She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not, …………
Dealing with ambiguity in emotions is at the heart of relationships. We all know that the romantic dream of falling in love and never having any negative feelings or doubts about the person is, just that – a dream.
One of the dynamics of a relationship is how we deal with that ambiguity and we can do that is two ways. Synchronous ambiguity is where we embody both sides of the ambiguity in the present, in early stages of the relationship using the ambiguity to build the relationship through choreography where the ambiguity is expressed in different moves, often across lines of symmetry, so my right side may be moving towards you, and my left away in a dance which invites you to respond and through which we establish closeness (or not as the case may be). My engagement with my ambiguity engages with your ambiguity and we dance towards a conclusion.
Non-synchronous ambiguity is where I manage my ambiguity by separating the states of engagement and doubt in time, usually being totally in love when I am with you, and spending ages with my friends talking about my doubts. There is little flirting, if I am with you I throw myself at you, no ambiguity to play with, no dance. Unless of course it is going badly in which case we are arguing when we are together and I am telling my friends how you are really nice, really and how I wish we could get through this rough stage.
So to work. In modern organisations there is a tendency to non-synchronous ambiguity. Right from the interview the expectation is that I demonstrate my love for the job and the organisation, maybe a little flirting in the interview if I am feeling confident and to extract a better deal, but on the clear understanding that once I accept the deal – I will be totally positive.
Because it is difficult in the modern organisation to be ambiguous about work, the organisational boundaries become borders of emotion. If I am expected to be totally positive in my work place then my negative feelings are placed outside my workplace, my friends and family receive a totally negative view of my work, all the negative feelings which are hidden at work.
This can of course create problems for the organisation if its image is important and its staff are outward facing, so some organisations will try avoid this. This can be done paradoxically by encouraging a negative climate within the organisation to reverse the dynamic.
A more sophisticated approach of course would be to encourage ambiguity in the organisation, but that is difficult and not common, although required for any true organisational development process, and failing results in the pathological state of an organisation that loves itself because it is self-critical and developing, although the friends and family of its staff know otherwise!
David Andrew 13th May 2016