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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Trust, Mistrust and Truth in Corporate Consulting. How consultants are affected

The presentation focuses on questions of 'subjectivity' (Verhaeghe, 2011; Leader, 2014; Ruti, 2006) and the difficult imperative of 'theorizing the subject' from a socio-analytic perspective (Long, 2013). The presentation relates these questions to an exploration of a consulting experience within a manufacturing environment in Canada where questions of trust, mistrust and truth were salient 'subjects' of the organization's life and the consultants' dilemmas. I explore the consultation from the border between the consultant and organization, and between two consultants who provided consultation to this organization. Trust is formed through consultant constancy, containment and reliability. In order to be effective, organizational actors learn to work with and rely on the consultants' contributions, make use of the consultants and their interventions. Within an organization, trust in the veracity of the organizational leaders must be imagined for work to be accomplished, for good-enough working relations to be formed, and for meaning to be made in what Lacan (1961) refers to as the 'symbolic'. Even with growing capacities to build and rely on a sense of trust 'both ways', executive coaching and organizational interventions can reach their 'limit' for symbolization and shared understanding. This is particularly true when the consultants must grapple with 'lies' (O'Shaughnessy, 1990; Grotstein, 2007). When mistrust pervades the organizational context (Sievers, 2007), and in this case, mistrust at the most senior level, the consultants are effected by their own capacity to metabolize negative affect (Bion, 1962), to sustain relatedness within the dyad and effectively grapple with the transferential ways the 'organization' entangles or unconsciously works to entangle the consultants within its mental frame and meaning-making. These processes threaten to dis-able the consulting processes and further contribute to erosions of sense-making.In the presentation, I explore these themes: the subject, symbolization, the challenges of accuracy and veracity as they relate to sense-making, as well as questions of ethicality for both the client-organization and consultants. How can consultants manage themselves and each other in affected spaces that inhibit sense-making and thinking (Bion, 1961)