Reflections on Group Relations in Covid-era…

Reflections on Group Relations in Covid-era…

Last month marked GR Russia and the Tavistock Institute’s first-ever joint Group Relations event.


5 October 2020

Last month marked GR Russia and the Tavistock Institute’s first-ever joint Group Relations event.

Although this landmark event was initially planned for April 2020 in a traditional face-to-face format, due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19, it was necessary to rethink our original plan. The event was moved to September and designed as an online event with the topic “Exploring Role and Identity in COVID era in Group Relations work online”.

In total, there were 11 staff members and 40 participants from all over the world, with 14 countries represented! The event itself gained a huge amount of interest and attention, and we received so many applications that, despite increasing the number of small groups to gain more capacity, there were still several hopeful applicants on the waiting list.

The event topic was a complex one, reflecting the complexities in this period. Typical questions explored in group relation conferences were found here too, including issues of boundaries, authority, dependency and leadership. It seemed to us that these have all been exacerbated in what we called COVID era. Technology, isolation and connection were additional dimensions of concern and pain on the one hand and excitement and longing on the other. Several people were overwhelmed as well as grateful for the opportunities offered via Zoom without which they would have felt much more desolate in these times.

The role of leading in these uncertain times has been a core issue, and the ambivalent towards taking up leadership as well as being a follower was evident in the event. Topical questions around political and social leadership were also present. Members expressed the idea that If authority does not appear, we need to be more responsible and more mature, and self-regulate as a society and as groups.

Trust in leadership was a core question too – showing itself in questions around trusting or not the event management; authority; leadership; ‘Zoom’; and one another.

Another element of this event was the Social Dreaming Matrix; a relatively new format for the Russian organisational market, which explores, through the sharing of overnight dreams and associating to them, what is going on in the ‘temporary organisation’ (the event’s) collective unconscious. This surfaced feelings such as disappointment, confusion, loneliness, fear, ambivalence – which would otherwise be difficult to articulate and give voice to, especially through the virtual space.

Despite humans’ natural curiosity and the excitement in the possibility of connecting across the globe, a lot was left unsaid and unexplored- perhaps, we hypothesised, this is a key impact of the pandemic and the lockdown; the remoteness combined with internal self-restrictions.

Group Relations Russia and The Tavistock Institute

Group Relations Russia will be holding their next event on 4-8 November 2020, which is predominantly for Russian speakers. So, if you missed the September workshop, but still want to find out more about how Group Relations can help explore the unconscious workings of groups and organisational life, and help employees and management find their roles and identities within their organisations, please keep an eye on GR Russia Facebook page for details about that event.

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