Emotional detachment and the calling of OD

One definition of a calling is simply a vocation, trade and or profession. Another dimension of a calling is a strong impulse, inner yearning and/or beckoning to practise a certain profession.

Certainly there is a lot to be said for viewing ones’ profession as a calling: enjoyment, fulfillment and self-expression, and not simply a “bag”. (old slang for a way to earn a few bucks).

Organization Development is a compatible calling for many sorts of people driven by values and the desire to make a difference: practised well, OD is meaningful, powerful, interdisciplinary and very hard to get right. Although it is sisyphic, it has a huge impact on the quality of relationships and outputs in the workplace.

Beyond the positives that can attract folks to practice OD as a calling, I want to point out one of the less discussed, obscure and counter-intuitive motivations to the OD trade: it is a profession which can provide a people-interaction platform for those of us with emotional detachment. 

  • It is the very “numbing” so characteristic of emotional detachment that allows the practitioner to distance himself/herself from a situation and thus provide value-added meaning and perspective. This numbing provides value in diagnosis, intervention and monitors energy levels. 
  • The emotional detachment allows the practioner to develop a practice with a wide range of clients, all of which are contract-based and limited in time. The contract and the time limitation allow the emotionally detached consultant to give more, with less personal anxiety.

There are many reasons that I love doing OD work. First and foremost, it is because it is interdisciplinary and very hard work to do well. However, I easily admit that OD has provided a loner with a playing field to interact with people. Had I not chosen OD as a calling, I may well have had gone into a field more akin to the nerds of today. In many ways, I have made my handicap into an advantage.