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How to work with an emotionally blocked team on offshore projects


Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. —Edgar Allen Poe.

Does your team construct low dreams? We need to understand people’s low dreams and the emotions they experience as they can hinder organizational growth.

Arnold Mindell, a renowned transpersonal physiologist is known for his “Process work” and “Conflict Management”. According to Arnold Mindell a low dream occurs when a person is in a state of shock about the nature of people, groups and life. In this state people loose connection and faith with their highest hopes and dreams. This experience makes them feel disappointed and hopeless as if their highest hopes came crushing down.

Low dreams make people feel as though they are living the worst scenario.

The construction of a low dream is done meticulously by our worst fears. People living a low dream suffer as victims of the situation. Often resisting or opposing people or changes outside their low dream. It’s as if they entered a chamber and closed all doors. They can no longer connect to voices outside. For example, “I will never win an argument with him, there is no point discussing”; or “This is a bad situation”; “There is too much trouble, we wont get out of this mess.” and many more.

This negative world has its own seasons, attitudes, behaviours and the ability to magnetically attract people who are struggling into an infernal spiral; Creating a black hole for management.

Why do people construct low dreams?

People construct low dreams when they are fatigued or when they are operating out of their comfort zone for a long time in order to achieve an important objective. A small deception can trigger a downward spiral. People go inside this chamber to rest. Dreams are naturally healing systems.

How do people in low dreams feel?

They feel alone and distant even when surrounded by concerned people. Experiencing melancholy and abandonment with an extreme focus on internal feelings of pain. Waiting for magic to happen, hoping that someone will help them out of this dreary mess.

How do others feel when working with people in low dream state?

People’s low dreams give others the impression that they are pessimistic, resistant to change and suborn. Leaving others around them frustrated, as they can’t help them. No temporary Band-Aid like a corporate dinner or a thank you email or acknowledgement helps to move people in this state of low dream with positive energy.

The case of David:

A hardworking manager dedicated to delivering results. David was a hero for his team. The problem started when his manager asked him to outsource a part of his team’s development work to Bangalore. David spent little time to support and develop the Bangalore team as he was overworked with his usual role. As a result the team in Bangalore was underperforming. Every idea given by his manager was rejected. His manager was unable to tell David that in the next 4 months they had to increase the volume of work done by the Bangalore team as per the contract. David made no effort to cooperate and like a stuck tape recorder his answer was:

My team has done its best; the Bangalore team is not knowledgeable enough to do better. You forget my team needs to handle production work, answer all questions the Indians email us, teach them how to do our work and check their work. We are overloaded and fatigued. Do you see the problem we face?

David felt: “My responsibility is to make money for the company and not save a few pennies in offshoring.” He felt the effort needed for offshoring was too high, not cost effective and quality was being compromised. He believed it would never work and hoped the management would soon realise their mistake and stop sending more work to Bangalore.

Are you stuck with a Manager in low dream state?

Here are a 3 ways to work with people in low dream state:

1 – Awaken people to a more real level of awareness

Coaching can shed light on the team’s negative bubble. “Awareness is the first step toward change and the second is acceptance” – Nathaniel Branden. Awareness is crucial to awaken people. It is not important to know what caused the downward spiral, what is important is to notice the shift in energy or disconnect from reality.

Describe how you see the downward spiral and ask the team to tell you how they see their downward spiral. One of the important steps here is to ask permission before you state your point of view, by explicitly asking: “May I tell you what I see?”, “Do you want feedback on…?”. In this case with David, you might want to say, “Your team goes into a black hole each time the Bangalore team make a critical mistake”. Remember the focus of the conversation is on the black hole and not the trigger.

2 – Develop a Spirit of Adventure

Stretching oneself outside the safe and familiar zone requires a spirit of adventure. An international business environment requires a strong personal motivation to push oneself into uncomfortable and ambiguous situations. For example say NO to “Blame game”, as it will train people to conform to norms and not take risks.

Or present the team with an apparently impossible mission like singing in the annual corporate event by working with a professional to help them achieve it. By overcoming the negative voices of the self the team will see that they can succeed in unfamiliar terrains.

3 – Find the deep value behind the negative voices

What do these negative voices need? What is important about it? In this case, the early stages of the offshore project demand a strong employee engagement in the management’s decision to offshore. David’s team was expected to deliver their routine work and simultaneously guide and verify the work delivered by their Indian colleagues. As a result, less importance was given to work values like efficiency and quality control. So, David’s manager decided to delegate the load of coordination with India to an adventurous team member, thus taking care of quality control.

And you, do you at times encounter people in a negative bubble? Do you enter into your negative bubble when people enter their bubble? What does your bubble look like? The ability to recognize and interpret low dreams helps people improve their ability to manage stressful situations and move toward their higher aspirations.