The psychological covenant is not readily broken. It involves deeply felt commitments on the part of both the employee and organization. Furthermore, these commitments are made public and are usually enacted in some ceremonial form. Neither party can break a covenant, without the other party’s permission. Thus, men and women in a covenant-based organization must work through their problems, rather than simply giving up and parting company. Covenants are based on sacrifice (as in the Old Testament covenant made between Abraham and Jehovah). Both parties are willing to give up a part of their selves in order for the relationship to work. This flies directly in the face of individualistic concerns. It speaks to the need for collective responsibility (the more feminine way of knowing) and partnership (the more feminine way of organizing) and to a relative de-emphasis on individual rights (the more masculine way of knowing) and dominance (the more masculine way of organizing).
As coaches, we are moving to a much more profound space when we begin to explore the psychological covenant with our clients. This is a life-long commitment – a deep yearning for purpose in life. Perhaps it should be called a spiritual covenant rather than a psychological covenant. Whether our client comes from a religious or more secular perspective, the kind of exploration we are doing with regard to covenant certainly moves both our client and ourselves into a spiritual realm. We need to be prepared for this passage if we wish to serve our clients as something more than economic man (or woman). When we ignore these deeper issues, our client might be spared some of the anguish – but might also be spared the profound insights that issue from an exploration of the psychological/spiritual covenant they have established (perhaps without much conscious awareness) with their organization.
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