The Loving/Hating Organizational Coping Pattern

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In coping by Loving/Hating, the organization is driven by its relationships with other organizations, people, or ideas. Whether finally to destroy that organization, person, or idea; or to attach itself thereto in permanent adoration and ethereal bliss, it ignores almost everything and everyone else external to the focal relationship. This is a portion of an essay on Organizational Coping Patterns — patterns of organizational behavior relative to stressful, challenging situations.

In the Loving/Hating coping pattern, the group is driven by its relationship with other ideas, people, or organizations. It ignores almost everything and everyone else external to the focal relationship. As an example of the "Hating" form of the Loving/Hating pattern, the group might be in competition with another organization, possibly one developing a competitive technology. In this form, one might hear something like: "We're competing with the mainframe upgrade for the same resources, so we have to keep this quiet until we get through the budget cycle." The competitor might be another company or institution, or it might be an internal competitor, but in either case, there's an element of vendetta in the group's behavior.

The relationship in question need not directly involve the organization. Of course, it's easier to see the relationship when the organization is directly involved, but it's no less significant when direct involvement is absent. For example, the football coach who motivates the players to such an extent that some of them engage in the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs might have moved the team into a Loving/Hating coping pattern in which the team becomes so obsessed with its relationship to Tradition that they feel that they must win the championship for the school at any cost.

Loving Vignette

The Loving/Hating diagram

The Loving/Hating Configuration

How would the emergency project situation unfold when an organization is coping in the Loving mode of a Loving/Hating pattern? We might hear questions and comments such as these:

  • If the organization is in Love with the sponsor of the project, then we might hear "My contact at the customer site says that it'll take the customer two weeks to install the software, so why don't we ship a blank tape to the customer on Tuesday, and then follow up a week later with the real thing when we get it working?"
  • If the organization is in Love with the project manager, it can damage itself. For example, if the project manager says, "We've just got to get this done, even though my latest estimates say we won't make it," the group might respond with a high-level effort that leads to burnout and stress diseases for several of the team.
  • If the organization is in Love with the technology it uses, it might address the schedule problem by pouring on more technology. "If we can automate the implementation, we can add features and still meet the schedule. Instead of writing the code by hand, let's write code that writes the code."

Hating Vignette

How would the emergency project situation unfold when an organization is coping in the Hating mode of a Loving/Hating pattern? We might hear questions and comments such as these.

  • If the organization is in Hate with the sponsor of the project, then we might hear something like "If they hadn't changed their minds so often we would have been done six months ago. Let's just deliver what we have and tell them the bugs will be fixed in the next version."
  • If the organization is in a Hate relationship with a dominant political faction within the embedding organization, there might be a sense that "public" disclosure of the schedule problem could make the organization vulnerable. "Let's not take a slip right now. We'll study this matter further — maybe by our next meeting someone can find a way to make the date. Meanwhile, mum's the word." Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, and valuable time is wasted.

From Loving/Hating to Congruence

In the Loving/Hating pattern, it is perhaps most difficult to keep yourself from being caught up in the dynamic. Everyone around you expresses the Loving/Hating position — relative to a technology, or to the tactics of a competitor, or to the organizational politics of a rival. Therein lies the paradox of your personal position: unless you have first-hand information to support or contradict the organizational dogma, you must rely on the conventional wisdom. At the same time, to help transform a Loving/Hating organization to Congruence, you must begin by rejecting the conventional wisdom. This is hard to do, because you might not know which parts of the conventional wisdom are actually conventional foolishness.

To find out, look carefully at all beliefs that lack factual foundation. If you find some, check around for differences of opinion. If there really is no factual foundation, it's only reasonable to expect to find some people who disagree. When you find one of these pieces of conventional wisdom, and no naysayers, that's a strong indication of a supporting element of a Loving/Hating dynamic in the organization. At that point, you can ask the simple question "How do we know that?"   

Back to "Organizational Coping Patterns"

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