The intergroup and institutional events:
An overview of designs, foci, structures, and functions
Stan De Loach, Ph.D.
The member-staff boundary consultant's entry into member groups:
Affirming the inseparability of community
"I am here as a plenipotentiary member of the staff. I am in this room for purposes of my work, which is somewhat different from your work. Learning will be promoted if we continue with our respective tasks."If members are unhappy with the presence of the member-staff boundary consultant, the latter might explain further:
"We share a clear primary task. We have the physical resources defined in order for us to do work on this task. As far as I am aware, there exists no exclusive possession or ownership of the spaces designated for conference work during this event. The nature of our tasks defines the spaces appropriate to our work. My range of concern extends to all conference spaces. Spaces are available for work, without the inevitability or need for all workers to practice identical protocol or to conceive of the event and their role in it in identical fashion."The conference system’s intergroup tensions are at times very near the surface.
At a Type 1/2 conference in the United States, employing Focus B, a male staff consultant was present in a member group, at its request but unbeknownst to the member-staff boundary consultant, who opened the door, entered the group’s space, and seated himself approximately four feet outside the group’s circle of chairs, in one of several vacant seats scattered randomly throughout the space. The members, angered by the boundary consultant’s entry, abandoned their task collaboration with the staff consultant. They directed much verbal hostility to the member-staff boundary consultant and ceased to work with the staff consultant, who did not verbally address the members’ desertion of their task.Even within a single conference, the member-staff boundary consultant is perceived and responded to variously, as the following description illustrates.
During the conference referenced above, a female staff consultant was present in a member group at the group's request. The door to this group’s space was open. The same consultant to the member-staff boundary entered and seated himself approximately two feet outside the group’s circle of chairs, in a seat marked with the legend, "For observers."Basic assumption behavior is more frequently interpreted in the small group setting than in intergroup or institutional exchanges. But it is equally prominent in both contexts. In these vignettes, the parallelism in the sentiments and behavior of the staff consultants and of their client groups is noteworthy.
Perhaps group members mirrored the emotional response of the staff consultant assigned to their group; perhaps each staff consultant employed acting out instead of interpretation to mirror the feelings of the client group. The degree of synergism present was augmented by failure to understand and observe role and task boundaries.
In the first account, the staff consultant did not anticipate or interpret the group’s fight-flight response. His own powerful feelings unquestionably contributed force, justification, and even leadership for the group’s aggressively defensive posture.
In the second example, the female staff consultant’s lack of clarity about her role relative to that of the consultant to the member-staff boundary brought on de-skilling and paralysis. The comments of the member-staff boundary consultant actually required no response, but her faulty understanding of staff members’ differing roles (and the ensuing projections, perhaps) permitted her to mischaracterize and depreciate her appropriate and helpful behavior.
Staff members’ reluctance to authorize the member-staff boundary consultant reduced their own authorization and ability to function as consultants to the members. Staff members’ inadequate authorization of the director results in a similar outcome. The integrity and security of staff members’ authorization are diminished when their comprehension and acceptance of distinct staff roles, functions, and levels of responsibility are incomplete.
The director must lead the staff
to an understanding of and investment in the tasks and roles described
for the intergroup and institutional events, especially when innovations
are introduced. Otherwise, the challenges that surface in consultants’
extra-territorial representation of the staff collective may incapacitate
them in their work with member groups. The clarity, maintenance,
and repair of boundaries based on distinctiveness of task, responsibility,
and accountability are critical.
© 1998, 1999, 2006, 2016 Dr. Stan De Loach All rights reserved.