Repeating patterns eroding a team's potential

Updated: 2 days ago



Frustrations of the past two years are bubbling to the surface within organisations. I have observed conflict increasing during 2022; some of it is not constructive (i.e. product iteration); instead, it is more personal and political. People are endeavouring to assert their authority as we emerge from stasis in many cases.


Some of the reasons for this I have seen include;

  • An appointment of an external hire into roles that internal people feel qualified for (i.e. somebody thinks; "I have turned down external invitations to stay here, keep things going and now I am overlooked")

  • A mandate to return to the office "full-time", eroding the type of life of people have been accustomed to in recent years, with flexibility for family and less commuting (i.e. "now, they don't trust me to get the job done, although I have shown it can be")

  • A lack of long term direction due to organisations remaining tactical due to the geopolitical environment (i.e. somebody then thinks "ok, this is what we should do and fills the vacuum with rhetoric, as there is a lack of information and meaningful direction")

  • You have probably observed some other reasons too.

Dr Stephen Karpman, over forty years ago, proposed a triangle that maps destructive interactions that can occur among people in conflict, and it remains relevant. Dr Karpman's triangle includes three roles of victim, rescuer and persecutor. If you are not aware of the roles and the triangle, you run the risk of being dragged into it. The roles are played out both subconsciously or deliberately.


We have all experienced...


Victims"poor me", see themselves as helpless, powerless, and come across as super sensitive. They may believe they cannot change the situation and look for a rescuer to save them. If this person fails to do so, this person may become the persecutor (see below) in the victim's eyes.


Rescuers"let me help you out". Many rescuers are co-dependent, they want victims and look for them. They need victims to help out and often don't allow the victim to succeed or mature. Rescuers are busy, overworked and act to steady a situation, but don't have the time to resolve it. I found they often have too much sympathy and not sufficient empathy.


Persecutors"it's your fault". They endeavour to keep people oppressed. They set unrealistic standards, are inflexible and are unable to be vulnerable. They alienate people, but they are suppressive when in a position of authority, creating sycophants. Often their teams lack ideation, the leader controls everything. Often organisations with this folk don't have a NO a*&ehole rule.


What do you do?

First, acknowledge the situation and accept that people playing in the triangle will move between roles. The big shift happens when the victim steps up and takes responsibility for their behaviour and acts as an adult, disempowering the persecutor and removing their dependency on the rescuers. The leader of an organisation must equip those working within it with knowledge of the triangle and the skills to step out.


An offsite for a team is often the best place to introduce this concept and begin having conversations about what is most important to the success of the team


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