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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Ending and Regeneration The emotional significance of ending a consultancy assignment

Endings are never easy they provoke primitive feelings of death and finality, of being got rid of or disposed of. As in life, organisational endings can be premature, murderous or well prepared. Endings can also represent a beginning, regeneration or a new stage in the existence of an organisation. This paper intends to explore the process of ending in consultancy assignments and the emotional significance of closing a contract and terminating a relationship. The way a team, department or organisation ends its consultancy can also be very revealing of how the organisation manages its own significant endings and how it is prepared to enter a new stage/phase of its development. In the current environment of constant change and transition, of reshuffles and mergers, endings have become a constant feature of organisational life. Endings are frequently overlooked and their affect on workers and on the organisational structure are often underestimated or played down. Endings are especially difficult because of the uncertainty of modern organisations when we leave an organisation we do not know what will happen to it, and if it will be there in a few years time. Understanding the implications of ending a consultancy project can provide insights into the organisational 'state of mind' and its core dynamics; into its capacity to mourn, to survive and to grow. Team one Millfield 'murder', a sudden ending Millfield is a very deprived team a sort of outpost for ethnic minorities with mental health problems. My arrival is initially perceived as 'too good to be true', but soon hopelessness and despair re-emerge. The team seems to find it impossible to sustain a constructive relationship with me, as I represent the outside and western world. I am sacked, with no notice and no clear reason, only two months before the end of my contract. 1 There is a gap in the literature on the subject of ending a consultancy project. Team two, Carly Road 'contamination' the consultancy is deleted Carly Road, a children home, has recently found out that a member of staff has developed an inappropriate liaison with one of the girls in its care. I have a key role in raising the alarm. A few months later I am 'made redundant'. The official reason given is that there is no more funding. My feeling is that I am perceived as 'contaminated' by what has happened, and held responsible for not having been able to prevent it. Team three, Highlever House an open ending Highlever House is a project for difficult adolescents. The organisation is going through a 'mid-life crisis' they have survived many organisational crises but now feel bored and uninspired. Through my consultancy they have regained some energy things start to develop again. but also some of their grandiose fantasies, such as becoming independent from headquarters, have been killed off. We agree that there is still work to be done together. I am left waiting appointments are postponed and nobody seems to want to close or acknowledge the need for a clear ending. I feel like the mother of an adolescent who is leaving home, I am expected to be constantly available. Team four, the River College A planned ending The members of a department of the River College are debating about their internal relationships they are a very close group, bonded by a passion for their work and for the department which they have developed from scratch. Conflicts, difficulties in managing boundaries are at the core of our work together. The ending is planned and agreed. The shift in the team is palpable, but more work could be done. We both accept a 'good enough ending'. Through the four examples briefly sketched above, I intend to explore the following issues The links between the dynamic of ending a consultancy project and the core dynamic of the organisation what is the capacity to end, to let go in the organisation, in the consultant? What is the capacity to recognise one has reached one's limits, a 'good enough consultancy'? What is unbearable about ending ? and what is unbearable about continuing? How the consultant deals with her impulse to break off the work How the consultant deals with one sided-rejection, with an ending that is not worked through From ending to regeneration healthy consequences of a 'mutual rejection'.'