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Tap Dancing Around The Elephants - How Collusion Impacts Your Life at Work

12:50, 10/1/2008  ..  Link

What is Collusion?

One of the most insidious and destructive workplace (and life, in general) behaviors impacting life at work is collusion. Collusion, as I and my coaching clients work with it, is defined as two people each co-opting their true and real self in order to support their own and the other's falseness, fakeness and phoniness. One result of colluding is that neither person "shows up" in integrity or authentically.

When colluding, we allow ourself and the other person to run our respective "personality program" — the self-destructive, self-sabotaging and limiting behaviors and beliefs we use in order to gain acceptance, approval, recognition, and control — so we can feel we are emotionally safe. Collusion is like saying (only not out loud), "I'm going to let you behave the way you want or need to so I can feel good about our relationship even though I know my behavior and your behavior are (for example) inappropriate, self-destructive, out of integrity", etc.

So, in this context, we're not looking at collusion that one would commonly associate with what we know as "fraud", but this type of workplace collusion is fraudulent insofar as I am living a lie and supporting another to live his/her lie. It's "fraud" on a deeper, inner level as it relates to who I am and how I am in my relationship(s).

What Does Collusion Look Like?

In the everyday, "9:00 Monday morning" world, collusion can take various shapes and forms. Underneath these ways of behaving is the lie. Colluders lie to themselves and to one another. General expressions that reflect collusion are:

· Giving to get

· You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours

· Go along to get along

· One hand washes the other

The important thing to understand is that one's ego-needs for control, recognition and security — mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, psychological, financial, etc. — drive one's (often unconscious) choice to collude. This choice to collude is perpetuated on one's (often unconscious) need to hold on to one's false sense of one's self, one's fake and phony self because this false sense of self brings (as fake as it is) a related false sense of security and safety. So, when colluding, two people create an unspoken agreement, a very subtle agreement, that "I will act in this way toward you to feel safe and allow you to act in your way toward me to feel safe, so we both can hang on to our respective (false) emotional and psychological sense of security and stability.

More specific everyday examples of workplace collusion are: · supporting and pledging allegiance and loyalty to an incompetent leader, manager, supervisor, direct report or co-worker so we both can feel recognized, seen, and/or emotionally safe with each other. If I support that person, s/he will appreciate my support and feel seen, perhaps liked, and I'll experience his/her appreciation which allows me to feel seen and be "special", accepted or "OK" in some way in the (dysfunctional) relationship.

· sharing information with a select few (even though others are entitled to it as well), so I'll been viewed as caring about them and they will feel they're in a special group. When I share with them, I feel in control, and secure and when they receive, they feel special or acknowledged that I chose them — even though we all know we are being duplicitous and inappropriate in our actions of giving and receiving.

· verbally ganging up on a third party through bullying, sarcasm, or gossiping. I and my co-commiserator bring a false sense of connection and camaraderie at the expense of the third party while we create our own co-dependent relationship.

· withholding honest and forthright comments about inappropriate behavior in a feedback session for fear of alienating a direct report, for example, whose work we respect. By resisting telling the truth, and perpetuating this person's false belief that his/her behavior is acceptable, we both can "play the game" of mutual respect, friendship and acceptance in carrying on this phony relationship of mutual "like".

Why Do We Collude?

Collusion is all about lying (colluding) to protect my and another's oft-fragile ego instead of showing up in integrity, from a place of honesty, sincerity and self-responsibility. The curiosity is why we collude.

Everyone on the planet experiences a sense of deficiency in some way, shape or form. It's a fact of life. We all have some sense that we are not "enough" in some areas of our life, or are lacking in some way in some area of our life. Everyone experiences deficiency. Each of us has two options in dealing with this sense of lack or deficiency:

1. We can choose to "work" on our colluding to understand it and our motives for colluding, and take conscious steps to effectively melt, metabolize, reduce and greatly eliminate it — in which case the result is our "showing up" authentically, sincerely, honestly and self-responsibly without the need to be fake, phony or lie.

2. We can manipulate our self and others in ways where we ignore, deny, and resist telling the truth in the hopes of keeping our relationship with our self and with others emotionally secure by ignoring "the elephants in the room" — by putting on blinders to what needs to be said, to what needs to be heard, to what needs to be felt and to what needs to be seen, hoping that denial will "keep the emotional peace" and perpetuate the co-dependent or dysfunctional relationship.

The Basic Problem With Collusion

Unfortunately, collusion is like a drug. It's progressive. When we start colluding to feel emotionally safe and secure, we need to lie and collude more and more to maintain the false feeling of emotional safety. In addition, when we collude, we are constantly in a state of "vigilance", or fear, preoccupied with whether we will be "found out." Too, when we collude, we are constantly worried and concerned whether our co-colluder(s) will have a "conversion" and then fear we'll be left alone with the unpleasant and uncomfortable truth of who we are, colluders — i.e., we'll be "outed." Finally, colluding is exhausting; it takes an inordinate amount of our physical, emotional and psychic energy, and time to continually shore up relationships that have no true foundation built on trust or truth.

The Solution for Collusion

Colluding is corrosive to one' head, heart and soul. The simplest way to rid oneself of the need to collude is twofold: to seek understanding of the reasons (excuses) why we refuse to tell the truth to ourself and to others, and then set our intention to tell the truth when often we would rather resist. Simple, not always easy. From a place of empathy, compassion, acceptance, strength, courage, will and self-love, truth-telling is freeing — mentally, emotionally, physically and psychologically. Truth-telling allows us to show up authentically, in integrity and in an honest, sincere and self-responsible way. And, truth-telling, while initially more challenging than denial, is the only way to experience a real life of happiness, self-fulfillment, and true relationship with others at work, at home, at play and in relationship free of the effort that's required to tap dance around the elephants..

Meaning, happiness, and co-workers who are truly friends are always at the top of the research responses to the question, "What's really important to you at work?" You can't collude and expect to find real meaning, real happiness and real, authentic friends at work. Thinking you can............is collusion.

So, our $10 food for thought questions are:

· What keeps you from telling the truth at work? Are you afraid to tell the truth?

· Do you collude? If so, what are some ways you collude?

· Do you find yourself lying and being phony or fake to maintain specific relationships?

· Do others collude with you, not tell you what they think you need to hear, for fear of how you might react?

· How do you feel when you are in an experience when you know you are colluding (i.e., giving to get, going along to get along, etc.)?

· What's "right" about colluding? What does colluding get you? Is there another way to get that result or experienece without colluding?

· What one baby step can you begin taking this week to reduce your want or need to collude?

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and SpiritHeart. All rights in all media reserved.

You may reprint this article as long as the article is printed in its entirety, including the author’s information.

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a founding partner of SpiritHeart, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counseling and facilitating. With a practice based on the dynamic intersection of mind, body, emotion and spirit — that is, Essential Well BE-ing — Peter’s approach focuses on personal, business, relational and spiritual coaching. He is a professional speaker and published author. For more information contact pvajda@spiritheart.net or phone 770.804.9125

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