be just right. The right education, experience and competences. And also quite important, the right personality. This woman is a keeper. Erik knows it for sure.
The team members welcome the new employee with great enthusiasm. Initially the woman is as excited and does what is expected from her. After a while however, she is shriveling as a flower in the dessert. Erik sees it happening. He does not understand why but he knows: she will also leave the company.
In the meantime, by coincidence, he comes across the systemic methodology. This gets him interested in the different options to discover the dynamics within his team and decides to set up a systemic constellation*.
Beneath the surface
During the systemic constellation props are met to represent the team. It becomes clear that there is something ‘not right’ within the team. On an day to day basis nothing seems to be the matter but when we take a closer look, we see there is definitely something going on. The team comes across as weak. Some members are about to leave. Emotions and feelings such as insecurity, sadness, anger, and confusion come to the surface. Erik is astonished. He was not aware of this.
The inaudible but tangible message
On inquiry, it shows that the team in its current form has been around for quite a while. Some time ago, as Erik still remembers vividly, he fired a member after the two of them got into a huge argument. This employee left abruptly without saying any goodbyes. Not a word has been said about it ever since.
From one moment to another, suddenly the employee was literally completely excluded. There was no farewell. No credits were given for what he had done for the company. In fact, the complete situation was hushed up. The message ‘If you argue with me, then you do not exist anymore’ seemed to glimpse through.
Power of the system
The exclusion of a member goes against one of the basic laws of systems: everyone belongs to the system, the team in this case. If someone leaves the system then this is supposed to occur under fair circumstances.
If someone is excluded like in the story above, then this will weaken the (team) system. The unspoken message sounds inaudible but is no less tangible for the team. Similarly, the person who will fill in the gap will also feel it. This person will get dragged into the dynamics, behave the same or like here, leave as well.
Disturbed dynamics can be restored again.
In the first instance, Erik does not want to go along with this line of reasoning: “This is nonsense! It is the way it is. We got into an argument and the employee left, period. That does not say anything about the rest of the team.”
Well, it is clear Erik needed some extra encouragement:
Indeed, it is the way it is. You cannot change anything about that. The person left. In theory, that is fine. However, the circumstances under which the person left have resulted in damage.
Erik sighs. He considers whether there might be some truth to this observation. Indeed, the circumstances were not very appropriate. But what can be done about it?
The good news here is: Fortunately, disturbed dynamics can be restored again. For the comprehensiveness of this blog I will leave it by giving a clue: What would happen if you would include ‘what has been excluded’ again?
Erik looks at me with suspicion; ‘Are you really saying this? Can it be that simple?’ After some time of consideration, he decides to give it a try. It will not hurt. With hesitation he places a prop who represents the fired employee, back into the constellation of the team.
Erik immediately notices a change. The current constellation does not seem to be accurate anymore and he adjust all props until he feels it is ‘right’ again. When we look at the ‘new’ constellation the team appears to be stronger and comes across as a more coherent whole. Calmer.
Erik anxiously asks, ‘I do not have to hire that person again, do I?’ Besides from the fact that nothing ‘has’ to be done – no, that is not necessary. But you could consider (still) saying goodbye appropriately. Would that be an option?
This seems to be something that Erik would be willing to do. He increasingly realizes that the way how the former employee left the company was not appropriate, and takes responsibility for his part. He decides to openly share his insights with the team but before he does this, he calls the ex-employee. He asks whether he would be willing to drink some coffee together, allowing him to apologize for the way things turned out, and to thank him or her for his years of dedication to the company.
=> What kind of effect do you think this act will have on the former employee, the team, the organisation, the new member of the team and last but not least, himself?
- Karen van Hout