This picture was drawn by an employee of a large bureaucratic organization. When she lifted it up, there was a hush of recognition in the group. She said “This is me in the vice. But it could be any of us, really. We are all taking turns. All of these people are just waiting their turn. When we aren’t on the block getting screwed, we are helping turn the ropes and screwing each other.” The emotional content of this picture is powerful. Whereas, this group had verbally described their problem as having too much work and not enough support, this picture shows more of the story. It reveals how the group was contributing to their own misery by how they treated each other.
Other drawings dealt with more typical good guy/bad guy themes. One showed a garden (one manager was a sun, the other a cloud). Another person drew a boat splitting down the middle as the two divisions rowed in different directions. One side was happy the other sad. Yet, all it takes is one deep thinker in a group. Given a chance to effectively share how they see things, one perceptive soul can transform the rest. This woman held a mirror up to the group that revealed a view they were missing. It revealed that their problems weren’t necessarily all being caused by those big bad senior managers! Those big bad senior managers might have provided the vice, but it was the people in the room that were turning the screws on each other!
I could have preached cooperation for days on end, but they needed to see if for themselves. Once they saw their own contributions to the stress, they were no longer powerless victims. It was too bad (and very telling) that both directors were “no show’s” that day. A dialogue about dangerous truths only benefits the people in the room. But their progress proves that a group can make real improvements even without leadership buy-in. Reports to date show complaints from the field are down, formal grievances are down, and people are taking more responsibility to solve their own problems.