Friday, 22 July 2016

Sense and Nonsensibility: The Labour Party Leadership

Observed from afar, the Labour Party, in its current Leadership skirmish, looks like a very large dysfunctional family.

There may be some shared values somewhere, but what we on the outside are viewing is a fascinating degree of bad communication and loads and loads of finger-pointing which seems de rigeur in politics.

This large unruly ‘family’ is doing just what real families do when the truth isn’t being spoken.

Oh, it may look as though the truth is being spoken:  on the one hand, the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party wants Mr Corbyn to resign because he no longer has their vote of confidence; on the other hand, the majority of Labour Party members appear to want Mr Corbyn to remain as party Leader.

That’s surface honesty and political parties, families and of course organisations will have a degree of surface honesty to hide behind, while what’s really going on remains hidden.  Right now the whole leadership ‘struggle’ feels like a giant red herring to keep the attention focused on one of the bad eggs in the party (“naughty Jeremy for not standing down when we want him to”) so that the real issues are ignored and swept under the carpet.

Using the example of the Labour Party, this is what happens in dysfunctional families and organisations: 

  1. What’s really going on is ignored in favour of finger pointing at the ‘obvious’ problems that can be seen
  2. The ‘rules’ get changed to suit ‘the powers that be’
  3. If one family member says something that isn’t liked, that’s a signal to gang up to try to eject them
  4. Family factions get formed as lines are drawn in the sand
  5. The deeper those sand-lines are drawn, the deeper the dishonesty is imbedded
  6. The deeper the dishonesty is imbedded the worse communication gets
  7. The worse the communication gets the more riven the family
And so on.

Pretty much all dysfunctional organisations (including families and political parties) need a scapegoat.  Whether you do or don’t like Jeremy Corbyn, or do or don’t believe he should be Party Leader, he is, indeed, the perfect scapegoat to pin the blame on.

Take a look at any dysfunctional organisations you know and see if you can spot the scapegoat and identify what purpose they serve and how the spotlight on them deflects attention from where it belongs.

Over the years we’ve worked with a few companies like this and the real challenge is getting everyone to identify the elephant in the room or rather, by the time we appear, the herd of elephants in the room.

Although it can be a painful process, when those pachyderms get identified the relief can be enormous.  Yes, there will be fallout and of course things have to change in order to accommodate the level of honesty required.  The end result, however, is a fully functioning organisation where people aren’t afraid to say what’s on their mind for fear of reprisal and are more eager to offer their creativity, imagination and suggestions for developing the company.

People do not have to agree:  healthy organisations can contain loads of differing points of view and conflict isn’t something to be avoided, but encouraged so that feelings don’t fester and resentments build.

Healthy organisations don’t point fingers at the bad egg/s and attempt to chuck them out.  Healthy organisations work to sort out differences but also accept that it can often be the grit in the oyster that produces the pearl.

At this point there’s really no way to predict what will happen to The Labour Party in the next couple of months (does anyone dare predict anything these days??), but they could well do with some Family Therapy!

As for other dysfunctional organisations, we love working with companies that want to make a more positive impact and want the best for everyone who works for them.  Give us a ring – we’re happy to come in for a chat.





Check out Impact Factory’s range of Communication, Conflict Management and our EliteFive Day Communicate with Impact Courses.  We also offer organisation consultations.


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