In Search of Truth II: The Dance of Collusion

In Search of Truth II: The Dance of Collusion

 Role Suction and Collusion

The collusion is further reinforced by the overall culture of an organization or society. Commonly held projections on leaders (as dissenters, visionaries, fight leaders, flight leaders, jokesters, etc.) will reinforce projections onto any one person:

“This expert really knows what she is saying. We must be guided by her wisdom and experience!”

“All the elected representatives in this country are corrupt and self-serving!”

“He really knows what to anticipate and has a clear vision of our future after the pandemic comes to an end.”

“She is just another one of those damned fools that the other party elected.”

“You know, physicians always operate this way.”

“All of those epidemiologists are nothing more than numbers crunchers.”

These culture-based (and systemic) clusters of assumptions and expectations lead to something called Role Suction. Certain functions (both formal and informal) in the organization or society lead to certain repeated patterns that are sustained (self-fulfilling prophecies) by certain projections. “Actors” are assigned a specific role in the organizational or societal “play”. They cannot easily shift to a different role. Other members of the organization or society readily join in the play, as supporting characters, colluding with the principle actor in sustaining the play. As Kets de Vries (2003, p. 75) notes in dramatic fashion, the role player (particularly the imposter) “like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, seems to weave a magic spell, and people are only too ready to follow. Imposters [and other role-suctioned actors] seem to be able to awaken otherwise dormant tendencies within us by which we can be carried away, blinded to reality.”

It is something of a vicious circle regarding culture, collusion and projective identifications. The organization or society tends to attract and hold leaders with certain “favorite” projections. Furthermore, there are what psychologists call Secondary Gains associated with the collusions and projective identifications. It is not just that members of the organization feel less anxious or less responsible when they project certain characteristics onto their leaders or other role players. Something else (and often more powerful) is operating. Something constructive (for at least some members of the organization or society) is gained from this collusive process:

“The Boss pays more attention to me (us) because of the praise we offer.”

“It is important for our senator to always be the realist, otherwise we are likely to move in the wrong direction.”

“Thank goodness, Susan brings up the issues of inequitable distribution of protective masks whenever the committee is convened.”


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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