Home Tools and Applications Organiz Develop (OD) The Organizational Underground: Organizational Coaching and Organization Development Outside the Formal Organization

The Organizational Underground: Organizational Coaching and Organization Development Outside the Formal Organization

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Vicki Foley and William Bergquist

Throughout the Western world, we are now living in a time of turmoil and economic uncertainty, even chaos. Many contemporary economists and political analysts speak and write about a world that is in a state of “super-criticality” – a state in which minor aberrations in the economic or political system bring about major alternations (and even collapse) of the global marketplace. While the challenges imposed by this state of super-criticality has many profound implications at the macro level, there are also profound implications at the micro-level with regard to the lives lived in “desperation” by men and women who have lost their job or at the very least have given up hope of realizing lifelong dreams. They are living in the organizational underground, a world populated by the unemployed and underemployed.

We propose that organizational coaches have an extraordinary opportunity—perhaps even an ethical obligation—to begin doing work in this organizational underground. In this article, we identify some of the different categories of those living in this underground and the challenges associated with each of these categories. Using case studies of a woman and man who live in this underground, we suggest several ways in which organizational coaches might use their knowledge and skills in helping to address these challenges. Further, we offer ways in which these coaches might integrate organizational coaching and organization development principles and strategies to improve the lives of those living in this unorganized organizational underground.

The Organizational Underground

According to Don Peck (2010), in his recent Atlantic article “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” Americans are living through a “slow-motion social catastrophe” with far-reaching and long-term effects. Having not fully recovered the 1980s recession, we now face the challenge of trying to recover from the current Great Recession. Economists are predicting various letters of the alphabet for recovery (V, U, W, L) with all indications pointing toward a long recovery period. The bottom line is that America is in a financial crisis and a jobs crisis. We call it a job crisis because not since the 1930s have we experienced unemployment and part-time employment above 17%. (Peck, 2010, p. 42) We propose that the significant number of people whose jobs have been lost and are now unemployed, or hours reduced, or salaries cut, or are underemployed, have created the organizational underground.

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