The past, a prologue

Change could be a healthy experience for organizations and groups of people; although I was drawn to the field because in some ways my life for a long time was a story of unhealthy changes.  It becomes a large unwieldy knot of dirty twine and untangling the stories to make sense of where things could have been put on a different path is as frustrating.

In those unwieldy work-change-knots, I didn’t know all of the stressors on the systems or how decisions impacted other areas of the organizations. I worked in several organizations that were dealing with big changes and broad economic uncertainty,  and to be fair I don’ think that my experience was unique. However, across the board, change was messy, uneven, and lacked transparency. The leaders started sounding like used car salesmen and nobody was buying it.

I felt as if my work was unappreciated, as coworkers disappeared in rounds of layoffs.  In one job, leaders talked up our product with ridiculous enthusiasm and we got more and more angry. We knew the work was shaky before we lost people, and afterwards, we could no longer believe in the quality of what we produced.  In a scramble to make money, our deadlines were even shorter, product became a joke; the depression that set in each time I turned the alarm clock off in the morning was a physical sensation, heavy and sharp.

I can still recall these emotions as strongly as I do when I think of a loved one passing.  I still have friends from this job and we can barely talk about specifics without re-living the trauma.  It seems dramatic to speak of things in this way, but I hear these same feelings echoed in overhearing strangers’ conversations on the subway, talking to acquaintances who tell me their stories when I ask, “How’s work?”

If the sadness, depression, and rage are still a part of organizational change then I suppose I’m in the right field.  It’s a shame, though, and the deep pain I see in other people saddens me. Sometimes I worry that getting into this line of work is an attempt to right the wrongs of my own organizational past. Much like dating the same type of people over and over again to deal with some mommy or daddy issues.

Acknowledging that there is a pattern to everyone’s organizational life, even the ‘experts’ who are trying to fix things, will probably be one of the sharpest tools in my kit.  There’s something poetic and mathematical about a pattern, much like social-organizational psychology. I feel so lucky to have been able to get my Masters degree in this field. And there’s still so much to learn about putting it into practice, it scares me at the same time as having me on the edge of my seat.


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