Coaches at work: Works council: The tiger eats its young
It was obvious to the logistics contractor that he was at the end of his rope. His private parcel delivery company with over 600 employees had lived well a few years ago. The services had unique selling points. In the context of increasing competition, he had now had to accept pressure on prices, so that the company was on the verge of leaving the profit zone. For years, a new works council chairman had been a problem for him, who in his opinion did not represent the interests of the workforce, but only lived out his own ego and self-realization. “That’s a tiger who would eat his own young.”
The entrepreneur’s idea was that the psychological counsellor, through coaching, should change the behaviour of this works council chairman. The consultant rejected this mandate, pointing out that psychological counselling could not be misused as an instrument of power. He suggested that the entrepreneur should first work on his own behaviour. It is possible that patterns of behaviour were justified here which also provoked the behaviour of the chairman of the works council. After this analysis, the works council could also be invited to coaching and later to joint mediation.
At first, the entrepreneur was not enthusiastic about this suggestion. He was not the problem, but the other one. When the situation worsened due to preparations for strikes, it was decided to try mediation.
The entrepreneur and the chairman of the works council agreed that each of them would take 10 hours of coaching to work with their coach on their own topics and prepare for mediation. In the individual coaching, confidentiality was agreed upon, which was an essential instrument so that the two opponents could open themselves to their personal topics.
The analysis revealed that the entrepreneur had often been exposed to unbearable arbitrariness in his childhood. The parents had separated at an early age, but had decided to be there for the children for both of them and to divide their own house into two apartments, in each of which one parent lived. The children lived mainly with their mother, who soon found a new partner. He was friendly in his dealings with the children, but did not interfere in matters of upbringing, since the father was in the house for this.
However, the father was very busy in his job and saw his responsibility only during his childcare hours. So the children were in an alternating bath between wide and narrow free spaces. When everything went well, nobody felt really responsible. If there were however problems, then with disproportionate hardness one seized (an inner picture of the client of his father was also a tiger).
The client got in the course of his school time in a practical contact to the logistics branch. He quickly realized that he was interested in the industry, but that it was difficult for him to subordinate himself to a boss. After training and several years of professional experience, he founded his own company. The company was founded 15 years ago.
The chairman of the works council had a difficult start. After his birth, the mother felt overwhelmed with the task of bringing up a child and left the new-born child behind in the clinic. It took 6 months until the Youth Welfare Office arranged a care situation. He then grew up with his uncle and aunt. In the constant consciousness “I am not wanted in this world” he searched for ways to help people and thus to give his existence itself a value. He began as a driver in a logistics company. In the role of works council he saw his wish for help for others fulfilled most likely. After a few years of short private relationships, he married a much younger woman who over time made a career and passed him by from economic status. So he saw himself under pressure to prove his own importance to himself and to his wife.
During the coaching both clients learned to differentiate which feelings of the present time actually belonged to their childhood, which personality traits of other people reminded them of reference persons of childhood and how feelings triggered by this often brought them to the “emotional highway”. They also each recognised for themselves that the other may have characteristics that they themselves also have and which disturbed them from themselves. The individual coaching ended with a communication training in which the clients learned to listen, to pay attention to their feelings and to communicate them.
The subsequent mediation was initially very demanding for the mediators. Again and again the clients fell into their original behaviour patterns and tried to enforce their point without having fully understood the arguments of the other. Over time, however, it became increasingly possible for clients to really understand the other’s position and the motives behind it. The breakthrough came in the 6th hour. After an emotional outburst from the chairman of the works council, the entrepreneur said, “If I were you, I’d be pretty angry. Sometimes I’m like that myself”.
Finally, the parties found an amicable solution. In retrospect, this solution was surprisingly simple. The negotiated salary increases for the workforce were only marginally above what the entrepreneur had budgeted for next year’s salary increase anyway. The conflict had obviously not been factually justified, but lay predominantly in the personality of the negotiating partners.
Note: In order to protect the privacy of our clients, the above case study was slightly changed. The family dynamics and the methods used are reproduced unchanged.
Prof. Dr. Thomas Kretschmar